If you’ve been injured in a car accident, bitten by a dog, or slipped and fell at the grocery store, you may be wondering if you need a personal injury attorney and what steps are included in a personal injury claim.
Meeting the Attorney
You will meet with an attorney who will decide if your injuries qualify for a personal injury claim. During the consultation, you’ll be asked questions such as: What happened? What injuries did you sustain? Who are the involved parties? Were there any eyewitnesses?
If you have a case, your attorney will visit the scene of the accident (if applicable) to take photographs of any evidence such as skid marks, get a copy of the police report, interview witnesses, and obtain any pertinent medical records.
The Complaint and Answer
The complaint is a document your attorney will file on your behalf. It contains your allegations against the defendant, and litigation begins once the defendant is served with a copy of the complaint. Typically, the defendant’s attorney will file a response known as an answer.
This is where both sides exchange information about the case. This process takes time and will require you and the defendant to fill out a packet that contains a variety of questions. A deposition is also part of discovery, and it’s when the defendant’s attorney questions you under oath, and your attorney will do the same to the defendant.
Both parties can file motions, such as a motion for change of venue or judge, before a trial begins. If one is filed, both attorneys argue the issue in front of the judge who will determine who wins the motion.
Most personal injury cases are settled with mediation. During this phase, both parties meet with a mediator to try to settle out of court. If you agree with the amount offered, the case is resolved. If not, your case heads to trial.
When it comes time for trial, both attorneys will present evidence and question witnesses and experts. Once both sides present their case, the jury (or judge if it’s a bench trial) will determine if the defendant is responsible for causing your injuries. If the defendant is found guilty, the jury/judge will determine the settlement amount you will receive. If the defendant is insured, his insurance company will pay the amount. It is possible the insurance company will file an appeal.