When you suffer an injury due to the negligence of others, the road to recovery—both medical and financial—can be long. Every personal injury case is unique, and therefore, every settlement process may look a little different. However, there are some things you can do right away to assist in getting the settlement you deserve faster. The following is a step-by-step guide to the typical process of receiving a settlement in a personal injury case as quickly as possible.
Initial Actions After Suffering a Personal Injury
The first steps after an injury takes place are often the most important part of the settlement process. The actions taken in the first moments and days could determine not only the amount of settlement received but also how quickly you may receive the settlement.
- Immediate Response: First and foremost, your health and safety are most important. Once you have received proper medical treatment, it is critical to document everything. If the injury is accident related, contact the police to file a report. Take pictures of the injury, the vehicle (if involved), and the area immediately after the injury occurs. Also, keep medical records that document the extent of the injuries and the treatment needed. These will all become essential evidence later in the settlement process. Failing to document these key details could greatly affect the future of your personal injury lawsuit.
- Attorney Consultation: An experienced attorney is needed to navigate the personal injury lawsuit settlement process. Most personal injury law firms offer consultations at no charge. During a consultation, they will review the facts of your case, including the details of the accident and the extent of your injuries. At this time, you’ll also want to discuss the attorney’s fees. Many, but not all, personal injury firms offer services on a contingency basis, which means they receive no payment unless they secure settlement.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Pre-Trial Process
Once you’ve chosen an attorney, the pre-trial phase of the settlement will begin. These actions will either lay the groundwork for pre-trial settlement or provide the necessary means to be awarded damages in a court case against the defendant.
- Filing Court Documents: Your attorney will file and serve a complaint to the responsible party. The complaint will explain the details of your accident and the extent of your injuries. It will also explain the legal basis for holding the defendant liable for your injuries and specify the damages you are seeking.
- Discovery: In this phase, evidence is requested and exchanged between plaintiff and defendant. During this time, your attorney may take depositions or request sworn statements. A list of questions may also be sent to the defendant. Occasionally, your attorney may consult with medical or forensic experts that could testify on your behalf about the nature of the accident or the extent of your injuries.
- Pre-Trial Motions: In addition to discovery, attorneys for the plaintiff or the defendant could file motions to resolve the case before it goes to trial. The most common motions are the Motion to Dismiss, where the defendant requests immediate dismissal of the case, and the Motion for Summary Judgement, where the plaintiff requests immediate settlement due to the facts revealed in the discovery phase of the personal injury case.
Personal Injury Settlement Agreement
Attorneys typically try to negotiate a settlement before the case goes to trial, but unfortunately, agreements aren’t always made outside of court. Depending on the details of your case, the following steps to the settlement phase may play out in a different order.
- Negotiations: In the negotiation process, the plaintiff usually makes a specific demand for compensation. The defendant then counters the demand. The plaintiff and defendant usually go back and forth several times before agreeing to a settlement or deciding to move ahead with a trial. At this stage, a mediator may be called in to assist with negotiations and ensure that both parties come to an agreement.
- Trial: If no settlement is reached, the next step for a personal injury case is to go to trial. There are two main outcomes in a personal injury trial. First, a jury determines if the defendant is liable for damages. If they decide in favor of the plaintiff, the jury then decides the amount of damages owed by the defendant.
- Appeals: It is not uncommon for a defendant to appeal a court’s decision. His or her attorney will file an appeal to throw out the judgment or decrease the amount of damages owed.
- Disbursement: Once you’ve been awarded damages, through a trial or negotiations, your attorney will work to collect and distribute the funds. It is at this time that attorneys working on a contingency basis will receive payment.
Because every case is different, your settlement process may not follow these steps in this exact order. In many cases, attorneys may be able to secure a settlement during negotiations, while some must still take the case to court to be awarded damages. After your health and safety have been taken care of, the first steps in the settlement process are most important. Document as much as you can about your injury. Then, consult with several attorneys and hire the one that is best for you. The settlement process can be long and frustrating, but hopefully, your financial recovery can begin soon.