Personal injury cases occur if you have been injured by the actions of another and bring legal action for compensation for damages caused by those injuries, such as medical bills and lost wages from work. The party that caused the injury could be a person or an organization, such as a company.
Personal injury cases can occur in a wide variety of settings, including accidents involving cars and other vehicles, in nursing homes, in businesses and construction sites, and in medical offices and hospitals. (The latter type of personal injury is known as medical malpractice).
A personal injury case can be lengthy, because there are multiple steps involved. The steps range from evidence-gathering to trial. Here is a review of the timeline in personal injury cases.
1. The Injury Itself
The first part of a personal injury case is the injury itself and the circumstances surrounding it. If possible, document an injury caused by another. Vehicle accidents in West Virginia, for example, should be reported to the police if they cause personal injury or death, and if they cause more than $500 of property damage. A police report documents what happened.
You should also make every effort to document your injuries. If you have a smartphone, take pictures of your injuries from several different angles. If you don’t, take notes on the extent and severity of your injuries. Cuts heal and bruises fade, so you need a record of what your injuries were like before they healed. The records can be very important in establishing your case. Keep all medical records pertaining to the injury and its treatment.
2. Medical Visits
If you are injured in any type of accident, seek medical attention immediately. Keep all records of doctor, hospital, and any other medical-related visits.
3. Consultation with an Attorney
If another party caused injury to you, it’s wise to consult with an attorney about possible legal claims. Attorneys offer initial free consultations, and can advise you whether you have a legal case or not.
If the attorney you consult thinks you have a legal claim, and you hire that attorney, an investigation into how the injury occurred will be launched. Attorneys often work with investigators to establish what happened to cause an injury and what the circumstances were. During the investigative period, your attorney will gather all records related to the injury as well.
5. Filing an Insurance Claim
After you have consulted an attorney, file an insurance claim if insurance is involved in the incident (as it is in vehicle accidents, for example, and some business and construction accidents). It’s best to wait until after you’ve consulted an attorney because insurance companies can be highly skilled at getting injured people to settle for the lowest amount possible. A lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies for you if necessary.
Many personal injury cases are settled before they proceed to court, through a negotiation process. Your attorney can negotiate with an insurance company, for example, for the highest settlement possible, or with the other party’s lawyer.
7. Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiation is unsuccessful, papers are filed in court to begin a lawsuit.
Discovery is a legal process during which each side reviews the evidence of the other to establish the facts, the claims, and likely defenses. Documents of both plaintiff and defendant are sent back and forth. Each side can ask questions of any witness (called depositions). Discovery can be a lengthy process, of up to several years.
Following discovery, the sides may begin to discuss settlement. Some cases may go to mediation, which is a process by which potential settlements are discussed in front of a neutral third party, called a mediator. If an agreement agreeable to all parties can be reached in mediation, a settlement may be reached then.
10. A Trial
If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step on the timeline is a trial, in which the case is argued in front of a judge or jury. Witnesses may testify. Trials are ended by a verdict.
Contact Us for a Free Initial Consultation
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another, an experienced Charleston, WV personal injury attorney can fight for justice. Johnstone and Gabhart are seasoned personal injury lawyers. In all our personal injury cases, we provide free initial consultations and work solely on contingency. Please get in touch as soon as possible to schedule a discussion about your case.