The Process of a Personal Injury Claim
Brian White | December 17, 2020 | Personal Injury
Once you’ve been injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, an overwhelming process begins. When you break down the process of a personal injury claim into small pieces, it can be easier to grasp.
At the beginning of the process of a personal injury claim, you need to get educated before you make any moves. Do your research when you find and hire an attorney to represent you. Choosing the right personal injury attorney can make a difference in the outcome of your case.
You also need to be educated about the basic personal injury laws and the legal process. The personal injury claim process involves:
- Drafting and filing a complaint
- Collecting and evaluating evidence
- Negotiating settlement arrangements
A significant majority of cases settle out-of-court and do not require a trial. However, if no settlement can be reached, the process of a personal injury claim could also include trial, and, in some cases, an appeal.
Finding and Hiring an Attorney
Since most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, you have nothing to lose when you choose to evaluate all of your options. You do not have to hire an attorney, but it’s in your best interest to do so. Contrary to popular belief, judges do not have a duty to help litigants who do not have an attorney.
Make sure the attorney you choose to represent you makes you feel comfortable communicating. Insufficient communication marks the deterioration of many attorney-client relationships.
Ask about the attorney’s experience with the kind of case you have and if they have enough time and resources to take on your case. The length of time practicing is important as well as the lawyer’s focus on that type of case. The more often a person practices a skill, the better they become at it.
A trustworthy personal injury attorney should be transparent with you about what your case is worth and how they estimate the value of the claims. No attorney can guarantee results. An experienced personal injury attorney can offer information on how damages are valued.
Statute of Limitations
In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. While two years sounds like a lot of time, it starts to run on the date of the injury and can only be suspended under very limited circumstances. If the complaint is filed after the statute of limitations expires, the claim may be waived forever.
Understanding a Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury claim is one in which a person is claiming they have been injured by the acts or omissions of another person. After an accident, the parties involved might try to blame each other for the accident or injuries incurred.
Many personal injury claims involve a demand letter before a formal lawsuit is filed. In a demand letter, your attorney might state why the defendant is at fault, summarize the injuries, and quantify the financial and non-financial damages. After the formal demand, your attorney and the insurance company attorney might spend weeks or months negotiating, exchanging information, and trying to reach an agreement.
Filing a Complaint
If the demand letter and settlement negotiations do not result in an agreement, your attorney will file a complaint on your behalf. The formal complaint gives notice to the person being sued. It will identify all of the parties being sued, assert the plaintiff’s legal claims, state the facts that support the claims, and demand compensation for damages. Once the complaint is filed, it is served on the defendant.
Discovery is the phase in a lawsuit where each side exchanges information and evidence. Each party’s attorney can draft written questions and request copies of specific documents that may prove relevant facts or lead to the discovery of relevant facts. Discovery often involves depositions, in which attorneys ask questions of a witness sworn to tell the truth.
The significant majority of all cases settle before trial. Many cases settle “on the courthouse steps,” just like they show it in the movies. Attorneys negotiate all important details and reduce them to writing to complete a settlement. The plaintiff agrees to surrender their claims against the defendant in exchange for an amount of money, in most cases.
While very few cases go to trial, the ones that do are likely to be high-conflict and feature hotly disputed facts. At trial, both sides have an opportunity to produce evidence, including witness testimony, to prove their claim or defense. Each side also gets the chance to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses.