Timeline of a Personal Injury Case according to a Personal Injury Lawyer
Timing is crucial in almost all areas of law. Plaintiffs need sufficient evidence to establish a legal cause of action when filing a lawsuit. However, the Texas statute of limitations sets deadlines on filing personal injury lawsuits.
At Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers, we understand that you want to file and settle your personal injury case as quickly as possible. However, timing is everything. If you settle your claim too quickly, you could lose thousands of dollars in damages.
It can help to understand the steps in the timeline for a personal injury case. Our attorneys may have control over some of the steps, but generally, the timeline for a personal injury case depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Sample Timeline for a Personal Injury Case
Below are steps that are common in most injury and accident cases. However, it is important to note that your legal team will often work on multiple steps simultaneously. For example, you may be receiving medical care while we are investigating the accident.
The steps often overlap, so we are always moving forward to reach a settlement as soon as possible.
Your Houston personal injury will begin your case by investigating the cause of your injury. Whether you were injured in a car accident, by medical malpractice, or in a slip and fall accident, your legal team will need to gather evidence proving all elements of a negligence claim.
Steps that your lawyer may take during an investigation include, but are not limited to:
- Request copies of accident reports, police reports, and written statements
- Search for photographs and videos taken at the accident scene
- Search for traffic camera footage and surveillance videos
- Place your doctors and other parties on notice that we represent you and to communicate through our office
- Interview and take statements from eyewitnesses
- Request documentation from cell phone carriers, maintenance companies, repair shops, property owners, and other parties who may have evidence related to your injury
- Identify the parties who contributed to the cause of the accident
- File insurance claims and monitor the progress of those claims and the insurance investigation
- Request copies of reports and information from federal and state agencies involved in the case
- Consult with and retain accident reconstructionists, medical experts, economists, engineers, and other expert witnesses
During the investigation phase of the case, your lawyer may identify additional legal causes of action or parties to pursue. They should keep you informed of their progress and the reason for continuing the investigation.
Medical Treatment for Injuries
It is vital to have a medical examination as soon as possible after an accident or injury. Your medical records and medical bills become crucial evidence in your personal injury case.
You must prove that the other party’s actions were the direct and proximate cause of your injuries. Without medical records documenting your injuries, you cannot accomplish that step. Furthermore, if you delay medical treatment, the insurance company may argue that the accident did not cause your injuries.
Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement
The duration of your recovery is one of the most significant factors that affect the timeline for settlement. Therefore, we never want to make a settlement offer until you complete your medical treatment.
When you are injured in an accident, you could develop permanent disabilities or impairments. Until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), your doctor cannot provide a prognosis. MMI is the point at which no further medical treatment is expected to prolong your life or improve your condition.
If you sustained permanent impairments, it impacts numerous areas of your case. For example, you could be entitled to compensation for the impairment, additional non-economic damages, future lost wages, and decreases in earning potential.
If you were to settle your case before receiving a medical opinion regarding prognosis, your settlement amount could be far below the actual value of your personal injury claim.
Documenting Injuries and Damages
Your legal team will work with you throughout your case to document your injuries and damages. Things you can do to help include:
- Take photographs and videos of your injuries as they heal
- Keep detailed notes about your pain and suffering levels and activities you cannot perform because of your injuries
- Make notes about how your injuries impact your relationship with family members and friends
- Keep copies of all bills, invoices, and receipts for payment of any expenses related to your accident or injury
Personal injury lawyers have extensive experience calculating the value of damages. However, they may also retain the services of one or more experts to assist in valuing future damages for ongoing medical care, long-term personal care, and future lost income.
Preparing and Sending a Settlement Demand Letter
When you complete medical treatment, it is time to send a settlement demand letter to the other party’s insurance company. A demand letter outlines the facts of your case, explains your injuries and damages, and discusses why the other party is liable for your damages. In addition, it includes the amount you demand for settlement and supporting documentation.
Negotiating a Settlement Agreement
The insurance provider may take several weeks to review the settlement offer and respond. The insurance provider may submit a counteroffer (lower payment) to settle the case. In rare cases, the insurance company accepts the offer or declines the offer without attempting to negotiate.
Your lawyer will review the counteroffer to determine if it is fair. They may begin negotiation by offering an amount that is higher than the value of your case.
Back and forth negotiations could go on for several weeks or a few months. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement within a reasonable time, it may be time to file a lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Filing a personal injury lawsuit may be necessary if the insurance provider is acting in bad faith or there are disputes related to fault that we cannot settle without a court case.
The personal injury lawsuit could take up to a year or longer to resolve. It depends on the type of case, the parties involved, the issues at hand, and the court’s schedule.
In most personal injury lawsuits, you can expect to go through the following phases:
- Filing pleadings (i.e., complaint, answer, counterclaim, third-party complaint, etc.)
- Discovery (i.e., depositions, interrogatories, etc.)
- Pre-trial negotiations, possible with a mediator or arbitrator
- Filing and hearing pre-trial motions
- Selecting a jury
- Arguing the case at trial
- Jury verdict
Your case may not go to trial. The parties could settle during pretrial negotiations or at any time before the jury returns a verdict.
Either you or the other party may appeal the verdict to a higher court if you are unsatisfied with the outcome. Appeals could take years to resolve. If the other side does not appeal the case and you win, the insurance company and liable parties should pay you the amount the jury awarded to you.
Call Now for a Free Consultation with an Experienced Houston Personal Injury Lawyer
Are you ready to begin the claims process to recover the money you deserve for a personal injury claim? Reach out to our law office online or by phone at (713) 500-5000 to schedule your free consultation with one of our Houston personal injury attorneys.