Lawsuits typically take years to conclude. While this could be partly due to court congestion and legal complications, it could also be due to ignorance on the part of the complainants. And nowhere is that as prevalent as in personal injury lawsuits, where most people simply don’t know what to do.
So what exactly constitutes a personal injury? These are injuries to the body or mind that one suffers due to the actions, or lack thereof, of another person. They include road and work accidents, assault, tripping, attacks by pets and torture. So how should you handle a personal injury lawsuit?
1. Get The Preliminaries Right
Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, you need to do some thorough preliminary work to back up your case. Normally, this involves getting police reports and statements and if possible, witness accounts. Some attorneys may also advise you to hire private investigators to further collect more information on the incident, and conduct witness interviews.
2. Conclusive Investigations
After getting the preliminary details, the next step is to connect the actual incident with the personal injury suffered. A medical investigation is thus necessary. Here, a physician goes through your records and conduct tests to ascertain the extent of the injury. Most importantly, the plaintiff’s physician has to show that the plaintiff had no recurring injury to the parts that were injured in the underlying incident or accident.
3. Drafting the Summons, Complaint, and Answer
With the conclusive investigation report, police report and witness statements, the next step is to work with your attorney towards drafting a Summons, Complaint, and Answer. This is basically the document that initiates the court process.
A Summons, Complaint, and Answer should essentially include names and addresses of the plaintiff and defendant, the reason for the lawsuit and the type of compensation sought. Of course, it has to be served to the defendant or their attorney before the case proceeds. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendants have 30 days to give formal responses to the allegations, failure to which they may be disadvantaged in the trial.
4. Discovery of The Case
When the defendant is faced with the facts, they may choose to settle the case outside the court or proceed with the legal process. The first state of personal injury lawsuits is usually a judicial conference, where a judge sets the discovery procedures and schedule.
In the discovery stage, the plaintiff exchanges all the reports, witness names and statements, depositions and medical records with the defendant, under the court’s supervision. Once this is done, the presiding judge signs a Certification Order which effectively moves the case to the trial stage. A trial judge is assigned and the trial dates are set, which can be months after the discovery.
5. Trial and Resolution
The trial is where both parties argue their case before a judge or jury. Opening statements by both parties are made, evidence is presented, witnesses are cross-examined and arguments are made therein. After all this, the court deliberated the evidence and issues a verdict.
Depending on the extent of the injury and the volume of evidence, the trial can take up to 3 years (or more). That is why most people choose out-of-court settlements. However, lawsuits are the most effective and definitive way of solving personal injury claims.