Personal injury lawsuits involve a variety of stages, steps, and procedures to get from car crash to compensation, and they can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to settle. If you’ve been in a car crash, it’s essential to understand the stages in a typical injury lawsuit.
Because injury litigation requires specialized knowledge and experience, it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced car accident attorney. That way, you can focus on your health and improve your chances of recovering the full compensation that you deserve.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the three main phases of a car accident lawsuit so that you know what to expect during your injury claim.
1. Pre-Litigation Phase
In most injury claims, you won’t immediately file a lawsuit. Instead, you and your attorney will investigate your crash and collect facts and documents that support your allegations. Sometimes called the pre-litigation or pre-suit phase, this early stage is essential to a well-developed injury claim.
It involves a series of steps, including:
At the start of any case, you will have an initial consultation with your attorney. During this meeting, you will discuss the details of your case and determine whether there is a valid personal injury claim.
Documentation and Calculation of Damages
One of the first things your attorney will do is access your medical records and history so that they can understand the extent of the physical, emotional, and psychological injuries you suffered from the crash. Your lawyer may also ask you for copies of your bills associated with the crash.
Once your attorney has documented the extent of the crash’s physical, psychological, and financial impact, they will have an estimate of your total damages.
Crash and Negligence Investigation
In addition to collecting medical records, your attorney may also investigate the crash scene, obtain copies of police reports, and interview witnesses. They may also evaluate the condition of the other vehicle and pull the negligent party’s driving or mobile phone records. All of this data will help prove that the other party was negligent and caused your wreck and injuries.
RELATED ARTICLE: Understanding Negligence in Your Personal Injury Claim
Consultation With Experts
Consulting with experts is essential to developing a strong case. Experienced car accident attorneys build networks of experts who can be called upon to consult on specific matters. This network may include:
- Physicians and medical specialists
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Engineers and scientists
- Life care planners
Insurance Company Negotiation
Your attorney will negotiate with insurance adjusters in an attempt to resolve your case without a lawsuit. Many claims settle out of court after intense negotiation. However, if the insurance companies refuse to offer a fair settlement, the claim often will progress to a lawsuit.
2. Litigation Phase
At this stage, you formally file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties and the court becomes involved. While settlement negotiations will continue, you and your lawyer will have to comply with the court’s procedural rules and prepare for trial.
Filing a Lawsuit
When you file a lawsuit, you must provide the court with a written complaint and other paperwork, pay a filing fee, and serve your papers on the other party. While you can file a lawsuit on your own, most crash victims decide to work with an experienced injury lawyer, since it’s easy to make mistakes that can result in lost compensation or even outright dismissal of the case.
Discovery is a formal process, where the parties to a lawsuit share documents, evidence, and other information with each other. Your attorney will ask questions and request documents from the opposing lawyers, who will do the same in return. You may have to answer a written series of questions from the defendant, called interrogatories.
While your attorney will collect witness and expert opinions during the pre-litigation phase, this step of litigation involves a more formal presentation of those testimonies, called a deposition. Depositions are statements taken under oath and can be given by witnesses to the crash, the investigating police officer, or any experts who consulted on your case. A court reporter will transcribe each person’s testimony, which can be presented at trial, if necessary.
Mediation and Settlement Negotiations
Lawsuits involve a level of risk; no matter how well prepared you are, juries will sometimes surprise you. This is why injury attorneys often try to settle cases out of court through mediation.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where the parties to a lawsuit negotiate with help from a neutral, specially trained party (called a mediator). The mediator tries to help you find common ground and agree on a settlement amount. If the parties cannot negotiate a fair settlement, your case goes to trial.
RELATED ARTICLE: Crosley Law Uses Advanced Mediation Tactics to Settle Cases
3. Trial and Appeal
Most personal injury cases can be resolved before reaching the trial stage. But sometimes it is necessary to take a case to court to get the full compensation you deserve.
While it is unusual that an injury case makes it all the way to trial, when the case does go to trial is it likely to be a jury trial, where a group of your peers listens to each side’s arguments and evidence. Based on the facts and law, the jury will then issue a verdict. Your trial might last a few days or a few weeks, as both sides present the evidence, facts, and witness testimony to the judge and jury. If the jury rules in your favor, the trial process is over.
If you and your attorney believe that the court made a legal error, you may be able to file an appeal or use other procedural methods to challenge the decision.
Court of Appeals
An appeal is a request that a higher court review your case. You cannot file an appeal unless the court made a serious error, such as applying the wrong law to your case. If you have grounds for an appeal, you can file with an appellate court.
If you lose the first appeal, you can ask the Texas Supreme Court to review your claim, but it may reject your request. The appeal process is highly complex and involves a variety of possible outcomes and may take more than a year to complete.
Crosley Law: Guiding Our Clients Through Their Complex Injury Claims
At Crosley Law, our attorneys work with clients at every step of the lawsuit process. We go above and beyond to ensure that our clients’ needs are taken care of during and even after the case. Want to learn more about how Crosley Law works to get clients the compensation they deserve? Check out our Client Stories or contact us today.
Call at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.