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The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process: What You Need To Know

February 26, 2021 Personal Injury Blog

If you’ve been injured due to the negligent actions of another, you may be pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover compensation. The personal injury process can be long and complex, but understanding the steps involved can make it less stressful and overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know. 

Step 1: Speak to and Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Insurance companies will often try to convince you to accept a settlement right away. This is typically never in your best interest, as it is most likely an offer that will not fully cover your losses. Therefore, it is crucial to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Diego who can help ensure your rights are protected every step of the way. In fact, studies have shown that personal injury victims who are represented by an attorney receive settlements that are three and a half times larger than those who negotiate with insurance companies on their own.

Step 2: Investigate Your Claim

Your personal injury lawyer will carefully listen to your story to get a clear understanding of the events that occurred. They will then advise you of your legal options and begin building a case on your behalf. This process will involve compiling as much evidence as possible, including your medical records, reviewing any photos you took from the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses, obtaining police reports or other accident reports filed at the time of your injury, and when appropriate, examining the accident scene in person, and then send the insurance company a demand letter

Step 3: Settlement Negotiations 

Most personal injury cases never make it to trial, because a fair settlement can typically be negotiated with the insurance company. This is the ideal outcome since it will reduce expenses and the waiting period before you receive compensation. However, that doesn’t mean your attorney will settle if they don’t believe it is in your best interests. If a fair agreement that reflects the value of your losses cannot be reached, your attorney may prepare for trial. 

Step 4: Filling a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Once negotiations with the insurance company come to a standstill, the next step is filing a lawsuit. Several steps are involved in the filing process:  

  • Issuance & Service of the Summon: once a complaint detailing your allegations is filed, the court clerk issues a summons that a process server or sheriff’s deputy must serve to the defendant. After receiving the summon, the defendant has 30 days to file an answer, which will typically deny most or all of the allegations. 
  • Discovery: the case then moves to a discovery phase. Each party will send interrogatories (questions) and document requests to each other. Depositions (testimony given under oath) will also be taken of the plaintiff, defendant, witnesses, and experts involved in the case.
  • Pretrial Motions & Hearings: both sides can file pretrial motions that bring questions about the case in front of the judge for a decision. Pretrial motions set the rules for trial, for instance, about what evidence will be allowed, or if parts of or the entire case can be dismissed, etc. If either side opposes a motion, a hearing will be held to hear arguments from both sides before a ruling is made. 

Step 5: Mediation

Before heading to trial, the court will likely request that the parties attempt a mediated settlement. A neutral party serves as a “mediator” to facilitate the conversations between the parties. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations, who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject.

Step 6: Trial

If a settlement cannot be reached during mediation, your case will proceed to trial. After all, evidence has been presented, the case will be decided by the judge or jury. If the defendant is found legally liable, the court will award you damages that the at-fault party must pay. However, the defense can choose to appeal the verdict, which will delay your payment. The outcome of the appeal will determine whether or not you will ultimately recover compensation. If the verdict is upheld, your lawyer will collect and distribute your award.