How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident or in a mishap while away from home, you might be worried about how you’re going to pay your bills or fill your gas tank while you recover from your injuries.
The battle with insurance companies can be even more frustrating, since many work hard to encourage you to take the lowest settlement possible so they can close the books on your case.
It’s important, however, to make sure that if your injury was the result of another person’s negligence that you are properly compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and if that party’s insurance company fails to take responsibility, a personal injury lawsuit may be the only move you have available to you.
If you’re wondering what you need to do in order to file a personal injury case, we’ve got you covered.
Steps to take when filing
While it is possible to file a personal injury lawsuit without an attorney, you are better off with someone who understands the complexities of such cases. The right personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve. Going it alone could leave you with nothing to cover the mounting costs associated with your injuries.
An attorney will review your case and any documentation, then let you know the legal options available to you. When you meet with your attorney for the first time you should have all your records available, including medical bills, accident reports, photographs, witness statements (or witness contact information) and notes you may have taken regarding your injuries and your recovery.
After meeting with an attorney, your next step is to file a claim with the insurance company of the party at fault. With the help of an attorney who will negotiate on your behalf, that insurance company may offer a settlement that adequately covers your expenses. If negotiations fall through and the insurance company refuses to pay a fair settlement, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit.
While some states allow less time and others allow more, in general, you have two years to file a personal injury case before the statute of limitations runs out. This time allows you and you attorney to gather evidence to better solidify your case.
After a lawsuit is officially filed, both sides will have an opportunity to examine evidence, which is called the discovery process. Knowing what evidence each side plans to present in court helps strengthen your case. This could include depositions of you, any witnesses, and the party at fault in the incident.
Afterwards, your attorney will again attempt to negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a trial, which is costly and time consuming. It also allows you to collect compensation much sooner than you would if you had to wait for a trial, which can sometimes take years to find a place on the court docket.
If your case does go to trial, your attorney will use all the evidence gathered to present a solid case on your behalf. If the jury fails to award damages, you can file an appeal. If the jury does award damages, the other side can also appeal, although if your case is strong, the opposing party is likely to accept the verdict and pay the settlement.
How do attorneys get paid?
Attorneys generally work on a contingency fee, so that they are not paid unless you win your case.
If you win, you will not only pay an attorney’s fee, but also court costs including fees for expert witnesses, deposition costs, administrative expenses and other costs associated with your case.