A personal injury case has many stages. At the Law Office of Raul A. Guajardo, P.L.L.C., we know that resolving a personal injury case is a process, not an event. 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 so the attorney is certain they have a good grasp on the facts of the case.
Filing a Complaint
Assuming the facts support it, a personal injury attorney will file a complaint, alleging the defendant engaged in wrongdoing, and this conduct caused the injury to the plaintiff (the injured party).
“Discovery” refers to the opportunity for both sides to engage in additional information. They can ask the other side’s witnesses questions and must provide the other side information in response to questioning. The discovery process can be done through written questions, called interrogatories, or via testimony, through depositions. This process gives both sides the opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases.
Once both sides 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 simultaneous 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 also to resolve the case. Many people feel having an objective third party involved makes it more likely the case will be resolved.
A pretrial 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 attorney experienced with personal injury cases. Raul A. Guajardo has been practicing law for over 15 years. He is fluent in both Spanish and English. Contact our office to set up a meeting to discuss your case.