This article is the second in a short series called Plaintiff 101: Things to Know Before, During and After Litigation.
Without warning, the unthinkable has happened: you were seriously injured. At first, the events that led to the injury might have seemed to be an accident, but now it’s clear that someone else’s negligence is likely to blame. If that’s the case, someone needs to take responsibility for not only the mounting medical bills resulting from the injury, but also the carelessness that led to this life changing issue. Now what?
If you have never filed a lawsuit before, the process probably seems daunting. However, the steps to follow can be broken down into four parts:
- Choose a lawyer
- Investigate and review
- File a lawsuit
- Negotiate a settlement or go to trial
Below is a general breakdown of a personal injury lawsuit timeline, so you know what to expect in the coming months (and possibly years).
Choosing a Lawyer
In Part I of this series, I discussed an effective method for choosing the right lawyer for you. To recap, look for:
- Specialized experience in your specific type of case
- Awards and recognition from professional and legal organizations
- A great personality, confidence, and accessibility demonstrated at the initial consultation
Check out Part I for more details about selecting a great lawyer. Gathering as many tips as possible before getting started will help you narrow your search for the right person.
Investigation and Review
After you have selected a lawyer, the two of you will discuss your injuries and how they happened. Sharing every detail is critical, because your honest account of the accident will help your attorney build your case and begin a strong investigation.
Your lawyer will also gather your medical records and injury-related bills and expenses. This part of the process could mean a long waiting period, but this documentation will most likely give your attorney a definitive answer regarding whether you have grounds for a lawsuit and a strong case.
Filing the Lawsuit
If your attorney believes you have a good case against the parties who harmed you, he or she will file a complaint with the appropriate court. The firm will likely wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning you have recovered from your injuries as much as possible. Your MMI is an important indicator of how much your lawsuit is worth. Again, it could take months for you to reach your MMI, so be mindful of this process when you’re thinking about your lawsuit timeline.
Negotiate a Settlement or Go to Trial
Your case could settle, which means your attorney and the defendant (the other party’s) attorney were able to come up with a fair resolution without anyone needing to go to court.
If your case needs to be resolved by going to trial, another set of steps will begin. For example, the discovery process will allow each party to investigate the other side’s legal claims and defenses. They will take depositions of you (the plaintiff), the defendant, and any witnesses — meaning they will have everyone answer questions under oath.
When the investigations are over, a trial date will be set. A personal injury trial could take as little time as a day or as long as several years. At the end of the trial, the jury will render a verdict, meaning the members will decide whether they agree with the plaintiff’s claims or not. If the jury sides with the plaintiff, the court will determine how much the defendant owes that person for damages resulting from the injuries.
We hope you have found this breakdown informative. Please stay tuned for the next post in this series!
ABOUT JOHN BAIR
John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at http://milestoneseventh.com/.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).