This guest article is intended for our US audience and is guest authored by Kim Harington on behalf of Harrell and Harrell personal injury.
You take your personal well-being seriously. When you leave home, you keep on the lookout for situations that may endanger your safety. Unfortunately, this is not always enough. Accidents are often the result of negligence and recklessness. If you have been injured in such an accident, you do have the option of launching a personal injury lawsuit.
The Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
After an accident, you should immediately call 911. You should also assess the status of any passengers in your car, and if you are able, the persons in the other car. The following is what should occur next:
1. Seek medical treatment
You should be transported to the nearest hospital for an examination and treatment. If you see or feel blood, feel pain in any part of your body, or if you feel dizzy and faint, you should not move until emergency services arrive. The doctors will do a full examination. Make sure it is fully documented and ask for a copy of the report. You should also try to get photos of the cuts, bruises, and other injuries before they are treated. The medical staff should be able to help you with this.
2. Choose a lawyer
Even as you are recovering, you will need to think about the future. You will need to choose a lawyer to get compensation for the injuries you have suffered and the disruption they have caused in your life.
This is not an insignificant process. You should choose a lawyer with expertise and experience in personal injury cases. Don’t rely on advertising. Go to the website of the lawyers you are considering and read about the cases they have handled. Veteran lawyers who have a record of winning cases will not be shy about presenting this fact to the public.
The lawyers of Harrell and Harrell have dedicated their careers to helping ordinary people get the compensation they deserve.
3. Let your lawyer do their job
During the initial consultation your lawyer will sit down and ask you to recall the events that led to the accident. You may not remember everything and that is okay. The lawyer will only need a rough outline of how things happened from your perspective. The remaining information they can get from the professional investigators and forensic experts they employ to investigate your case.
Your lawyer will also review your medical records and have medical experts examine it. The latter will be able to describe and explain the extent of your injuries and the possible debilitating effects they have had on you.
Your lawyer will also handle all communication and correspondence with the legal and insurance representatives of the person whose recklessness caused the accident. You should refer all phone calls, emails, and text messages to your lawyer. Do not directly engage with the respondent or anyone representing them, as you could accidentally say something that undermines your case.
4. Your lawyer will make a demand and negotiate
Small personal injury claims can usually be settled out of court. If you have suffered a significant or permanent injury, it may still be possible to reach a settlement without filing a lawsuit. This will depend largely on the attitude of the other party. Your lawyer will review your medical bills and lost wages, add a claim for pain and suffering, and make a demand. If the respondent meets that demand, then a settlement may be negotiated. If not, then you will need to sue.
Your lawyer will not file a lawsuit until you have reached what is called Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). You reach this point when you are as recovered as you’re going to get. And until you reach this point, your lawyer will not know how much the case is worth.
This can be a problem if your recovery takes years and you are in desperate need of cash. In these circumstances, the lawyer will file suit before you are fully recovered.
5. File a lawsuit
Once you have filed a lawsuit, your lawyer and the legal team on the other side will enter a series of pretrial motions. The results of such motions determine the scope of the trial and what evidence and testimony will be allowed.
The lawsuit will then move to the discovery stage. This allows each party to investigate the other side’s claims and evidence. Your lawyer will have the opportunity to question individuals associated with the accident and the respondent will be able to question you and people you may know.
Discovery can last up to a year, depending on the complexity of the case. The process can result in surprises. The other side will do their best to undermine the strength and credibility of your case. They will look deep into your background and the history of the people, including professionals, who have agreed to testify on your behalf. This can result into a kind of legal war of attrition as your team attempts to neutralize anything that contradicts or undermines the facts that support your claim.
6. Mediation and negotiation
Once the discovery period ends, the lawyers may re-assess where they stand on the settlement. If your case is even stronger after discovery, the other side may decide it is best to meet your lawyer’s initial demand or offer a sum that is close enough to be acceptable.
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