If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have suffered a personal injury, you may be considering legal action to compensate you for your injury and expenses. In this case, you will be wondering – what are the steps in a personal injury lawsuit?
Because embarking on a journey towards a personal injury lawsuit is a daunting move, we’ve put together this article to demystify the process of personal injury lawsuits, breaking it down step by step so you can go ahead with your claim with confidence.
Remember – the more you know about the process, the better the chances you have of recovering the maximum amount of money you get to aid your recovery. Read on to find out more.
Why Should I Pursue a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
It helps to be clear at the outset of the process why it could be in your interest to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
For a start, although your medical insurance may take care of some of the cost of your treatment, it may not cover all of it.
You should also take into account ongoing medical treatment. For example, you may have sustained an injury that will never properly resolve, and so you will need medical attention for the rest of your life.
In the worst-case scenario, you may receive life-changing injuries that leave you disabled. In this case, you may need to make special – and costly – adaptations to your home and many aspects of your day-to-day life.
What Types of Personal Injury Lawsuit Are There?
Generally speaking, there are three distinct types of personal injury lawsuits that are dealt with in California.
- Claims relating to injuries sustained at work, which are processed by the Division of Workers’ Compensation or the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board
- Claims for sums greater than $10,000, which are dealt with by a Superior Court
- Claims for sums less than $10,000, which are dealt with by a Small Claims Court
Normally, you will be aided by an attorney for claims relating to work or for hearing in a Superior Court.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit without the help of an attorney if you are taking it to a Small Claims Court. Here you will be presenting your own evidence in pursuit of the claim.
Step 1: What to Do Immediately After the Incident
The actions you take now will have a significant effect on the success of your future claim.
Seek Medical Attention
The most pressing need will be to get medical help as soon as you can after the accident or incident. You must get your injuries diagnosed and treated immediately to minimize the risk of future complications. It’s also important because your medical notes will form a vital part of the evidence in your personal injury claim.
Get Your Evidence Together
While it’s understandable that you will feel anxious and disturbed in the immediate aftermath of the accident, you need to keep level-headed at this crucial time and get your evidence together. If you have been involved in an auto accident, for example, take photos of the scene and of your injuries. Take photos from different angles to give the full picture of what happened.
If there are witnesses to the accident, ensure that you note down their contact details. They will be able to provide crucial evidence to help your case.
Also, write down your account of what happened as soon as you can to capture the details. You can do this simply by writing the details down or by using the voice record function on your smartphone.
Report Your Accident
It’s essential that you report your accident to the police or other relevant authorities (for example, if you’ve suffered a fall at work, you will need to report the accident to your employer). This will generate more evidence that will serve you well in your personal injury claim.
Step 2: Research the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time period in which you can file a lawsuit. Under California law, this is usually two years from the date of the incident to which your personal injury claim relates. This is set out in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 3351, which you can search on the California Legislative Information website.
Note that the statute of limitations will be shorter if you are starting a claim against the government.
If you don’t file your claim within the required time, you may miss your chance at the financial compensation you are entitled to, so it’s important to be clear about deadlines.
Step 3: Contact A Lawyer To Handle Your Case & The Steps Moving Forward
Now that you’ve established your right to initiate a personal injury case and are aware of the timeframe, it’s time to get in touch with an attorney experienced in such claims. Even if you think your case is straightforward, you could still benefit from a consultation with a knowledgeable attorney who can draw on their wealth of experience to get you the compensation you deserve.
Many personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation and only charge costs when and if a case has been successful and compensation has been secured. So you won’t have anything to lose by consulting with an expert at the beginning of your journey.
Make sure that you feel comfortable with your attorney. Check out their reputation and track record for winning personal injury claims. If you can go on personal recommendation, even better. Ensure that you feel comfortable sharing personal details with them. All these factors will combine to have a bearing on the future success of your claim.
