Litigants in personal injury accident cases must understand the different stages of the claim. Each stage is important in determining whether or not a defendant is responsible for the victim’s injuries. An experienced attorney will represent each party at every stage of the case and will be available to answer any of your questions or clear up your concerns.
Before filing a lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney should meet with the plaintiff. The purpose of the meeting and the attorney’s request for documentation is to determine whether the plaintiff does have a reason to sue under state law regarding the resulting injuries. If it turns out that the plaintiff has a reason to sue under state law, your attorney will file a lawsuit and the other stages of the personal injury lawsuit will follow, unless a settlement is reached in the case. The specific stages of a personal injury claim include:
- Statement of Claim : A personal injury claim is started when the plaintiff files a statement of claim with the court. The statement of claim explains why the defendant is being sued and what relief or damages are sought. The defendant then has the opportunity to answer the claim with an appropriate defense, called an answer, in which the defendant admits or denies each of the allegations set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint. A defendant can also file a counterclaim and seek redress from the plaintiff if he or she believes they suffered damages from the accident. For his part, the plaintiff can answer the counterclaim.
- Discovery: After initial briefs have taken place, the parties move on to discovery, which is the formal process by which the plaintiff gathers information to prove their case and the defendant gathers information to defend himself. The discovery process may include interrogations, depositions, requests for admission, and requests for documents.
- Pretrial motions : Pretrial motions include in limine motions in which a party requests that certain evidence be excluded from the trial, motions for summary judgment in which a party requests that the court rule in their favor because there is no controversial substantive facts in the case and motions to dismiss the case because the counterpart has not alleged an action that makes it the holder of a legal remedy.
- Settlement Conferences / Talks: Settlement talks can take place at any time before the jury reaches a verdict. Once an agreement is reached, the case is closed. Many jurisdictions require a conference to reach an agreement before the trial begins.
- Trial: During trial, both parties present their evidence. The plaintiff attempts to prove that the defendant committed each of the elements that give rise to the action and that, consequently, he is entitled to compensation. The defendant presents evidence to defend himself against the plaintiff’s allegations and avoid paying compensation.
- Verdict: At the end of the trial, the jury or judge, in the case of a trial without a jury, will issue a verdict to determine whether the defendant is liable and, if so, how much they owe in damages.
- Appeals : Each party can appeal a decision if it considers that it was legally incorrect.
The stages of a personal injury claim follow a logical sequence that is designed to have the best chance of achieving justice at trial. If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the steps outlined above outline how your case should proceed.