If you’ve suffered an injury that was not your fault, you may be wondering how personal injury claims work. Here are the stages of a personal injury case, how settlements work, and what happens when personal injury cases go to trial.
The typical steps in a personal injury claim include:
- Seek medical attention. The first thing you should do is seek medical attention. You should do so promptly. If you don’t seek treatment right away, the insurance company may argue your injuries were not the result of the accident caused by their policyholder. When you talk to your doctor, be specific and detailed, and let them know that you were recently involved in an accident.
- Consult with an attorney. Seek out a qualified personal injury attorney to evaluate and investigate your case, collect evidence, help you document and calculate damages, and represent you in negotiations or at trial.
- Investigate and gather evidence. Your attorney will launch a full, independent investigation into the accident. As part of their investigation, they will gather evidence to help support your claim. Evidence may include witness statements, surveillance footage, photo evidence, the accident report, the at-fault person’s admission of guilt, and more.
- Negotiate a settlement. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. Insurance companies are for-profit entities chiefly concerned with keeping their shareholders happy, so they will use various tactics to try to reduce the amount they must pay you. Your attorney will know how to subvert those tactics and will seek the compensation you actually need and deserve.
- File a personal injury lawsuit. If a settlement cannot be reached, then your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party on your behalf.
- Attend mediation. Mediation is a last-ditch effort to reach a settlement before trial, and many claims do settle out of court at this stage. Mediation is usually conducted by a retired judge and allows both sides to try to come to an agreement.
- Go to trial. If mediation fails, then your case will proceed to trial, where your attorney will argue your case in front of a jury and a judge. The jury will then render a verdict based on the evidence presented from both sides.
What Happens in a Personal Injury Trial?
A personal injury case will usually go to trial if settlement talks have reached a stalemate. The trial could be as short as one day and as long as a week or more, depending on the complexities of your case.
In a personal injury trial, a jury will render the final verdict. Jury selection is followed by opening statements, where your attorney will lay out the basic facts of your case before the jury before getting into the “nitty-gritty.” Your attorney may call people to testify, including witnesses who may have seen the accident occur, accident reconstruction experts, and more.
Once both sides have presented their evidence, the jury will deliberate and come to a decision.
How Do Personal Injury Settlements Work?
A majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. This happens for a variety of reasons, including time, cost, and other factors. Your attorney will initially try to settle your case with the insurance company, but if that effort fails, then your attorney will pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Between the discovery phase of a trial and the trial itself, the two sides will usually again attempt to reach a settlement through mediation.
Once you accept a settlement, you generally forfeit your right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. That’s one reason why it is so important to have an attorney at your side during negotiations. Insurance companies often make an initial lowball settlement offer that may seem generous but, in reality, is less than you need and deserve. If you accept it without consulting an attorney, you could end up paying out of pocket for expenses the guilty party’s insurance should cover. Consulting with an attorney will improve your chances of getting the settlement you actually deserve.
The main factors that will affect the value of your settlement include the severity of your losses (called “damages”), the defendant’s financial resources, and the strength of your case against the defendant.
Contact Goings Law Firm, LLC
If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else, reach out to one of our attorneys at the Goings Law Firm, LLC at (803) 350-9230 today for a free consultation. We will discuss your case, help you determine your legal options, and aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve on your behalf.