How to Get a Personal Injury Lawsuit Started
Not long after being involved in an injury accident caused by a negligent driver, the responsible driver’s insurance company will contact the injured victim. The company may try to get the person to accept an offer for their injuries and their property damage.
Often, this initial offer will be far too low to sufficiently cover the losses the victim has suffered from the accident, and the victim may not know what to do.
In most cases, people who are injured in accidents may want to speak with personal injury attorney to learn about their recovery rights.
Meeting with Personal Injury Lawyers
After reviewing the facts, personal injury lawyers may agree to accept representation. If they do, they will value their clients’ cases.
Valuing a case involves the following:
- Reviewing medical expenses
- Analyzing expected future medical expenses
- Calculating income losses
- Analyzing lost earning capacity
- Analyzing other losses
After analyzing everything, personal injury lawyers will come up with a range within which their clients should expect fair settlement offer amounts to fall.
Also Read : How to Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer
Before filing a complaint, a personal injury lawyer will often first try to negotiate with the insurance company in order to try to get a fair settlement.
Personal injury attorney normally will send demand letters to the insurance companies asking for a settlement within the range he or she determined the case was worth. It may be possible to resolve a case without needing to proceed through formal litigation.
In some cases, however, an insurance company will be unwilling to extend an offer that is fair. If that happens, then filing a personal injury lawsuit may be warranted.
Filing a Formal Complaint
Starting a formal lawsuit involves filing a formal civil complaint. Personal injury lawyers draft the complaints, listing the legal claims upon which the suits are based. The complaint contains allegations of the facts that happened.
Often, the facts are stated fairly basically and without substantial detail. They will also include prayers for relief in which the damages that are being sought will be listed.
After drafting the complaint, the attorney will then file it with the court that has jurisdiction to hear the matter. When they file the complaint, they also file a summons along with it.
At least three copies are filed, with the original going to the court, a copy being retained by the plaintiff’s injury lawyer and the third that will be served on the defendant.
Service of Process
The complaint and summons must be served on the defendant. Service of process must be completed according to the laws of the state.
Often, injury lawyers will rely on the civil service division of the local sheriff’s department or on a private process service company. When the process server secures personal service on the defendant, the process server then has his or her signature notarized on the return of service, attesting that the complaint and summons were served on them. The return of service is then filed with the court.
When it is filed, the defendant will then have a specified amount of time to answer the complaint. If they do not file their answers within that time period, a default judgment may be entered against them by the court.
The defendant drafts and files an answer to the complaint. Often, the insurance company will have an attorney that defends its insured. The defense lawyer will address each allegation, either admitting or denying them. They may challenge the legal sufficiency for any or all legal claims listed in the complaint.
After they have drafted the answer, they will file it with the court and serve a copy on the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. In some cases, defense attorneys will file motions for summary judgment.
These motions essentially ask the court to dismiss the complaint by claiming that there are no disputed issues of fact to be heard by the court or jury.
In most cases, summary judgment motions are denied at the hearing, but some are successful. If a filed summary judgment motion is successful, the case will be dismissed. If not, the case will proceed to discovery.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process may involve several stages, each with strict deadlines set by the court.
Exchange of information: Both sides are required to freely exchange information about their respective cases.
Interrogatories: Either side may send interrogatories to the other party. These are specific questions that must be answered truthfully. They will have a deadline for being returned.
Investigation: Throughout the case, personal injury lawyers may use investigators, accident reconstruction experts, medical experts and others to gain a better understanding of what happened. This can also be helpful in convincing an insurance company to settle.
- Depositions: Personal injury attorneys can hold depositions at which the lawyers for both parties can question witnesses, including the plaintiff and the defendant, under oath.
Trial or Settlement
Most cases will settle before going to trial. Sometimes, a settlement will happen just prior to the trial. If a case does head to trial, personal injury lawyers will help prepare their clients for it. They will also collect exhibits and plan questions to ask during the trial.
While people are able to file a personal injury lawsuit on their own, it is often a better idea to get legal help instead. Through his or her knowledge of and experience with the law, a personal injury lawyer may be able to maximize the recovery amount his or her client might receive for the losses incurred.
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