Most people don’t know what to do after being seriously injured. Unfortunately, the time when you are hurt is also the time when it is most crucial to start preserving evidence that could make the difference in you receiving compensation that covers your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
Despite the impact on your life, personal injury lawsuits can take a long time to make their way through settlement negotiations and, if necessary, court proceedings. Such a lengthy timeline may seem intolerable when you are hurt, in pain, and facing financial difficulties due to your injuries. That is why it is helpful to understand the stages of your injury lawsuit.
The timeline for your personal injury case will vary depending on the circumstances of your case, the extent of your injuries, and more. Please consider the stages below as a general outline of how your claim may proceed:
Stage 1: Gathering Evidence at the Scene
After you’ve been injured, you need to start recording the nature and extent of your injuries. Unless you need to be transported to the hospital immediately, you should start documenting the scene of the accident. For example, in a car accident case, you should take photos of the following:
- The damage to the vehicles involved
- The positioning of the vehicles
- Road conditions
- Weather conditions
- License plate, driver’s license, registration, and insurance information for the driver(s) involved
Along with photographs, be sure to interview anyone who witnessed the crash and get their names and contact information. Their testimony may be crucial if your accident case goes to trial. In addition, be sure to call the police and ask an officer to respond to the scene of the accident. His or her report may include crucial details, photos, and more that could support your claim.
Stage 2: Receiving Medical Care
Not all accidents require immediate medical attention. However, just because you weren’t transported to the hospital from the scene of the accident does not mean you should delay treatment. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to prove your injuries were a direct result of the accident.
Medical records provide critical information on the nature and extent of your injuries, treatments performed, your prognosis, and more. For both your well-being and the integrity of your claim, go to a doctor as soon as possible after the accident.
Stage 3: Hiring an Attorney
Not all lawyers are created equal. When it comes to pursuing compensation after a car crash or other accident that resulted in serious injury, it is in your best interest to work with an attorney or law firm dedicated to helping injured people.
You may know and trust an attorney who helped you with a will or an insurance matter, but lawyers who only dabble in personal injury and accident cases tend to have less of the experience and track record of results you need to achieve the best outcome.
Of course, feeling comfortable and taken care of is also key when choosing a lawyer. In addition to reviewing the details of your case and discussing what it may be worth, the attorney you meet with should take the time to get to know you, including who you are, your family, and how you all have been affected as a result of the accident.
The lawyer or law firm you pick should have the resources and experience to take on big insurance companies. And, although many personal injury cases are resolved before they go to trial, your attorney should not back down from going to court if the situation calls for it.
Stage 4: Investigation by Your Legal Team
Once you hire an attorney, you should start to feel some of the weight come off your shoulders as the legal team begins building your case. The investigation process may involve the following steps:
- Interview with an Intake Specialist who asks you questions about the accident, your injuries, and more
- Gathering evidence; this may include notes and photos you collected on your own, as well as your medical records, the police report on the accident, and more
- Assessment of the evidence by a team of legal and medical experts
Throughout this process, it is vitally important to be honest with your attorney and every member of his or her team. Preparing a civil action means gathering information that supports your claim and information that may threaten your right to compensation. Knowing this information upfront enables us to prepare the best case possible on your behalf.
Stage 5: Settlement Negotiations
Every case is different, but the majority of personal injury cases do not see the inside of a courtroom. Generally, the negotiations will involve the lawyers for one or more insurance companies, with your attorney representing your interests.
Your attorney should keep in regular contact with you about developments in your case and your options for settlement. Although the goal of every personal injury lawyer is to maximize your compensation, your attorney should also provide you with input on what you may realistically expect based on the details of your case.
Stage 6: Filing Suit
It is not always possible to reach a settlement in personal injury cases. Should negotiations break down, your attorney can discuss filing a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your injuries. Once your attorney files suit, the court will determine when the matter goes to trial.
One of the most important aspects of any personal injury lawsuit is filing before the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitation vary by state, and they govern the length of time plaintiffs have to file an injury lawsuit.
In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is 2 years from the date the injury occurred. This is not a lengthy amount of time, which is why it is so important to act quickly once you’ve been hurt.
Stage 7: Discovery
Prior to the trial date, the parties will investigate all relevant facts. Your attorney and his/her team will develop a strategy based on information furnished by the opposition through document quests and interrogatories.
Depositions will also be held during the discovery process. During a deposition, attorneys for both sides may question you, the defendant, and any witnesses (among others) to attain testimony before trial. Your answers will be recorded, and the lawyers may refer back to the testimony during courtroom proceedings.
Settlement discussions may resume based on information from the discovery process. Your attorney should keep you apprised of these developments and be able to discuss the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer or proceeding with the trial.
Stage 8: Trial or Mediation
Unlike settlement negotiations, you will actually attend trial or mediation sessions to decide your case. During trial, your attorney will present evidence to a jury or judge with the goal of demonstrating that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care (i.e., had responsibility for your health or safety)
- The defendant was negligent in this duty
- This negligence resulted in your injuries
- Your injuries resulted in damages
Damages in a personal injury case represent the harm you have suffered. This may include physical, mental, and emotional injury; lost income or ability to earn a living; pain and suffering; and more.
In mediation, you and your attorney will appear along with the opposition before an impartial third party. The mediator will gather information from the parties and work with both of you to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Contact Wood Law Firm LLP Today
If you have been hurt or lost a loved one, you need the help of an experienced, proven attorney. Our founder, Channy F. Wood, is certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and recognized as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
For help with your claim, please call (806) 372-9663 today for a free consultation. Wood Law Firm LLP serves clients in Amarillo, West Texas, the Panhandle, and other nearby areas.