Suffering any type of injury is a frustrating and exhausting experience. It can also be a painful one, depending on the type of injuries you received. You probably want nothing more than to recover from your injuries and get back to your regular life.
Adding insult to injury, the personal injury claims process can be confusing and time-consuming. But by hiring the right legal team, you can speed this process up and give yourself the best chance of collecting every dollar you deserve for your injuries.
Whether you suffered injuries in a car accident, workplace accident, medical malpractice incident, or one of the countless other ways in which someone else’s negligence could have caused your or a loved one’s injuries, you need to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your ability to recover maximum compensation for your injuries can depend on the legal representation you choose and how quickly you speak with them.
About Personal Injury Lawsuits
A personal injury lawsuit is a legal dispute that arises when you suffer injuries because of another person’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. Nearly 30 million people visit the emergency room each year to receive treatment for unintentional injuries. Such injuries, often unintentionally caused by someone else, happen frequently.
The reason you might decide to file a personal injury lawsuit is to attempt to collect compensation for your injuries from whomever caused your injuries. If you don’t bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault party, you may have no other choice but to pay out of your own pocket for your medical expenses and other financial losses resulting from the injury.
If you have been injured by someone else, you want to know what comes next. The next few sections of this blog post are written to help you understand how a personal injury lawsuit progresses.
Seek Medical Attention
The first step in a personal injury lawsuit, as with any injury you might suffer, is to make sure you get the medical care you need. If you suffer injuries in a car accident, emergency medical personnel may evaluate you at the accident scene. If you suffer injuries in a slip and fall incident, you may not get immediate medical help at the accident location but you should still get to a doctor as quickly as possible.
By getting medical treatment quickly, you not only give yourself the best chance to make a full recovery, you also preserve evidence. A doctor or other medical professional will fully evaluate you and make detailed notes about any injuries you may have suffered. Even minor injuries can lead to expensive medical bills, so do not discount what you think may just be a bruise after a slip and fall. No matter what type of accident you have been involved in, get medical care right away.
You also need to keep copies of your medical records. Because the doctor will take detailed notes about your injuries and the treatment you require, those notes can help to paint a picture of the pain and suffering you have endured. This information can help your personal injury lawyer by showing how severely your injuries impacted your ability to go about your regular life, which can help you collect maximum compensation for your injuries.
Initial Consultation With Your Attorney
Any time you have a legal issue, you need to speak with an attorney. Even if you think your injuries are minor, you could still be dealing with unexpected medical bills and other financial losses. Slipping and falling, for example, costs victims about $70 billion per year nationwide. While each victim’s total costs vary depending on the severity of their injuries, medical bills can quickly weigh someone down.
If you don’t want to get stuck paying out of pocket for your medical expenses, you must file a personal injury claim. When you speak with a trusted personal injury attorney soon after your accident, you can begin to chart a path toward your physical and financial recovery. Your lawyer will need time to investigate your accident, review your medical records, discuss what happened with you, and speak with any witnesses, 2so the sooner you contact an attorney, the better. While you are focused on your health and well being, your lawyer can begin advocating for you.
Demand and Response
Once your personal injury lawyer has completed the investigation stage, your lawyer may send a demand letter to the at-fault party – the individual who caused your injuries – or to the at-fault party’s insurance company.
When the at-fault party, their insurance company, or their lawyer receives the demand letter, they may seek a quick settlement. It’s important that your lawyer fully understand your needs to advocate for a fair settlement amount for you. You do not want to settle for less than your case is worth.
Your lawyer will likely send this demand letter before filing a lawsuit in court. The goal is to see if the other party is willing to be reasonable and to settle for a fair amount that covers your needs without having to go to court. Settlement negotiations, at this stage and later in the personal injury case process, can be complex. That’s why it is vital to the success of your personal injury claim that you work with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer from the start.
Filing Your Personal Injury Claim
Sending a demand letter along with evidence to support your claim may not be enough to get the other side to settle. If settlement negotiations don’t lead to an agreement, your lawyer can file a personal injury claim in civil court against the at-fault party. There is a legally-mandated deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, and if you miss the deadline, the court will not hear your case.
