What Happens in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you’re injured in an accident and file a claim for personal injuries, these are the ways to resolve your claim:

  1. You file your own claim, without a lawyer, with the insurance company for the person or company responsible for causing your injury. You may enjoy pretending to be a lawyer but be prepared to accept 5% of the value early on or as much as 20-30% after substantial delays and you may not realize that other people or companies are also responsible for your injury. People who hire a lawyer received as much as 3 1/2 times more money than people without a lawyer.

  2. You hire a lawyer to represent you. Your lawyer will file a claim with the insurance companies for all of the people and companies responsible for causing your injury. Your lawyer will obtain a copy of the hospital records and after you have finished receiving medical treatment or at some point during your medical treatment, your lawyer will obtain the other medical records. The insurance company may agree to fairly settle your claim at this point, without a lawsuit being filed.

  3. A lawsuit may be filed either before an attempt to settle your claim or after. A lawsuit will delay your claim but is often necessary because insurance companies frequently don’t want to settle for an amount even approximating fair value.

  4. A method of speeding up your case, either before or after a lawsuit is filed, is called alternative dispute resolution or ADR. Both sides must agree to participate in ADR. If the insurance company agrees, your claim can be submitted for nonbinding mediation.

  5. Another method of ADR is binding arbitration. Instead of mediation, or after an unsuccessful mediation, your claim can be submitted to arbitration, if the insurance company agrees.

If a lawsuit is started, a summons and complaint is filed with the court and the papers are served upon the persons and/or companies responsible for causing your injuries. A common misconception is that the insurance company is sued. The persons and/or companies (defendants) are sued and the insurance company will pay for a lawyer to represent the defendants. The insurance company will also pay the money up to the policy limits in settlement or judgment that the defendants are responsible for.

After a summons and complaint is served, the lawyers for the defendants will serve an answer responding to the allegations in the complaint. Later, during what is called the discovery phase, both sides will serve papers upon each other demanding answers to questions and copies of papers and other items.

Depositions, also known as EBT’s or Examination Before Trial will be held of both the plaintiff and defendant. At a deposition, the plaintiff’s lawyer will ask the defendant questions about the accident and the defendant’s lawyer will ask the plaintiff questions about the accident and the injuries. After depositions, the plaintiff will be examined by one or more doctors for the defense and reports of the doctors will be exchanged.

After both sides agree that all discovery has been completed, the lawsuit will be certified to the court as being ready for trial. At this time, the case is put on the trial calendar and everyone waits for a trial date. Many times, cases are settled while waiting for a trial date, while picking a jury, during trial and even after the trial while waiting for the jury to enter a verdict.

While this short summary sounds quick and simple, it is much more complex and time-consuming than it sounds. Settling a case or utilizing alternative dispute resolution is a much quicker and less expensive method of resolving a lawsuit.

The next article, will discuss methods of alternative dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration.