When I meet with potential clients for the first time, I am frequently asked about the process of making a personal injury claim. This is not surprising. You hire a personal injury attorney to handle the process for you because you do not know how it works. With that said, I think it is important for clients to have a basic understanding of what happens throughout the process, especially since clients often wonder about their involvement once they hire an attorney. In this post, I will give you just that – a summary of what happens when you make a personal injury claim using our firm.
I’ll discuss each step in the process in turn. Note that all cases are different, and the process for each particular case varies to some degree.
During the initial meeting, we learn about what happened to you. Based upon this information, we will advise you whether we think you have a case and whether the firm is interested in pursuing your case for you. If so, we ask you to sign a Retainer Agreement to formally hire the firm. We also ask you to sign releases so we can collect your medical records and bills.
Once you have hired the firm, we enter the pre-litigation period of your claim. During this stage, our main task is the collection of information. We learn about the negligence, your medical treatment, the impact of your injuries on your job, the impact of the injuries on your life, and what you can expect from your injuries moving forward. We are able to collect most of this information for you (e.g., the medical records and bills), but we will have you fill in information as we need.
Attempting to Settle the Claim:
Once we have a full understanding of the negligence, your injuries, and any future problems, we are often in a position to attempt to resolve your case without filing a lawsuit. We contact the insurance company of the person that hurt you and make a “demand” to settle the case. The demand is usually a letter explaining what happened to you, with relevant documentation to support your claim attached. At the end of the letter, we demand an amount of money to resolve your claim.
The insurance company will respond and let us know whether they are willing to negotiate. If so, they will counter our demand by offering less money to settle. We go back and forth in an attempt to reach a number in the middle. Although you ultimately decide whether to settle your case, we provide you with our valuation of the case (based on our experience) so you can make an educated decision about settling.
If we reach a number that both sides are happy with, we settle the claim. If not, we move forward to litigation.
Litigation Phase I – Pre-trial
If your claim does not resolve, we file a lawsuit against the individual that hurt you. Once we file the lawsuit, we are in “litigation” against the wrongdoer (who is called the Defendant). Litigation has two phases: pre-trial and trial.
During pre-trial, the parties exchange discovery, which is basically the exchange of information. Both sides are permitted to send written questions for the other side to answer, as well as requests for documents. Also, both sides are permitted to conduct depositions. You will have some involvement in discovery.
There may be motions that are filed during this time, too. You will not need to be present for the motions or have any involvement in them.
Litigation Phase II – Trial:
After discovery is completed, the case goes to trial. Trials take anywhere from 1 day to a couple weeks depending on the complexity of the case. Both sides present evidence in the form of testimony from witnesses and documents that are introduced as exhibits. After hearing the evidence, the jury (or judge, in certain cases) will give its verdict. The verdict is the decision whether you win and, if so, how much you win.
The litigation process can be daunting, but that is why you hire an attorney. I hope that this post helps you understand what happens when you make a personal injury claim. If you think you have a claim, contact our firm to speak with one of our attorneys.
Until next time,