Navigating the stages of your first claim
Many people have never filed a lawsuit or been an active participant in the legal process. Because of this, when confronted with personal injury, filing a claim can be an intimidating and confusing process. This apprehension can be easily eliminated by being aware of what to expect at your first lawyer consultation. Personal injury lawsuits can vary, but the basic stages of a personal injury case often remain constant. Here’s an overview of the stages of the personal injury claim process and what you can expect:
Meeting with an attorney
The first stage in filing a personal injury claim is the initial case consultation with an attorney. When meeting with an attorney to review your case, the attorney will want to be informed on the details of how you were injured and will ask additional information relevant to the success of your case, such as detailed information about your injury, treatment, and even your insurance. They will also want to know of any correspondence you may have had regarding your injury. Following this meeting you will be notified as to whether the attorney is interested in representing you and you will begin completing the necessary paperwork for representation.
Starting the Case: Initial Court Papers
Once an attorney finds merit in your claim and agrees to represent you, filing the necessary paperwork is imperative to the success of the case. These are the legal papers most commonly filed at the beginning of a case.
Petition: The first document filed in most cases is the petition, an outline of your case against the defendant. This document identifies all participating parties, sets the legal basis for the claim, as well as includes a section where your attorney will establish what actions the court should take with respect to the defendant.
Summons: The summons is a document from the court where your personal injury suit will be litigated. This document is served on (presented to) the defendant with the complaint, informing them of the litigation and their participation as the defendant. Once the defendant is properly served, the courts officially can begin trying your personal injury suit.
Answer: The defendant’s response to the complaint is the answer. This response can take three forms: “admitted,” “denied”, or “insufficient knowledge to admit or deny”. The answer may also include affirmative defenses, legal justification as to why the defendant is not liable for your injury.
Fact Finding & Discovery
Once litigation is initiated, the discovery stage in which the opposing sides of the case get information from each other begins. During this time, the attorneys may request documents and depositions (sworn statements). If the opposing attorney deposes you, your attorney should coach you on the proper way to answer all questions prior to your deposition.
A large majority of civil claims do not reach trial and are resolved earlier in the litigation process through negotiating a settlement between both parties. By settling, the defendant agrees to pay an agreed upon sum towards your damages, upon agreement that you abandon the right to continue on with further legal action with regards to your injury or the accident from which your injury occurred.
If a settlement cannot be reached, your personal injury case will be tried in civil court. During the trial, a judge or jury determines through evidence, whether the defendant should be held liable for your injury. A trial gives both sides the chance to present their argument for or against the initial petition filed. Once all arguments are presented, the jury is given instruction from the judge on the legal standards that apply to the case and should be considered during deliberation. During deliberation, the jury considers all evidence, as well as the judge’s instruction, to reach a unanimous decision on whether or not the defendant should be held liable. After a decision is reached, the judge announces the judgment.
Although filing a personal injury claim can appear daunting, selecting the right attorney to help you navigate the legal process all the while educating you as the client along the way, will ease the distress you may face in the wake of personal injury. At Cantor Injury Law, we focus on productive communication, keeping you informed about what to expect from the beginning of your case through to its final conclusion. If you have any questions regarding an injury you sustained due to the fault of another person, call us today at (314) 628-9999.