If you don’t have experience with the legal system, it can be daunting. The number of steps in each process and the length of time it takes to resolve things can be surprising.
It is a good idea at the outset of any legal action to take time to understand the process. This understanding can help you successfully navigate the days ahead and prevent frustration.
Landmarks of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Although every legal action is unique, there’s no need to wonder, “What are the steps in a personal injury lawsuit?” Even though there are differences in each case, some general steps are shared in every personal injury lawsuit timeline.
An Injury Occurs and Medical Treatment Begins
The basis of a personal injury lawsuit is, of course, an injury of some kind. After any injury, your first step is to seek medical treatment and begin the healing process. Of primary concern in a personal injury lawsuit is you getting the help and resources you need to recover. Thus, the first step you should take is to begin medical treatment.
Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney
For anything beyond a very minor claim, it’s a great idea to at least discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer.
Many injury attorneys offer free consultations. This gives you a chance to ask questions like, “What are the steps in a personal injury lawsuit?” It’s also an opportunity for the lawyer to assess your case and estimate its value. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, also see: What To Ask a Car Accident Lawyer Before Hiring Them
Investigation of Your Case
If you decide to hire a lawyer, the first action they will take is to thoroughly investigate your case. This step includes:
- Reviewing any accident reports taken by law enforcement
- Reviewing records from your medical provider documenting the treatment of your injury
- Locating and interviewing any potential witnesses
- Working with accident reconstruction experts if needed
- Examination of possible defenses that could be used by the opposing party
During this process, your attorney should keep you informed of any findings. Many injury lawyers make it a point of being responsive to any questions you’ll have along the way.
Demand Letter Is Sent
Your demand letter is often the first impression the defendant gets of your case. In a demand letter, your lawyer will outline your case and detail a liability and damage amount to cover the cost of:
- Current and future medical bills
- Lost wages — and if necessary, lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of life enjoyment
Once the defendant receives the letter, they will reject the demand, make a counteroffer, or accept it. Because a quick resolution is desirable, putting a quality demand letter together is critical.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In the event a preliminary demand letter does not bring about resolution, the next step in the personal injury lawsuit timeline is to file your lawsuit with the court. Filing the suit is the action that starts the clock on when the trial might go to court. Generally, it can take between one and two years for a trial to begin after the lawsuit is filed.
The Discovery Phase
The discovery phase can last six months to a year and allows your attorney to look at your case again. It also provides the defense lawyer a chance to investigate your claim from their perspective. This step includes interrogatories — written questions that require written responses. Attorneys will also take depositions of all relevant witnesses.
Mediation and Negotiation
Settlement discussions usually begin after the discovery phase is finished. Both sides now have a clear understanding of what the other side has in terms of evidence. Sometimes lawyers can settle among themselves. At other times, a mediator can help bring resolution.
Frequently, negotiations and mediation will bring resolution and result in a settlement. If that is not possible, the case is scheduled for trial. A trial can last a day, a week, or perhaps longer, depending on the complexity of the case.
In a trial, a judge or jury will determine who is at fault for your injury. They will also determine what the defendant will be required to pay out in damages, if anything. After the trial, either side can initiate an appeal if they believe the outcome is not just. This process can take several months to several years.
Settlement Is the Most Likely Outcome
Television shows make it seem like every legal case culminates in a dramatic trial. The reality is that most personal injury cases settle before making it to the trial phase.
Once discovery is completed, seasoned lawyers for both the plaintiff and the defendant understand the likely outcome of a trial. This shared understanding makes negotiations in any personal injury lawsuit a critical part of the process. A settlement in a personal injury lawsuit can be desirable because they:
- Guarantee an award
- Lower legal costs
- Cause less stressful
- Maintain privacy by avoiding a public trial
- Are almost always final
Settlements are also desirable because they will normally happen sooner than if the case is decided at trial.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Disbursements?
After a personal injury lawsuit resolves, it takes an average of six weeks to receive your money. Normally, checks are issued first to cover victim expenses like medical bills or vehicle repair costs. Next, the attorneys and court costs are paid. The last step of the financial settlement process is paying the remaining disbursement funds to the victim.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side.
If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines