Have you been injured in an accident? If you have endured lost wages and pain and suffering due to another person or company’s negligence, you may be one of the many personal injury cases eligible for compensation for financial and emotional losses.
Though the process can seem overwhelming at first, each personal injury case has a fairly predictable timeline. Learning about the basic timeline can help make the process more manageable and may encourage you to seek help from an attorney. Check out the following steps in the personal injury timeline.
Unfortunately, thousands of accidents happen every day – car accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice, and accidents in the workplace. Although they happen all the time, you never expect one to happen to you. When it does, it is important to document everything that occurred. For example, if you are in a car accident, do the following:
- Call the police
- Take photos of the scene
- Write down pertinent information about the other drivers
- Speak with and get the names of any witnesses
In general, be as thorough as you possibly can under the circumstances, as this will aid your case down the road.
Seek Medical Attention for Personal Injury Cases
After an injury, you may feel angry, frustrated, and stressed. You are most likely in some degree of pain. Even if you don’t think you are hurt, it is very important to see a doctor after the accident. This is obviously imperative for your health, but also for your case.
If you do not visit a doctor soon after your accident, an insurance company may claim that you were not truly injured because you denied treatment. Seeking the advice of a doctor will give you piece of mind, allow you to receive necessary care, and provide crucial documentation for your case.
Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer
It is important to consult a personal injury attorney early in the process after your accident. Even if your injury was fairly minor, it is always helpful to set up a consultation. The consultation process will allow the lawyer to assess your situation and determine if you have a personal injury case. At a minimum you will receive sound advice about your situation, and at most you will receive a much higher settlement than you would have without the advice of the attorney.
Most attorneys will negotiate fees based on a contingency agreement, which means that they will deduct fees from the final settlement of your case or verdict of the trial if the case goes that far. This way, you do not need to pay much in upfront fees and can focus on your recovery.
After hiring an attorney, the most important thing to do is heal from your injuries. You made the best decision for you and your family to get the help you need, so now is the time to focus on recovery.
Now that your lawyer is hired, he or she will investigate your claim and thoroughly review your personal injury case. Your lawyer will conduct a thorough interview with you and collect all bills, documents, and information associated with your accident.
Next, your attorney will most likely file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance carrier. Unless you suffered a permanent disability or injury due to the accident, a claims adjuster will review the case and negotiate a settlement. According to The Law Dictionary, up to 96% of all personal injury cases are settled before going to trial.
An insurance company will most often make an offer to the injured party to avoid going to trial. Your attorney will offer advice to help you make a decision on whether to accept the settlement. It is important to understand that if the settlement is accepted, the case is then closed and any further injuries or expenses will not be addressed.
If your injuries were severe and involved a permanent disability, your attorney will most likely not settle before filing a lawsuit. Similarly, your attorney will wait to accept any settlement until you have reached the maximum level of recovery from your accident.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If your claim is not settled, the next step is to file a lawsuit. The lawsuit must be filed within your state’s statute of limitations, or time limit from the time the incident occurred. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations is 2 years for most personal injury cases.
Once the lawsuit is filed, it could be many months before your case actually goes to trial. It is still possible that the case is settled before it goes to trial.
Now the discovery process begins. Discovery is the time during which each side of the case reviews the other’s claims and defenses. Interrogatories and depositions are tools that attorneys use to obtain as much information as they can about their case. An interrogatory is an official written query by the opposing party, and a deposition is a formal interview. These are important elements of the process — both sides gather information needed to prevent any surprises if the case goes to trial. Each side will also hire expert witnesses to testify on behalf of their client.
At any time after the lawsuit is filed, but particularly at the conclusion of the discovery process, both parties may agree to settle the case. Through mediation, arbitration, or direct negotiations, parties may decide to settle the case ahead of the trial to avoid an unexpected outcome.
Trials for Personal Injury Cases
If the lawsuit goes to trial, all information gathered about your case will be presented to a jury and they will decide on the settlement. A trial is usually a last resort because it is unpredictable, but an experienced attorney will be prepared. A trial can take hours, days, or weeks, depending on the complexity of your case.
Professional & Reliable Personal Injury Lawyers
When accidents happen, it’s important to have dependable, knowledgeable attorneys who will work hard for the compensation you need and deserve. Don’t leave your case up to chance. Contact the attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum for a free consultation and to begin your path to compensation. Our offices are conveniently located in Media and West Chester, PA – let us start helping you today.