The team at Kuzyk Law is made up of specialists in personal injury law in a range of different types of cases – from auto accidents to dog bites to catastrophic injuries. Check out the whole range of practice areas to know more and learn how we can help you from start to finish.
Step 4: Find Out Where You Should File Your Personal Injury Claim
Next, you need to find out the most appropriate venue for filing your personal injury claim. It must be filed in the location where:
- The incident happened or where most of the witnesses reside
- The defendant resides or where he or she runs his or her main business venue
- You reside or where you have your main business venue
At this point, your attorney will be able to advise you on the most appropriate venue according to these criteria.
Step 5: Demand for Compensation
The next step is for your attorney to write a demand letter, which is sent to the defendant or their insurance company or both. The letter tells them that you are seeking damages and will include information such as why the defendant is responsible, what compensation you are expecting to receive, and details of your injuries and their effects.
If the defendant or their insurance company doesn’t respond to the demand letter, your attorney will proceed with a claim for damages.
Step 6: Claiming for Damages
At this point, your attorney will submit a claim for damages to the court. You can learn more about how the courts work in California on the California Courts website.
The claim presented to the court informs it of your wish to claim compensation from the defendant and follows an investigation by your attorney into the evidence in your case.
It is likely that the defendant will contest your claim. However, if they don’t respond, then the court will go straight ahead and make a judgment in your favor.
Step 7: Discovery
Next comes what is known as “discovery.” This is when both sides look at evidence supplied by their opposite number. It includes speaking to witnesses in a process known as “deposition” or recording people’s testimony under oath. These first-hand accounts of the event allow your attorney to flesh out the details of your case. Your attorney will also look at your medical and treatment records and examine video of the accident if it exists.
Step 8: Negotiation
In many cases, personal injury claims are settled out of court. Once a defendant has learned of your intention to seek damages in court, they may agree to negotiate a satisfactory out-of-court settlement. If this happens, then you will also agree to stop your lawsuit.
When considering whether to accept any offer, you need to take into account whether it would truly compensate you for your injuries and inconvenience following the accident. It should cover your pain, loss of earnings or ability to earn money, ongoing medical issues, and the cost of medical treatment in the future. Your attorney will be able to advise you further on this.
Step 9: Your Case Goes to Trial
If the defendant will not negotiate with you or makes you an offer that is inadequate, you can then proceed to take your case to trial.
Your attorney will issue a summons, which tells the defendant that they are being pursued for a personal injury claim. They will also issue a complaint, which sets out the events around your injury, the liability accorded to the defendant, and what you are seeking in compensation.
Now your attorney will prepare for the trial, seeking out any new evidence in your favor and making other preparations.
A personal injury trial has its own steps from beginning to end. At the outset, a jury who will hear both sides of the case will be chosen. Opening statements are made on behalf of both the plaintiff and the defendant. Then the testimony of witnesses is heard, and they are cross-examined. Finally, both sides present their closing arguments.
The jury then gets together to discuss the case and to reach a verdict. In some cases, a trial may be heard before a judge only. Once the verdict has been reached, and if it is in your favor as the plaintiff, a decision will be made about the amount of compensation you should receive.
But this may not be the end of the story. Both you and the defendant have the right to appeal against the judgment and the amount of compensation proposed.
What’s the Way Forward?
As you can see, there are many steps towards a successful personal injury claim, and to walk them alone is a daunting prospect.
This is where the expertise of your personal injury attorney comes in. With them to guide you through every step on your journey, you can benefit from:
- Their legal knowledge and experience to prepare the case so that you have the maximum chance of a settlement or verdict in your favor
- Their expertise in recovering the maximum amount of money due to you to compensate you for your injuries now and in the future
- The peace of mind of having an experienced professional to take care of the whole process from start to finish.
Kuzyk Law’s personal injury attorneys are here to help anyone who has suffered a personal injury to claim what is rightfully theirs. With our combined decades of personal injury experience and proven track record of excellent results, we are the number one choice to help you on your journey. Reach out and contact us today to know more about how we can help you achieve the result you deserve.