If you’ve been injured in an accident, you might be facing the prospect of litigation to obtain compensation for your injuries and property damage. Taking a look at the process will help you fully understand how long you will have to wait to get full compensation through a trial.
Step 1: Medical Treatment
No matter what the situation, everything can wait until you’ve been treated by medical professionals. This is essential to ensure you receive proper treatment. Otherwise, your injuries might worsen and that can harm your case(s), as well as your recovery. Failing to seek medical treatment will give the defense ammunition to defend against your claims.
Step 2: Retain an Attorney
This should be your next move and should be done as soon as you are physically able. While a smaller claim typically won’t require the skills of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you shouldn’t try to handle larger claims involving extensive injuries on your own. You’ll usually need to work with a lawyer if your injuries involved broken bones, requires more than $1,000 for medical bills and treatment, or caused you to miss more than one or two days from work.
Step 3: It’s Time for the Lawyer to Go to Work
Once you retain an attorney, he or she will launch an investigation into the accident. This means your lawyer will quiz you about your personal background, the facts concerning the accident, and your medical condition. While they may ask some sensitive questions, remember that your attorney will keep your discussions confidential. It’s important for your lawyer to know all of the facts in order to do a thorough job.
The most intensive part of this investigation involves looking into your injuries and previous medical conditions that might have contributed to the injuries. This process can take months, but it’s important, because it helps your attorney determine the strength of your case. If he or she feels you have no case, it’s better to find out at this point, before engaging in a costly lawsuit.
Step 4: Negotiations
It’s at this point that the attorney considers negotiating a settlement on your behalf. Your lawyer will try to get you a good offer, or, in some cases, may not even consider a settlement. For instance, if the accident resulted in a permanent or long-term disability, your lawyer will know it’s better to see the lawsuit through and let a jury arrive at a decision.
Additionally, the case may sit at a standstill for a while, because your attorney wants to make sure your condition has been fully diagnosed and you’ve received as much treatment as can be provided. This is called maximum medical improvement and waiting for your condition to reach this point helps your attorney get an accurate estimation of your treatment costs.
Step 5: The Claim is Filed
The attorney must file the case with the court within the state’s statute of limitations. Even though the case may not go to trial for up to two years, it’s important to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. This allows time to engage in the pre-trial phases of your personal injury case.
Step 6: Discovery
At this point, each side shares requested information and learns about the position they will be taking at trial. Interrogatories and document requests help the sides share information, so each attorney can prepare their case. This is also the point in which depositions are taken from the plaintiff, defendant, and witnesses. This process can be very time-consuming, taking up to a full year.
Step 7: Mediation
The attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant come together to see if they can reach an adequate settlement. The attorneys and their clients will usually appear before an impartial mediator and attempt to reach an agreement.
Step 8: Trial
Finally, your case will go to trial, which can last as little as a single day or take several months to conclude. It depends on the specifics of the case, the availability of witnesses, and the court’s schedule. Even though you may have a date set for your trial to begin, the court may bump your trial back. There’s nothing your attorney can do about this and he or she will likely be as frustrated as you.
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