When you or a loved one is injured due to the negligence of another, the first priority is to ensure medical and health issues are addressed. Afterward, you want to guarantee that the appropriate parties are held responsible and you aren’t left footing the bill for someone else’s carelessness. Often, this means pursuing the claim in court.
As every personal injury case is different and the procedural requirements of filing a case in civil court can be daunting, you’ll want to know what to expect and get a general idea of each phase of your case. This article provides an overview of these phases, and how you and your attorney can work together to ensure you or your loved ones are protected.
There are a number of steps that occur before your case makes it to civil court. From the outset, it’s vital that you begin to collect as much information soon after your accident as possible. This includes contacting the police, taking photographs of the scene and any injuries sustained, obtaining personal and insurance information from all parties involved, and under no circumstance is it advisable to sign anything offered to you.
Once your injuries have been properly addressed and diagnosed by a qualified doctor or medical provider, the next step is to consult an attorney. An experienced attorney will help you deal with the insurance companies, follow up with any outstanding investigative issues, and negotiated with the other parities on your behalf. However, if negotiations do not lead to an acceptable outcome for you, it may be time to file your case in civil court.
Once your case has been docketed with the court, the first step will be discovery. In this phase each party is required to provide any and all information they have about the case. Opposing parties will obtain evidence from one another in an effort to evaluate the comprehensive nature of the other side’s case. This can be one of the most important phases of your case.
Discovery is important not only to receive all necessary information, it’s crucial that your attorney asks for the correct information in a certain way. Experienced attorneys will do all they can to hide information that may hurt their client’s case. If you have a qualified and experienced attorney that knows the right questions to ask, you will have a leg up before your case is brought to a judge or mediator.
Once the discovery phase has ended and each party has had the opportunity to evaluate the other side’s case, attorneys will typically attempt to reach a settlement through a form of alternative dispute resolution: mediation.
Although attorney’s will often seek to reach a settlement before the case is brought before a civil court, often times a settlement is not reached due to lack of information the parties did not have prior to discovery. Once this information is revealed in discovery, attorney’s then seek out a mediator to hear each one’s side and come to a conclusion before it goes to trial. Mediation can save the potentially high expenses of going to trial, and is typically viewed favorably by judges.
Trial & Appeal
If your case cannot be settled through mediation, it is then scheduled for trial in the civil court. Depending on the complexity of the case, trials can last days, weeks, or even years. At trial, a decision-maker – typically a jury – will evaluate the facts and claims of each party, then determine fault and possibly award damages.
Depending on the issues of the case and the outcome at trial, you may be able to appeal the outcome if it is not in your favor. The appellate process can be different from what you can expect at trial, and it may also add to your expanding legal fees.
As noted at the outset of this article, each personal injury case is different. It’s impossible to know exactly what to expect and navigating through the procedural aspects of a case can be daunting. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of another, it’s important that you engage a qualified and experienced attorney as soon as possible so that they may begin ensuring your rights and your claims are protected.