Accidents can happen to anyone, and it can happen anywhere, anytime. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4, 383 total fatal occupational injuries (alone) in the US in 2012.
As if being injured isn’t bad enough, there ensues an even greater dilemma – the lawsuit. In every mishap, there’s always something or someone who’s at fault and therefore has to pay compensation to the victim. Most of the time, that doesn’t go as smoothly as everybody hopes. There will be lawyers involved, negotiations, and in most cases it could end up in a trial before a jury.
Not to mention the possibility of your insurance company reducing or worse, unfairly denying your compensation. Oh and, let’s not forget the legal fees! It’s a costly and stressful process and it’s perfectly normal to want to handle your personal injury claim yourself.
However, as most accidents are complicated (involves severe or permanent disabling injuries, sometimes death), you will eventually require the expertise of an attorney. But don’t keep yourself in the dark throughout the entire procedure. It’s important that you know and understand how the personal injury lawsuit progresses.
- Meet and Evaluate a Personal Injury Attorney – Hiring the right attorney is critical to winning your case, so choose carefully.
Upon meeting your lawyer, bring with you any supporting documents such as medical records relating to your situation so you can get his/her professional opinion on the validity of your claim. Most lawyers won’t charge you for an initial consultation.
Evaluate the lawyer’s level of expertise by asking about his/her track record handling your type of case, client communication policy, and any other inquiries you might have that’s pertinent to the case.
Be sure to ask about payment. Most personal injury lawyers are paid on a contingency basis. Meaning, unless your case is successful there will be no fees. If you win and get your monetary compensation, the lawyer’s fee, usually 25% – 40% of the total recovery will be paid at the very end of the case.
- Screening and Investigation Process – In order to build a compelling case, your attorney will have to gather information. A thorough investigation will be conducted to obtain facts including preservation of physical evidence as well as videographic and or photographic evidence.
The gathered data will allow your attorney to fully understand the extent of damages, injuries and costs to help determine if the claim should be pursued. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the screening and investigatory stage can take at least a month or more.
- Settlement Negotiations – Personal injury claims that involve slips, trips and falls at work, car accidents and accidents caused by defective products are usually resolved before a lawsuit is even filed.
Settlement negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company (representing the party responsible for your injuries) often resolves the issue. A settlement offer will be presented and if both parties agree, the case will be settled straightaway. Your personal injury attorney will help you decide on this by giving an opinion if the proposed settlement is adequate, but the final decision is ultimately yours to make.
- Filing the Lawsuit in Court – If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawsuit will then be filed in court. A deadline for each phase of the lawsuit process will be set by a judge. This can take somewhere from several months to several years depending your case’s complexity.
Author Bio: Karrie Morton is law student at the University of California Irvine and a part time freelance writer, she writes for Integrity Legal Corp , offers Litigation Supports services in Orange County. Karrie loves to debate about the legality of same sex marriage with her fellow students.