Injuries and accidents can happen at almost any time and any place, and for most people, there’s no one to blame in particular. However, you may have been involved in an accident that was directly caused by someone else — which means that that person can be legally liable for your medical expenses, recovery and lost productivity if you can prove that their actions led to your injury.
To do this, many people may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit — a legal dispute between someone who has been injured in an accident, and the person that may be legally responsible for causing that accident. But what options do you have, and what steps do you need to take? Read on to learn more about personal injury lawsuits:
What is a personal injury lawsuit?
If you decide to pursue a personal injury case, you can do so through two methods: a formal lawsuit in civil court, or an informal settlement that is reached out of court. In the first case, the person who has been injured (the “plaintiff”) would file a complaint in civil court, which is separate from criminal court (in which the case involves the government). The plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit that a person or entity (the “defendant”) has acted in an irresponsible manner that led to the accident. If a formal complaint is filed, the case will make its way throughout the courts, perhaps even going to a civil trial. These stages are detailed later in this article.
Though a personal injury lawsuit is the formal method for getting compensation after an accident, in most cases the case is settled informally before it ever reaches the courtroom. In this situation, the plaintiff, defendant and lawyers or insurers from both sides will come together to discuss a payment that will be made, in return for both sides signing a form saying they won’t proceed with further action — like taking the case to court. A settlement is the most common way to tackle a personal injury case because it keeps the situation from dragging on through a court trial and provides nearly immediate relief to the plaintiff, but it may also be a less desirable scenario if you feel you could win a court case and get a greater compensation that way.
What are the stages of a personal injury case?
A personal injury case begins by talking to a lawyer, who can help evaluate your situation and work with you to understand what your options are. An attorney will advise you on what course of action to take, and will help you to file the initial papers that are required to formalize the suit — such as complaints, answers and other motions. The next stage is fact-finding and “discovery,” in which both sides share information and lay out what evidence they have in the case. If the case is not then dismissed by a judge (as the defendant may file motions to get it thrown out), both parties may go on to reach a settlement, as described above.
Finally, if all other methods don’t pan out, the case could end up going to trial, during which both sides will argue their case before a judge and a jury. Afterward, if the case is decided in the plaintiff’s favor, they will have to follow through to collect on their compensation; if the plaintiff loses the case, however, they can still appeal the judgment to get a decision from a higher court.