Hopefully, it will never happen to you, but if it does, you want to know how to file a personal injury lawsuit if you have to. A personal injury is “physical injury inflicted upon a person’s body, as opposed to property or reputation.” Some personal injuries are minor (cuts, bruises, scrapes, etc.), while other are more severe (broken bones, head trauma, life-altering injuries). If your personal injury is severe enough, you may need to seek legal assistance. Needless to say, you will want to hire a personal injury attorney who knows their way around negotiations and the courtroom.
The first step in filing a personal injury lawsuit is meeting with a personal injury attorney, who will review your case to see the likelihood of winning compensation for you in your situation. Usually, the first meeting (consultation) is free. You will have to share all the details of your accident. This will help your attorney in determining whether or not you are legally entitled to compensation (also known as damages). If your attorney thinks there is a case, they usually will work on a contingency basis – they don’t get paid unless you get paid. But if there is a settlement, they keep a percentage of the award.
Your attorney will then draft the legal documents (complaint) to file with the court to start your personal injury lawsuit. Once that is filed, your personal injury attorney, and the attorney for the other side will have a period of “discovery,” meaning they try to find out as much about the accident as possible. Both attorneys will request information about the other party (yours will request information about the defendant, and their attorney will request information about you as well). As part of the discovery, you may be asked to give a deposition. Some questions will be about the incident, while others may be personal questions, especially if you have had other injuries before.
After the evidence has all been collected, each side will usually file motions with the court ranging from a request to dismiss the case to requesting that some evidence be removed from the case for various reasons. Once motions are filed, your attorney may be requested to appear in court at least once (with or without you) to see if they can reach a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, a trial will be scheduled. This could take months.
During the trial, a jury will determine if you are entitled to compensation. If you are awarded a settlement, you may have to sign paperwork in order to collect payment on behalf of the losing party.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need a personal injury attorney, make sure you hire one with an exceptional track record for success. This could make all the difference in what you collect as a settlement and how you move forward from your traumatic experience. Make sure you get a law firm that puts you in the position to be successful.