When we’re contacted by someone who has been injured and is considering retaining our counsel for filing a lawsuit, we often receive a number of common questions. These questions are often centered around what someone can expect on the road ahead, how much their case is worth, and perhaps most common, how long until they’ll get paid. While we’d love to be able to answer those questions with guarantees as quickly as possible, the truth is there’s no way we can give a definitive answer from just an initial case evaluation. However, by learning more about the lawsuit process, you can get a better picture of what to expect on the journey ahead.
Let’s take a closer look at the lawsuit process. Keep in mind that your actual case may vary from this procedure considerably based on the circumstances of your injury, evidence, and countless other factors.
1. Consultation with an Attorney
If you’re coming to an attorney, you’re already at the first step of the process. Speaking with a lawyer about your case for the first time is the first step towards obtaining compensation. Your initial consultation will consist of you discussing what happened, the pain you’re experiencing, and several other things with your lawyer, and they’ll give you their opinion on what kind of a strategy to use, what kind of settlement to pursue, and more. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to obtain a consultation from a few different lawyers so you can pick one who you feel is right for you. This is important because you’ll be discussing some deeply personal subjects with your lawyer throughout this process.
You should also use this time to find out more about an attorney and their business before signing a retainer contract; feel free to ask them about their fee structure, their experience with cases dealing with your type of injury (i.e. head injuries, car accidents, etc.), and more. Not only is it perfectly acceptable to ask your attorney about these things, but they’ll usually love the chance to tell you about the successes they’ve had in the past.
2. Investigation of your Injury
When you do decided on an attorney and sign a contract with them, they’ll fully investigate your claim, including evidence like the police report (if one exists), the accident scene itself, photographs from the accident scene, medical records, and much, much more. They’ll work with experts to reconstruct the accident, obtain as much evidence as possible, and try to do everything in their power to recreate an accurate picture of the accident scene in order to show how the accident could have been prevented, thus making you entitled to compensation for your losses. This will paint an accurate picture of the situation you are in now, how you got there, and how it should be resolved.
3. Sending an Initial Demand Letter
Once your attorney has accurately determined the value of your case through a thorough investigation, they’ll help you formulate a demand letter which you’ll submit to the other party’s insurance company. The demand will include things like your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, property damages, loss of life’s enjoyment, and even possibly your future medical expenses if you’re going to need ongoing treatment for your injuries.
Don’t be surprised if this initial demand is rejected. That’s perfectly normal. Insurance companies don’t want to pay a penny more than they have to, and they’ll often reject your first demand in order to try to bring the total dollar amount down and save money.
4. Filing a Lawsuit
If your case can’t be settled through the demand and counter-offer method, you may want to file a lawsuit seeking compensation. Your attorney will advise you when this is the prudent course to take. If there’s any chance at all you can resolve your case out of court, then you should try to avoid it, since adding a judge and jury to the process can also add risk.
This is a process that takes place before a trial in which both parties obtain evidence from the other in order to evaluate and fully understand the other side’s arguments. This is critical for helping you formulate a better strategy for when the case goes to trial.
Before the trial begins, a mediator may oversee discussions between both parties in an attempt to avoid trial. Mediation is a method of negotiation that is overseen by a mediator, usually a current or former judge, which brings both parties together in an attempt to resolve the case before going to court. If you can reach a settlement through mediation, then your case ends and you’ll receive the amount you have agreed upon, which avoids the hassle and risk or a trial.
7. Trial & Verdict
If mediation fails, you’ll have to proceed to trial. You’ll plead your case before a judge and possibly a jury as well. You will serve as the plaintiff, while the other party and their insurance company will be the defendants. Through this trial, you and your attorney will plead your case, present your arguments, examine witnesses, present evidence, and more. The other party will be given the opportunity to do the same. It’s not common for personal injury cases to go this far, but it’s important that you retain an attorney who is willing to go this far to defend and protect your rights, and takes your case with the knowledge and assumption that it could go all the way to a full trial.
At the end of your trial, your case will be given a verdict. If the jury or judge rules in your favor, they’ll order the other party to pay a particular amount, which may be the amount you demanded, maybe more, but it could be less. This is where the risk comes in during a trial: you could be awarded far less than you initially demanded, even to the point where you’re not even getting enough to cover your portion of the fault.
The losing party in a trial will be given the opportunity to appeal. The appellate courts function differently from general courts, so it’s important to have an attorney on your side who’s familiar with this process.If you have been injured and need legal help protecting your rights, let the team at Fitzpatrick Mariano Santos Sousa, P.C. help you protect your rights! Contact us today at 203.583.8299 for a free consultation.