The Timeline for Personal Injury Lawsuits
Posted in Personal Injury on March 14, 2017
There is no certain method for determining how long a personal injury lawsuit will take to reach a conclusion. Legal proceedings are notoriously lengthy. Further, if your personal injury lawsuit isn’t settled and heads toward trial, the litigation process can last months or even years. Personal injury lawsuit timelines may vary on a case-by-case basis, but they all follow a similar structure when it comes to how they unfold. If you think a personal injury lawsuit may be on the horizon for you, you may wish to speak with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney – he or she can provide you with a better idea of what to expect and the first steps to take.
After the Personal Injury Incident
Your first priority after suffering an injury should be to seek medical treatment. Even if you are not seriously injured, it is absolutely crucial that you see a medical professional for treatment as soon as possible. This helps mitigate the chances of serious complications from injuries that aren’t immediately visible. It also strengthens your case. If you wait too long to seek medical treatment, the court will likely assume that your injuries weren’t serious. Seeing a doctor immediately will also help with the claims process if your incident necessitates dealing with your insurance company.
After receiving medical treatment, your doctor should provide you with a medical report detailing the extent of your injuries, the doctor’s treatment plan for you, and any potential long-term effects of the injuries. If your incident involved any criminal activity or the police in any other capacity, you should obtain a copy of the police report. This document and your medical report are critical to your lawsuit. They will help your attorney determine an appropriate amount of compensation to pursue.
Choosing an Attorney
Once you’ve handled your immediate medical issues, it’s time to seek out a personal injury attorney. Your lawyer will obtain your medical and police reports and then diligently pursue your claim. If you’re worried about legal fees, look for a personal injury attorney who offers contingency fee payment. This means you only pay if you win your case, and your attorney simply deducts your legal fees from your case award. Bear in mind that in some cases, you could end up owing more in legal fees than you win. This can really occur with drawn out legal battles lasting months or years. But in big cases, it is not usual.
Thoroughly research any potential attorneys. Look for a track record of successful cases, especially ones that are similar to your own. You also may want to ask friends and relatives if they have any recommendations. Once you’ve chosen an attorney and agreed to representation, your attorney will start investigating your claim.
Investigation and Discovery
During the first phases of your lawsuit, your attorney will verify your claims and conduct an investigation. If your attorney believes grounds for a lawsuit exist, he or she will file the initial complaint with the court. This document basically lets the defendant know that you intend to sue him or her for your injuries and damages. In some situations, this is enough to spur a settlement negotiation. Settlement negotiations can offer speedy resolutions to smaller or very straightforward personal injury disputes.
Settlement isn’t always possible. Further, personal injury attorneys will rarely rush to settle cases involving extensive permanent damage or impairment. In these situations, a good attorney will wait until the client reaches the point of maximum medical improvement. This lets the attorney know how much the case is worth and reduces the chances of a jury undervaluing the case. Once settlement is off the table and the lawsuit is in motion, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney will go through the discovery process. Here, each side shares all of its legal claims, evidence, and depositions with the other so there are no surprises in court.
Litigation and Beyond
Once a case reaches trial, it will be up to your attorney to navigate your case to a successful conclusion. In some situations, discovery can spur the defense into mediation negotiations to avoid compounding legal fees. This isn’t always an option, but sometimes a mediator can help the two sides of a lawsuit reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. If settlement or mediation do not reach a conclusion, the trial process will eventually do so. Hopefully, your attorney can leverage the facts of the case in your favor.