Process of a Personal Injury Case

The Plaintiff Suffers Some Type of Injury

The very first part of this process is that the plaintiff gets injured in some way. Such an injury is the basis of any personal injury case that is legitimate. There might be uncertainty about the plaintiff’s losses or the liability of the defendant. However, a personal injury case must have some sort of proof of the plaintiff’s injury to significantly progress. Each state has a limit for local small claims court, which is typically approximately $5,000 to $10,000. 

The Plaintiff Contacts An Attorney

The exact limit for local small claims court varies based on the state in which the injury occurred. In the event that the plaintiff’s losses exceed this small claims court limit or at least appear to exceed this limit, the majority of plaintiffs will contact an attorney. The attorney will first have an initial consultation with the plaintiff.

The attorney might decide to carry out an exploratory investigation if it seems that the plaintiff may indeed have a case. One part of this exploratory investigation involves figuring out if the defendant possesses sufficient assets or applicable insurance so that they can pay for a judgment or settlement. The exploratory investigation and initial consultation have to convince the attorney that the plaintiff has a viable case for this process to continue. If the attorney is convinced that the plaintiff has a viable case, the plaintiff and the attorney will sign a fee agreement. Once the fee agreement is signed, then there is an official client-attorney relationship according to the law. 

The Plaintiff’s Attorney Files A Complaint And Serves It On The Defendant

The plaintiff’s attorney will continue the personal injury case process by filing a personal injury complaint with the appropriate civil court. This complaint is the very first official document of a personal injury case after a plaintiff is injured in Springfield. You should also know that the complaint describes the plaintiff’s allegations in quite a broad manner. Some of the information in these allegations includes how the plaintiff got injured and what exactly the defendant did in this particular case. The plaintiff’s attorney then has a certain amount of time to find the defendant and serve the complaint on them after they file the complaint. 

The amount of time that the attorney has to find the defendant can vary a bit, but the attorney has at least a month to find the defendant, if not more. The attorney serving the complaint means that they physically deliver this complaint to the defendant. The attorney has to deliver the complaint via some method that can later be verified. This is crucial because it makes sure that the defendant can’t simply claim that they were unaware of the lawsuit later on. The service papers, in addition to containing the complaint itself, also inform the defendant of the date by which they have to appear in court. 

The Defendant Will Hire Their Own Attorney

Generally speaking, the defendant has at least a month if not longer to hire an attorney prior to their first court date. It is typically fairly easy for the defendant to locate an attorney who will take on the personal injury case as long as the defendant possesses an applicable insurance policy or assets. If the insurance is applicable, the defendant has to let the insurance company know as soon as they find out about the lawsuit. Insurance policies make it clear that notifying the insurance company as quickly as possible in this situation is a strict requirement. After that, the insurance company then hires and pays for an attorney if the defendant has not done so already. 

It is worth noting that defense attorneys are paid at an hourly rate. They are not paid under the terms of a contingency fee agreement, unlike the plaintiff’s attorney in a personal injury case. A defense attorney will not be deterred by a case that is likely to end in an early settlement for this reason, as long as the defendant can pay them out-of-pocket. After all, the defense attorney will receive their compensation either way. 

The Next Step is Pre-Trial and Discovery

The pre-trial process begins with each side asking the other for witness information and evidence. This part of the pre-trial process is known as discovery. Both sides appear in court during the case’s early days to tell the judge about the case’s progress, set a trial date, and agree or not agree to go through either arbitration or mediation. As the discovery process continues, both sides schedule depositions of the other party. Depositions often consist of sessions in which questions are asked and answered in court under oath.

The discovery process and these court appearances may take months and might even last a year or possibly even longer. After discovery is over, the defendant might request that the judge throw out the case in what is known as summary judgment. In this situation, the defendant is arguing that there is no way that the plaintiff can win at trial. However, such motions usually lose. 

The Trial Will Begin

The trial will then start and it usually takes a minimum of several days for a usual personal injury case. The jury or judge determines if the defendant is indeed at fault for the accident and if the defendant is at fault for the plaintiff’s losses. If the defendant is at fault for these losses, the jury or judge determines the amount the defendant must pay out in the form of damages. Either party can start an appeals process following the trial. The appeals process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.