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What are the steps in a personal injury lawsuit?

What are the steps in a personal injury lawsuit?

Personal injury is a broad term that includes different types of injuries and claims. If you have suffered a personal injury, you could be entitled to claim compensation under a variety of laws. But this will depend on the circumstances of your case. 

In this article, we will explain what types of injury can result in a personal injury lawsuit, the steps that the case will involve and how a personal injury lawyer can help you.

Types of personal injury cases

Before we get to the steps you should be aware of in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to know the different types of personal injury cases there are. You should also know that every personal injury case is unique. The most common types of personal injury include:

  • Vehicular accidents: This usually happens because someone didn’t follow the rules of proper road use. Normally, when injury occurs as a result of negligence on the part of the other driver, it is expected that the at-fault driver should bear the responsibility for injuries resulting from the accident. In no-fault states however, there may be some limitations to this. New York is a no-fault state. 
  • Medical malpractice: When a doctor or health care professional provides treatments that fall below the reasonable standard of medical care and a patient is injured as a result, a medical malpractice lawsuit may result. 
  • Premises liability: This refers to accidents that occur on another person’s land. These accidents are usually caused by dangerous or defective conditions on the person’s land caused by negligence on the part of the landowner. They include slip and fall accidents and can occur anywhere, from public places such as a store to a neighbor's home. 
  • Product liability: This includes injuries arising from the use of defective products whether in the home, at work or in public places. Product liability cases include dangerous or defective drugs, dangerous foods, defective medical devices, defective children’s products, defective vehicle parts and lots more. A product liability lawsuit can have a large number of defendants which can include individuals, businesses or government entities. It could be anyone from the manufacturer, to the promoters to the distributors to the retailers – and it could be all of them.
  • Defamation: This refers to an injury to a person's reputation as a result of propagating untrue negative statements. Proving fault in a defamation lawsuit varies depending on who the plaintiff is and where the statements were made. An average person only needs to prove that the negative statements were untrue and that he or she suffered harm as a result of the statements - this could also be in financial losses. For a celebrity, however, he or she needs to not only prove that the statements were untrue, but also that they were made with the intent to smear his or her reputation. This is known as proving "actual malice".
  • Wrongful death: This refers to when a loved one has been killed as a result of negligence on the part of another person or entity. It could be as a result of vehicular accidents, gas explosions, construction accidents or the use of a defective product.

Other examples of cases that will entitle a person to file a personal injury lawsuit include workplace accidents, dog bites, Brain, birth, burn and spinal cord injuries

What are the steps involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit?

As earlier mentioned, every personal injury case is unique and there is no universal method to handle personal injury lawsuits. However, there are general steps that will be involved in a personal injury lawsuit. They include:

Meeting a lawyer

After you have received treatment for your injuries, you should schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer. Together with him or her, you will be able to establish the facts of your case. This includes the following:

  • Whether your injuries were caused as a result of someone else's negligence
  • If the at-fault party can be held liable for your injuries
  • The extent or seriousness of your injuries
  • The costs you incurred or are currently incurring for treatment
  • The options available to you

Your personal injury attorney will need all the necessary paperwork that will help strengthen your case. This includes medical records and receipts, police reports, accident scene photographs, witness testimonies, your employment history and earning power and lots more. To this end, you must keep adequate records of all transactions that occurred since you sustained the injuries.

At the time of consultation, most personal injury attorneys provide their services for free and a few offer their services on a contingency basis. This means that they will only get paid if you win the case.

Notice to insurer/defendant and attempts to negotiate

Going to trial can be expensive and time consuming, so lawyers will try to resolve the case outside the courtroom. This can be done in any of the following ways:

  • Settlement: After your lawyer has written a letter to the at-fault party or their insurer notifying them of your claim, a settlement offer may be made. Your lawyer will attempt to get the best offer for you, considering your losses, injuries and chances of full recovery. 
  • Mediation: If the negotiation is gridlocked, a neutral third party (known as mediator) can be brought in to help. The mediator listens to the fact of the case and suggests a way to resolve the dispute. The mediator’s suggestion is not binding though.

Filing summons and complaints

The complaint is a document which details everything about the case. It also has a section usually at the end called the "prayer of relief". It explains what you as the plaintiff wants the court to do. It could include the amount of compensation you want the court to award. You could also choose to ask the court to award an amount to be determined later at trial.

The summons is a document that makes the defendant aware of legal action against them. The complaint is attached to the summons and filed with the court. In addition to this, the two documents must be delivered to the defendant. This is known as “Service of process”.

The defendant is given time to respond to the complaint and file a counterclaim if they feel that they have complaints against the plaintiff as well.

Discovery

This is where both parties begin the process of obtaining evidence from one another. The reason for this is that both parties need to have access to all relevant information. Information can be obtained through any of the following ways:

  • Interrogatories: These are specific questions put forward by one party and submitted to the other party. The responding party is required to answer the questions in writing and under oath.
  • Requests for production: This is similar to interrogatories. The difference is that the request is for documents instead of answering questions
  • Requests for admission: This means that one party needs the other party to admit or deny any material fact.
  • Depositions: This is a physical meeting between both parties. The attorney for one party will ask the other party questions and the other party is required to answer the questions orally and under oath. A court reporter is usually present to record answers word for word.
  • Physical examination: This is required when the condition of one of the parties is in contention.

Trial and appeal 

If the case proceeds to trial without settlement, a jury will be called upon to examine the evidence and determine on the facts if the defendant is legally responsible for your injuries. The jury will also award compensation if they find that your case is proved. 

If either party is dissatisfied with the ruling, they may choose to lodge an appeal with the Court of Appeals, and even up to the Supreme Court. 

Let us help you win

A competent and experienced personal injury lawyer can make all the difference between winning a personal injury lawsuit and losing it. At Oshan and Associates, we are passionate about helping you get the compensation you deserve in your personal injury case. 

With two decades of experience achieving big wins for our clients, we have what it takes to help you. Call us for a free no-obligation consultation on (206) 335-3880 or (646) 421-4062.



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