Generally, for personal injury cases, the deadline is two years from the date of the injury. Personal injury victims who miss the deadline usually end up paying out of pocket for their medical expenses and shouldering the burden of their financial losses.
Sometimes, your attorney will need to file your lawsuit even if negotiations are going well so you don’t miss the deadline for filing. Not only does this ensure your lawsuit is filed within the timeline required by the law, it can also pressure the other side to settle because they see you are not messing around and are serious about collecting compensation for your injuries.
After a lawsuit is filed, the case enters a “discovery” phase. This is when each side investigates the other side’s legal claims and any defenses they may have. The point of discovery is to ensure transparency and reasonableness. And sometimes if the at-fault party in your case sees how strong your claim is, they have an additional incentive to settle. This does not mean they always will settle, but they may be more likely to do so.
By settling early in the case, the at-fault party can usually avoid costly legal fees and time delays. But not every party will be willing to settle for a fair and reasonable amount. That’s why you need a vigorous advocate on your side, a lawyer who can aggressively protect your rights.
After the discovery phase, if the parties have not settled, usually a court will require that the parties try mediation. Mediation is essentially settlement negotiations but with an experienced, neutral third-party helping out. The mediator does not take sides, but will help each side to better understand the other side. Mediation can be helpful when the at-fault party hears from an independent mediator that they may not have a strong case.
Going to Trial
Most personal injury claims settle out of court. Whether at the demand letter, discovery, or mediation phase, most cases settle before trial. But some cases do go to trial, and the most complex cases often require a trial. Cases where insurance companies refuse to settle for a fair and reasonable amount also may require a trial to get you the compensation you deserve.
That’s why you need to have an experienced personal injury attorney at your side who has proven trial experience. While the goal is to settle your personal injury claim as quickly as possible for maximum compensation, your lawyer should also begin preparing for trial as soon as they take your case. This not only means there will not be a delay if your case does go to trial, it can also serve as motivation to the other side to settle.
The steps above are the normal steps that a personal injury claim will follow. But just like you, your personal injury claim is unique so the process might be slightly different in your case. Deviations from the normal way a case goes can increase or decrease the amount of time it takes to successfully resolve your personal injury lawsuit.
The total amount of time it takes to get a resolution to your personal injury claim will depend on many factors.
These could include:
- The type of injuries you received;
- Your prognosis for recovery;
- How easy it is to determine fault based on the evidence available about the accident; and
- Your attorney’s negotiation skills.
One thing is clear, however—the sooner you reach out to a trusted legal advisor, the sooner you can put the legal complexities of your case behind you. As soon as you speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer, they can begin the process of protecting your rights with your best interests in mind. Your lawyer can help you attempt to collect every dollar you deserve so you do not have to pay out of pocket for your medical expenses or other financial losses.
You Must File Your Lawsuit Soon
The statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury claim for damages varies from state to state—California’s, at only two years from the date of your injuries, is fairly typical. Two years might seem like a long time. But when you think about everything you may face during that time, you will quickly realize that time will fly by.
If you fail to file a personal injury claim by the statute of limitations deadline, the court might refuse to hear your case. That means you could end up having to pay your own medical bills for an accident you did not cause. Adding this insult to your physical injury can be extremely frustrating.
That’s why you need to speak with a seasoned personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Your lawyer will ensure you meet this important deadline so you have a chance to recover compensation for your injuries.
Your Lawyer Can Help You
When you suffer from injuries and have to stay home from work while you recover, you may worry about how you will pay your bills. When you have a trusted legal advisor at your side, your lawyer can take on the burden of helping you collect compensation for your injuries. By doing so, your lawyer gives you the best chance to make a full recovery, allowing you the time and effort to focus on your health and well being.
Your lawyer will also investigate your claim, speak with witnesses, review medical records, and speak with experts all to help you recover maximum compensation from the at-fault party. Your lawyer can do all of this while you are still recovering. You do not have to wait until you are healed to bring a personal injury claim. In fact, the timeline for you to file your claim may expire before you fully recover. That could leave you paying out of pocket for your medical bills and financial losses.
