If you or a loved one was hurt due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. Understanding what the process entails will help ensure that you receive justice and a fair settlement.
Initially, your attorney will send a demand letter to the at-fault party and their insurance company. This will include details of your injuries and damages.
When an injured individual cannot agree on a fair out-of-court settlement with the person or entity that caused their injury, they must consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. The process of doing so depends on the type of accident that occurred and the state in which it took place. There are also strict time limits (called statutes of limitations) within which the plaintiff must file their suit.
When the complaint is filed, it outlines the victim’s allegations against the defendant and the damages they are seeking. It includes a legal basis for the lawsuit, which normally relies on statutory and common law negligence laws and previous court decisions.
A good personal injury lawyer starts their advocacy early on in the factual allegations section of the complaint. While these opening paragraphs may seem like a simple recitation of facts, they are an opportunity to start investigating the cause of your injury and gathering evidence that will prove causation, fault, liability, and damages.
Once you’ve completed your medical treatment, collected invoices and estimates for any personal property damage, and recorded any losses related to your injury (such as lost wages), your lawyer will make a demand for reparation from the individual responsible. This can take several weeks or months as both sides negotiate.
You or your attorney will then inform the person responsible for your injuries and their insurance provider that you are filing a lawsuit. This can sometimes speed up the process.
You will have 30 CALENDAR DAYS from the date that you are served with summons and legal papers to file your response at court or face default. Your lawyer will need to provide evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story. The defendant will also have a chance to collect their own information during the discovery period. It’s important to note that, unless you’re trying your case in a bench trial, it’s usually a jury who will determine not only if you prevail but how much reparation they’ll award you.
During the discovery process, both parties must exchange information that’s relevant to the case. This includes documents, emails, letters, receipts, photographs, and other evidence. Your lawyer will also need to provide documentation of the damages you’re claiming, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Your attorney will negotiate at this time to obtain maximum compensation for you. The defendant’s attorneys and insurance company will also be negotiating, although they want full information before making any settlement offers.
The next step is to have your case tried by a judge or jury. This is where your attorney presents your side of the story to the court, and the party who injured you (defendant) presents their defense. The judge or jury will then determine if the defendant is liable and, if so, how much to award you in compensation. Many personal injury cases are settled at this point, and your New York injury attorney will keep you informed about any settlement offers.
The vast majority of personal injury cases reach some form of settlement. However, if the defendant’s insurance company refuses to agree to your demand for reparation, then your attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit.
Your lawyer will conduct a preliminary investigation to collect the relevant evidence such as medical bills and invoices, pay stubs indicating your lost wages, police reports, and other documents. This will help to accurately evaluate your damages, which include noneconomic as well as economic losses such as pain and suffering.
During the discovery phase, your attorney will use legal tools such as Bill of Particulars, Requests for Admissions, Interrogatories, and Requests for Production of Documents to gather information and evidence from the defendant’s lawyers and their clients. Depending on the complexity of your case, this could take a few months to a year or more. In the end, the jury will determine whether or not the defendant is liable for your injuries and damages.