If you’ve been injured at no fault of your own, you may have already begun the process of negotiating a settlement with the insurance company of the at-fault party. Ideally, you have the help of a skilled personal injury attorney – someone who understands the negotiating tactics of insurance companies and the personal injury claims process more broadly. Very often, insurance companies will try to low ball you at the outset, leading you to believe that their offer is fair.
The Benefits of Hiring a Skilled Litigator
It’s even better if you hire an attorney who has experience as a successful litigator. The insurance company will be more willing to offer a high settlement if the adjuster knows the case could be argued in court. They’ll usually try to keep away from litigation when possible because they don’t want to pay the associated fees.
Writing the Complaint
If your initial negotiations fail to produce adequate results, a skilled litigator can assist you in filing a lawsuit, which can be a pretty complicated affair. First, your attorney will write up the initial complaint, which informs the involved parties of the time and place of the injury, the details of the injury and treatment, and the expected compensation for damages, which might include medical expenses, lost income or pain and suffering.
Filing the Complaint
Next, your attorney can file the complaint through the appropriate channels. A seasoned attorney will understand the particularities of the filing process in your state or locality, thus removing the burden of having to know the many deadlines and limitations.
After your attorney has filed the complaint, the defendant usually has to respond to the allegations, either accepting or denying the various points enumerated in the document. In many cases, defendants refuse to accept liability. Defendants might even choose to file counter-claims – in which case, they would effectively be suing you.
Statute of Limitations
Remember, there may be a statute of limitations associated with your claim. Your attorney should be able to inform you of the time limits to file your case. For this reason, it’s generally a good idea to retain an attorney sooner rather than later, so you don’t miss the boat on your compensation.
When the initial complaint is served on the defendant, it will contain a summons, which informs the at-fault party that they are involved in a lawsuit and provides guidance on how to proceed.
Once the complaint and summons have been served, both parties can initiate what is known as the discovery process, during which the defendant and plaintiff can gather pertinent evidence either supporting or refuting the claims. Evidence might include eyewitness and expert testimony, medical records, income statements, investigative reports, photos and any other documents that are relevant to the claims in question. Both parties may also have to submit depositions that narrate the events surrounding the injury.
In most cases, the claims are settled out-of-court. In fact, 95 percent of tort claims end in pretrial settlements, leaving a mere 5 percent to be argued in court. Settlements can occur in either mediated settings or over-the-phone conversations. Both the plaintiff and the defendant will most likely want to stay out of a proper trial due to the immense amount of resources that such an affair entails.
Arguing a Case
If your case does go to court, your lawyer will have to thoroughly prepare an argument, which is generally delivered before a jury. The defendant may choose to cut the trial short by offering a settlement. If not, the jury (or a trial judge) will issue a verdict, either in favor of the defendant or the plaintiff. If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff, it will also determine the amount of compensation granted to the injured party. That compensation often includes any court-related fees or costs.
It is always a good idea to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side. Without legal representation, it will be difficult to recover maximum compensation for your injuries, much less go through the rigmarole of filing a lawsuit.