In the United States, 4.4 million people are injured seriously enough in auto accidents to require medical attention. The five most common injuries suffered in car accidents are soft tissue injuries, head injuries, arm and leg injuries, chest injuries, and scrapes, and cuts.
You have probably seen the ads on TV stating if you are injured in an accident, you should call such and such law firm. Have you ever wondered what injury lawyers do?
We are going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what a personal accident lawyer does when you aren’t watching.
You had your consultation. The attorney was friendly, informative, knowledgeable, and professional. You signed a contingency agreement two weeks ago.
Why haven’t you heard from the attorney? Did they forget about you? The answer is no; they are working diligently on your case, gathering evidence.
The attorney is ordering medical records, police reports, and any photographs or video recordings of the incident. They may call your insurance company and advise them they are representing you. They may talk to witnesses and gather their testimony.
Obtaining records requires the attorney to file specific requests, and then they must wait for those records to be pulled and sent to them. Medical records can take several weeks to obtain, and
There are several steps to litigation, and it is a timely process. The specifics of your case will have a bearing on how long it takes.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on civil cases, the process for cases going to trial is lengthy. Motor vehicle accident cases take 20 months, medical malpractice 31 months, and all other torts 23 months.
After a personal injury lawyer has gathered the above information, they will send a demand letter to the insurance company. A demand letter states the facts of the accident and demands a certain amount for the injuries suffered. If the injury was severe enough that the insurance company does not see any chance of winning, they may agree to the settlement.
In most cases, the demand letter will result in the insurance adjuster contacting your attorney in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. A demand letter informs the insurance company that you are being represented by an attorney, details the specifics of how you came to be injured and demands a settlement amount.
Demand letters are the starting process of settlement negotiations. While your attorney is working through negotiations they will keep in mind the statute of limitations. This is the maximum length of time that can pass between the accident and when a lawsuit must be filed.
If the statute of limitations deadline is missed the claim is forever forfeited. In New York, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within 3 years of the accident, except in specific types of injury where the limitation is 2 years.
While your attorney is working to obtain the best settlement possible, make sure you do not do things that can negate the settlement. If you are contacted by the insurance company or any other person wanting you to sign documents related to your case, contact your attorney first. The attorney will want to review any records before you sign to make sure your legal rights are not being compromised.
Provide your injury lawyer all medical reports, changes in treatments, or releases from medical care you receive from your personal injury doctor. Continue to send the attorney copies of any medical bills you have that relate to the accident. Do this even if they have been paid by insurance because it shows the extent of your injuries.
Make sure you notify your doctor of any changes in your address, phone number, or email address. If your attorney can not reach you, it can jeopardize your case.
If no settlement is reached with the insurance company, the attorney will make sure a lawsuit is filed before the statute of limitations expires. The complaint must be written in compliance with the court rules and contain specific information to meet the legal requirements.
Personal injury lawsuits are tort and often fall within the negligence category. Negligence is a failure to behave with a level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would exercise under the same circumstances. A person who fails to exercise reasonable care when it is likely that their behavior will result in harm is considered negligent.
When you file a lawsuit, you must state each element of the claim. Elements are legal standards that must be met for the claim to be valid. Negligence has four elements.
The first element is the duty of care. This means that a person had a duty to act in a careful and prudent manner while they were performing a specific activity. The second element is met by showing how that person beached their duty of care.
The attorney must then list the specifics regarding the third element, which is causation. This shows how the breach of care was the proximate cause of the injuries suffered. To be awarded a settlement in a negligence claim you must prove the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the accident.
Damages are the fourth element. This is the monetary compensation being sought. It includes pain and suffering, loss of income, and money spent on treatment. It is essential the wording on the request is appropriately worded so that damages awarded are the maximum the judge or jury deems appropriate.
The attorney will file the lawsuit and summons with the court. The summons is the cover sheet on the lawsuit that notifies the defendant they are being sued. The attorney will make sure the service of process is handled, so it meets court requirements and will file the required proof of service with the court.
After the defendant is served, they will have a specific amount of days to respond. In New York, the defendant has 20 days to respond if personally served, 30 days if served by alternative means. The defendant will serve their answer with the court and on your attorney.
Defendants will sometimes file a counter-complaint. A counter-complaint means they are suing you back. Do not be concerned; this is a typical legal action and does not hurt your case.
Once all pleadings and answers have been filed, discovery will begin. There may be motions filed by either side to obtain an order of action from the judge. Motions are a type of pleading and require answers to be filed and may require a legal brief to be filed with them.
Mandatory arbitration may be ordered. Arbitration is a way of reaching a settlement outside of the courtroom. The arbitrator will review the evidence, listen to the parties, and make a decision on the case.
There may be several hearings throughout the process, including motions, pretrials, and settlement conferences. These are all basic steps to a court case.
Discovery includes demands for information and the exchange of evidence between attorneys. It may consist of depositions of medical professionals, interrogatories, requests for admissions, accident investigation, and witnesses. This can be a timely process but is needed for the attorneys to negotiate fairly.
A deposition is a way of taking testimony under oath from a witness outside of the courtroom. The purpose is to gather evidence for the case. Both attorneys are present and able to question the witness.
The questions and testimony are recorded by a court recorder. Depositions may be admissible in court during litigation.
Interrogatories are a set of written questions that an attorney filed on the opposing party. The questions have to be answered in writing under oath within a specific period of time. If you fail to answer the questions, the opposing counsel may file a Motion to Compel.
A Motion to Compel requests the court order the opposing party to take some action; in this case, it would be to answer the interrogatories. The person will have to appear in court and explain to the judge why they have not answered the interrogatories. In most cases, the party will be ordered to complete the interrogatories by a specific date and may be sanctioned.
The legal process is complicated and lengthy. Lawsuits can run for two years or more before settling. Not following proper legal procedures or missing a deadline can result in a dismissed case.
A personal injury lawyer best handles the steps to negotiating a settlement. They understand the legal process, know court rules and law, and will make sure deadlines are met, so the case is not needlessly thrown out.
Hiring an experienced attorney can be vital to winning your injury case or having a successful settlement. However, before you hire a lawyer, you need to make sure that you get proper medical care. That’s why finding the right doctor can be just as important. A doctor who specializes in caring for those injured in an accident has the skills and experience to properly diagnose and treat personal injury patients.
If you have been injured, call and schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury doctor today. Your health and settlement depend on it!
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