Your lawyer will have your best interests at heart, and will be the advocate you need while you recover. Without an experienced legal advocate at your side fighting to protect your rights, you could miss out on the compensation you need to recover from your injuries. Collecting maximum compensation for your injuries will help you get back on your feet. Speak with a trusted personal injury lawyer today.
It Takes Time
Understanding the process for your personal injury lawsuit can help you get clarity on when your legal issues will end. Keep in mind that, while you want your legal issues to end, you also want a good result. You do not want to have your legal troubles go away and still end up paying out of pocket for your medical expenses.
To avoid that scenario, you need to partner with a knowledgeable and skilled personal injury lawyer. Your ability to recover maximum compensation for your injuries could depend on the lawyer you choose to represent you.
Time to Settle
A recurring term throughout your personal injury claim will be settlement. Settling your case is an option at nearly every stage of the process. But determining whether a settlement is right for you often takes a trained eye.
A settlement offer is exciting because it might mean the end of your legal battle is in sight. You probably want nothing more than to get back to your regular life as quickly as possible. But an inadequate settlement could leave you in financial hardship.
Insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart. They are looking out for their own profits, attempting to keep as much money in their pockets as possible. To achieve that goal, insurance companies often prey on accident victims like you. They might offer you a quick settlement, hoping that you take it without thinking about your actual financial needs.
This is one of the situations in which the experience and skill of a personal injury lawyer can really help you. Together with your legal advisor, you can create an accurate estimate of your present expenses and future needs for your accident-related injuries. Along with medical experts, your lawyer can help by calculating what additional medical procedures you are likely to face and how costly those will be. You also need to account for your time out of work, any rehabilitation or in-home care you may need, and any other financial losses and medical needs you will endure as a result of the accident.
The insurance company may pressure you to settle your case quickly and even without a lawyer because they know it is in their best interests. But if a quick settlement is in their best interests, it probably is not in yours. If you sign the settlement offer, you will waive your right to bring any future claims against the insurance company for this accident.
So months or years later, if you realize the settlement funds have run dry but you still have medical expenses to cover, it will be too late. You will end up paying out of pocket for your medical expenses and financial losses. But you can avoid this tragic situation by working with a seasoned personal injury attorney.
Two-thirds of bankruptcies filed each year result from medical bills. You can give yourself a chance to avoid becoming a statistic by working with a trusted personal injury lawyer who can help you accurately calculate the amount of money you need to recover and avoid financial hardship. The last thing you want is to end up paying out of pocket for medical expenses and financial losses related to injuries you did not cause.
Damages You Can Collect
Accident victims like you file a personal injury claim to collect maximum compensation for their injuries. While no amount of money can undo your accident or take away the pain and suffering you have endured, compensation will ensure that you can focus on your health and well being. When you no longer have to worry about how you will pay your bills, you can put all of your effort and energy into your physical recovery. You can start by shifting the stress and worry over your legal case to your lawyer.
Your lawyer may try to get you compensation for:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Lost wages;
- Lost earning potential;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of life enjoyment;
- Present and future medical bills; and
- Rehabilitation costs.
The vast majority of your medical needs and financial losses may come in the future. So the medical bills you see sitting on your kitchen table may reflect only a small portion of the total amount of money you will need to pay your accident-related expense.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may not return to work for a long time or at all. This severely hinders your ability to earn a living and provide for your family. Because of this, your family may feel unnecessary stress and take on additional work or work overtime to help cover the financial loss associated with you being out of work. This should not be their burden to bear. This financial responsibility should be the sole duty of the at-fault party, the person who caused your injuries.
Accidental injuries are unfortunately the third most common cause of death in the United States today. If a loved one died as a result of their injuries, depending on your relationship to them you may collect some of the above types of compensation, as well as funeral expenses from the at-fault party. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more.
Accidents Giving Rise to a Personal Injury Claim
There are countless ways in which you could have suffered injuries at the hands of another.
The most common of these causes include:
- Car accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Truck accidents;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Medical malpractice;
- Slip and falls;
- Workplace accidents;
- Other criminal activity; and
- Dog bites.
This list is not exhaustive and there are many other ways people suffer injuries due to someone else’s negligence.
