How Personal Injury Lawsuits Work
When an accident happens that results in the injury or death of a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Medical expenses, insurance claims, and attempting to return to some sense of normalcy are all factors that come into play in the aftermath. However, if an accident was caused by the negligence of an individual or an organization, a personal injury lawsuit could enable victims to obtain the compensation that helps cover related costs and to hold those responsible accountable. Understanding how personal injury lawsuits work can help guide victims and their loved ones through the recovery process.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
Often it is assumed that the minute someone decides to hire a lawyer after a traumatic accident, someone is held accountable. While in certain situations, the legal process can move quite swiftly, this isn’t always the case for personal injury lawsuits. Although some cases will settle with insurance companies well before moving to a lawsuit, some personal injury cases will require the need for legal action.
The very first thing to do after an accident is to determine if anyone involved has been hurt or killed. Those who may need medical attention should seek treatment – including contacting emergency services – as soon as possible to begin the recovery process. Next, victims should ensure they understand the statute of limitations for personal injury claims and lawsuits.
Under Texas law, an injured party typically has up to two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. While this can seem like a fairly short timeframe, it’s important to remember that this does not mean the case can be resolved within those two years – only that all the necessary legal paperwork must be filed by then by a Texas personal injury lawyer.
Once it has been determined that there is enough remaining time for you to file a personal injury lawsuit, the following steps should be taken:
Personal Injury Attorney Consultation
For the legal process of a personal injury lawsuit to begin, victims will need to set up a consultation with an attorney. An experienced Texas personal injury lawyer will understand the applicable laws and the specifics of the accident and will be able to advise you accordingly.
An initial consultation typically lasts for 30 to 60 minutes and is used to gather details about the accident and to determine if the attorney and potential client are a good match to partner in the process needed to resolve any potential claims. Victims should bring any supporting documents they have to the consultation, including police reports, accident or incident reports, medical bills, X-rays and other medical records, photos, videos, etc. The attorney will review all of the information and listen to the victim’s retelling of the event. At the end of the consultation, the lawyer will determine whether or not they can pursue legal action – and, if the client retains or hires the law firm, the legal team will begin the investigation process.
Once a personal injury attorney has been hired, they will begin investigating the incident that caused the victim’s injuries or wrongful death. Although there may have already been another investigation into the accident, your lawyer will need to conduct their investigation. The purpose of this investigation is to gather as much information as possible so the attorney can get a clear picture of the incident, determine the liability of the negligent party or parties, and determine the sequence of events that caused or contributed to your injuries or your loved one’s untimely passing. Determining liability is one of the most important elements of a successful personal injury lawsuit. In doing this, the attorney will be able to determine if one or more parties or entities were directly or indirectly responsible for the incident.
This thorough process involves attorneys speaking to others who may have been involved with or witnessed the incident, including eyewitnesses, law enforcement officials, doctors, other medical professionals, employers, and others. Your lawyer will also review all relevant documentation they can collect from these individuals. This stage can take several weeks to months to complete.
Filing the Lawsuit
After the attorney’s investigation has been completed, they will notify the defendant and their insurance company if necessary of the claim. This is done in an attempt to resolve the matter before filing a lawsuit. Your attorney and the other side’s representation will enter into negotiations with each side presenting numbers they are comfortable with and either accepting or rejecting the offer.
Often, this is when cases will settle. Through a settlement, those hurt often receive their compensation sooner which helps pay medical bills and other expenses that have been piling up after the accident. However, if the at-fault party and your lawyer cannot agree, a personal injury lawsuit will then be filed.
Once the lawsuit is filed, victims will have another chance to resolve their claims before trial through mediation. The act of filing a lawsuit shows the other side you are serious about the case and receiving the compensation you deserve. Once your attorney files your personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party in the applicable Texas court, the defendant or defendants then must respond within a set amount of time.
All personal injury lawsuits will go through the discovery process. This is among the longest periods of any case and can take weeks, months, and sometimes even years to complete. During discovery, the attorneys for both sides exchange facts, documentation, and information. This is done to allow both sides an opportunity to understand the facts and arguments of each other. While this may seem counterintuitive, it’s important to ensure there are no surprises at trial; however, depending on the circumstances of the case, some additional information can be introduced after discovery has been completed.
As discovery begins wrapping up, the attorneys for each party may reenter settlement negotiations. This is where mediation comes in.
During mediation, all parties to the case and their legal counsel will hire a neutral third party or mediator to try and resolve the case before litigation. The mediator will hear all sides of the case, review the evidence presented, and attempt to help the parties come to an agreement. Mediators are experienced with many tactics to help resolve a dispute, but they cannot enter a final judgment or offer legal advice. Their purpose is simply to try and bring the parties to an agreement.
Mediation is often favored over litigation as it is more cost-effective and sometimes faster than going to trial. This is especially true if it is successful, and therefore one of the last steps of the personal injury lawsuit process.
In the event mediation is not successful, the case will then move forward to trial. A judge or jury will hear the civil trial and review the evidence presented. The case will proceed according to the timeline and schedule of the court and hearing dates will be scheduled. Often these dates are rescheduled, which can make the litigation process take much longer than a pretrial settlement. However, if the trial is moved, victims should not get discouraged. Trials are delayed all the time, often due to scheduling conflicts and other innocuous reasons that have nothing to do with the case at hand.
After each side has presented its arguments in court, the judge or jury will determine who was at fault and how much compensation the victim is entitled to receive.
Amarillo Personal Injury Trial Lawyers
Recovering from the aftermath of an accident can be incredibly daunting. These feelings can be particularly palpable if the incident was caused by the negligence of another party. At Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough, LLP, our firm can discuss the injuries you sustained and help build a strong case to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today for more information on how we can best help you during this difficult time.