A personal injury case has many stages. As such, it can take weeks or months, and, in rare cases, years to resolve a personal injury case. Below are the most common stages of a personal injury case, painted with broad strokes. While most cases follow this pattern, there is always an exception, so don’t be dismayed if your case does not appear to follow this particular path.
After you meet with a qualified personal injury attorney, your claim must be investigated. This may include reviewing medical reports, interviewing witnesses, collecting police reports, and the like. This is to ensure the attorney has a good grasp on the facts of the case.
Filing a Complaint
Assuming the facts support the case, a personal injury attorney will file a complaint, alleging the defendant engaged in wrongdoing, and that this conduct caused injury to the plaintiff (the injured party).
“Discovery” is an opportunity for both parties to investigate additional information. They may ask the opposing party's witnesses questions and must provide information in response to questioning. The "discovery" process can be done through written questions, called interrogatories, or via testimony, through depositions. This process provides both parties an opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases.
Once both parties have a handle on the strength of the case, they often (but not always) engage in negotiation. One side will offer a sum they believe reflects the amount necessary to make the injured party whole. This offer may be accepted or rejected. However, most often, the offer is countered with a different offer. This can lead to negotiations that take days or weeks. Negotiation is a part of the process that can happen simultaneously with the other steps along the way.
In certain cases, the parties may engage in mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party meets with both sides, listening to their concerns, wants, and needs. The goal of mediation is to resolve the case. Many people feel having an objective third party involved makes it more likely the case will be resolved.
A pre-trial conference is designed for the attorneys to argue motions, mark exhibits, and generally prepare for trial. It is not uncommon for judges to encourage resolution at this stage.
If a case is not resolved, a trial commences. This part is mostly (but not completely) like what you see on television or in the movies, where witnesses take the stand, attorneys introduce evidence, and the attorneys also make final arguments. The jury then decides how the case will resolve, by returning a verdict.
If either side takes issue with the verdict, or the judge’s rulings prior to the verdict, they can file an appeal. This can take years to resolve.
If You Have Been Injured
If you have been injured, you may have a personal injury case. The first step is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney. Raul A. Guajardo has been practicing law for over 20 years and is fluent in both Spanish and English to better serve you. Contact our office to set up a free consultation to discuss your case. In this consultation we guarantee you'll leave with three things:
1. A detailed explanation of your situation
2. Information on how to proceed and what your options are
3. Peace of mind knowing you have someone to help guide you and who is on your side
Get the auto injury help you deserve.