In the last post we discussed how a personal injury case begins. This week we will go into more depth about the different stages a personal injury lawsuit progresses through as it develops. Oftentimes people are frustrated with the length of time it takes to reach a resolution in a case. The steps below attempt to shed some light on why the process takes some time.
First, before a personal injury case can even be filed by your attorney, you will have to meet with him or her to discuss your case. During this intake meeting you will want to explain what happened in your accident, and show the attorney any relevant documents. If the attorney decides to take your case you will be asked to sign a retainer or representation agreement. The lawyer may also discuss next steps in your case such as conducting an investigation before actually moving forward with filing a lawsuit.
As discussed in last week’s post, to formally begin a lawsuit your attorney will file a complaint. This document identifies the parties, outlines your case against the defendant, discusses the relevant facts and the relief you are seeking.
Generally parties are required to disclose all relevant documents and facts to the opposing party before trial so there are no surprises. The disclosure of this information is done through a process called “discovery.” Discovery includes written questions, requests for documents, and depositions. The process of exchanging all this information can take a significant amount of time.
Settlement or Trial
Most personal injury claims are settled between the parties before reaching a court trial. Arriving at a settlement agreement acceptable to both parties, however, may require lengthy negotiations.
If a case does proceed to trial it must go through several phases before a verdict is reached. These include: jury selection, opening statements, testimony of witnesses and cross-examination, closing arguments, instructions for the jury and jury deliberation.
Even after a settlement or verdict is reached additional steps may need to be taken to collect a judgment. A judgment may also be appealed to a higher court.
The stages above provide just a brief outline of the stages of a personal injury case. There are many other aspects to the development of a case. Since every case is unique it is best to discuss your claim with an attorney who can provide further guidance on the process your case will go through.
Source: FindLaw, Stages of a Personal Injury Case