A point to emphasize here is that if someone broke the law when they injured you, a prosecutor may bring a criminal charge against the person who caused you harm. But make no mistake, the criminal process will not provide you with adequate compensation even if the at-fault party is found guilty. Any compensation you may receive, which is called “restitution” in criminal cases, will not come close to covering your actual expenses. When you suffer injuries as the result of a criminal act, you still need to bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault party to receive full compensation for your injuries and your suffering.
Holding the Negligent Party Liable
To collect compensation in your personal injury claim, you must show that the at-fault party was liable for your injuries.
You do that by proving the following:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care to act reasonably to keep you and others safe.
- That person breached their duty by acting in an unsafe manner.
- The breach of that duty caused an accident.
- As a result of the accident, you suffered injuries.
This might seem obvious to you—you know the other person caused an accident or situation in which you suffered injuries. So it’s clear to you that they are liable for your injuries and your medical bills.
But it’s not that simple in the legal context. The facts and evidence you present to the court must prove each element above by a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that the evidence shows that your claim is more likely than not to be true. While this is not as high of a standard as in a criminal case, meeting this standard still requires legal skill and experience.
That’s why it is vital to the success of your personal injury claim that you partner with a respected lawyer. Your ability to hold the negligent party liable for your accident and your injuries can depend on the lawyer you choose to represent you. You need a lawyer with experience standing up to big insurance companies and successfully resolving personal injury cases like yours.
Preparing for Trial
About 5 percent of all personal injury cases go to trial. Many personal injury victims think that if the chances are that small, they do not need a lawyer with trial experience. This is a mistaken belief. A lawyer’s trial experience can actually help your case settle faster, and it will be really important if your case is one of the 5 percent that goes to trial.
When the insurance company representing the at-fault party sees that you have chosen a lawyer with personal injury trial experience, they will see that you are not messing around. When you start working with an experienced personal injury trial lawyer, your legal advisor begins preparing for trial right away.
That does not mean they do not put every effort into settling your case for a fair and reasonable amount—they do. What it means is that, if the insurance company refuses to be reasonable, there is no delay if settlement negotiations stall. Once it is clear that your case will go to trial, your lawyer is already prepared and ready to move quickly to help you recover maximum compensation.
In addition to saving time, the fact that your lawyer has proven personal injury trial experience can pressure the other side to settle. They know that if they end up in court, they are taking on your lawyer and all of their years of experience battling big insurance companies. With this knowledge in mind, the other side may be more willing to settle to quickly resolve the case.
No matter what, the lawyer you choose can make a difference in your ability to recover compensation for your injuries. Choosing a lawyer with proven personal injury trial experience can give your case the leg up you deserve to help you resolve your case quickly and fairly.
One of the most important parts of working with an experienced personal injury attorney is making sure you know the true value of your claim. While it is impossible to know with absolute certainty exactly how much money you will need in the future, your lawyer’s experience can help you put together a good estimate of what you will need.
Taking into account your doctor’s prognosis for your recovery and how much time you will spend out of work, your lawyer, along with medical experts, can create an accurate estimate of your financial needs. When you know the value of your claim and how much money you will need to cover all of your financial and medical needs, you know what you need to recover so the insurance company does not take advantage of you.
It may be tempting to try to settle your case without a lawyer. You may even think that you can get more money by not having to pay a lawyer. Unfortunately, this is a mistaken belief and can leave personal injury victims with less compensation than they deserve.
Avoiding this situation is paramount to your health and well being. You need to trust that your lawyer has your best interests at heart and that means working with a lawyer you feel comfortable with to handle your personal injury claim.
Work With an Experienced Lawyer
Your lawyer should treat you like a person, not just another number. You need a lawyer who understands what you are going through and who can aggressively fight to protect your rights, with your best interests always at heart.
You need a lawyer with the resources required to take on the big insurance companies, a lawyer who has medical experts they can rely on, and a lawyer who you trust to handle your complex personal injury claim. It is not an understatement to say the lawyer you choose can make a difference in your claim and in your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or carelessness, you deserve to have a trusted advocate by your side, fighting hard to protect your rights. Contact an experienced and skilled personal injury lawyer today.
Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, Ca 92101