If you have been injured and believe that someone else was at fault, you should know what the process of a personal injury claim looks like. Most personal injury claims generally follow the same stages outlined below. It is important to note that many personal injury claims settle early, meaning that you agree to an amount of damages that the other party owes and never actually go to the courtroom.
First, if you have been injured, it is important that you seek medical attention. This will not only be best for your own health and wellbeing, but it also documents when you were injured, what symptoms you had, and what your recovery process will be like. This is crucial information if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim because it is evidence of the nature of your injury and shows that your injury was serious.
If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit, your next step will probably be consulting with a personal injury lawyer. If you’ve suffered a serious injury, you should strongly consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer to advocate for you and guide you through the rest of the process. If you have injuries that disrupt your life, cause you to miss work, or require you to pay significant medical bills, you should contact a lawyer.
If you decide to move forward with your case and hire a lawyer, the lawyer will begin to review your medical records and determine a strategy for your claim. Your lawyer will ask you questions concerning relevant parts of your medical history, the details of your accident, your prognosis, and details about how the injury has affected you since the accident. The lawyer will likely get copies of your medical records to review and will examine and document anything that is important to your claim.
After gathering all the necessary information regarding your injury, your lawyer will begin to calculate how much money (called “damages”) to ask for from the party at fault or their insurance provider. This calculation involves computing how much of your medical bill should be covered by the other party by looking at your actual damages, which includes the cost of your medical bills, the cost of your pain and suffering, and your lost wages. It also depends on whether and how much you may have contributed to your injury or accident, called comparative negligence. Washington, D.C., uses a very strict negligence standard called contributory negligence. Under this standard, if you contributed at all to the accident, even if the other party was significantly more at fault, you cannot recover.
After calculating the amount of damages to request, the lawyer can either make a demand from the other party’s lawyer to try to settle outside of court or file a lawsuit. The filing of the complaint officially begins the litigation phase.
It’s important to know that different injuries have different time frames for when they must be filed. That time frame, called the statute of limitations, acts as a running clock, and you must file before the deadline. In Washington, DC, the statute of limitations is generally three years and runs from the date of the accident or injury, but it depends on what type of accident is involved. A lawyer can help you determine what the statute of limitations is for your claim.
After the complaint is filed, the parties begin to gather evidence and determine what legal strategy will help their client prevail. The parties may ask each other for information using what are called “discovery requests” for documents and information in their possession that would be helpful to their case.
The final step in a personal injury case, unless the claim is settled early, is the trial. Personal injury trials can last anywhere from days to months. Trials will begin with opening statements from either side and then both sides will have an opportunity to present their evidence and refute the evidence from the other side. Either a judge or a jury will then deliberate and reach a final decision or judgment, and the case will conclude. The losing party may then appeal the judgment to a higher court.
Personal injury cases can be complicated and your likelihood of recovering money damages from the other side are better with an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you are considering a personal injury case, call today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer from Regan Zambri Long, PLLC.