What is the process for filing a personal injury lawsuit?
While a personal injury lawsuit varies depending on the circumstances of the accident, there are common elements in every case. Before a lawsuit is filed, there must be proof of injuries. Furthermore, your lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Phoenix can count on, will evaluate your case to determine fault and whether or not you have a valid claim. If your case is viable, then you can expect to go through the following stages during the lawsuit process.
Filing a Complaint
The complaint is the first document in a personal injury lawsuit. It lays out in detail what you claim the defendant did.
- After filing the complaint, your attorney is required to locate the accused party and serve the complaint on them.
- The complaint should be physically delivered to the defendant in a manner that can be proved later that it was in fact delivered.
- The complaint will inform the defendant about the date they are required to appear in court.
- The defendant will have a month to hire a lawyer and appear in court.
After the first court appearance, the next stage in a personal injury lawsuit is the discovery phase. This process allows both parties in the lawsuit to gather facts from each other. This process is conducted to reduce unexpected surprises during trial and allows both sides to prepare for the case. The three main methods used in the discovery process are written discovery, production of documents, and depositions.
- Written discovery consists of requests for admission and interrogatories. Requests for admission simply ask a person to either deny or admit certain facts associated with the case. Interrogatories are questions that require you to give your version of facts and your claims. There are limits to how many requests for admission and interrogatories that each side can ask.
- Document production is where each party asks the other party to present documents that are relevant to the case. Some of the documents requested include medical and business records. The courts may also allow computer files in the document discovery phase.
- A deposition is another crucial discovery tool. During a deposition, a person answers an attorney’s questions under oath and a court reporter transcribes the proceedings of the deposition. The main reasons an attorney may insist on a deposition include; locking a person into their story, reviewing the other side’s statements, and gauging how a witness will conduct themselves in a court trial.
Many cases are settled before trial. Though parties can settle at any point, it’s typical to reach a settlement before the discovery process is over. This is especially true if the evidence establishing damages or liability is inconclusive.
If a settlement is not forth-coming, a judge or jury will examine the evidence and decide whether or not to hold the defendant legally responsible for injuries sustained by the plaintiff. During the trial, you have the opportunity to prove your case in the hope of getting a judgment in your favor. Also, the defendant will have a chance to refute your claims. A typical trial consists of the following stages:
- Selection of a jury
- Opening statements from both sides
- Testimony of witnesses and cross-examination
- Presentation of other evidence such as medical records and physical evidence from the accident scene
- Closing statements from both sides
- The judge gives instructions to the jury
- Jury deliberation
- The final verdict
If you have been involved in an accident which was not your fault, your first impulse should be to consider filing a claim against the at-fault party. Consult an attorney for in-depth information and counsel about the particulars of your personal injury case.