After you’ve been caused injury because of someone else’s negligence, it’s usually ideal to seek help from an attorney to help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. There are many reasons why you should hire a personal injury lawyer, but the biggest reason is that you truly shouldn’t have to suffer financially when you’re already suffering physically because of someone’s else’s carelessness. No one wants to be stuck with paying thousands of dollars of medical debt nor be negatively affected by lost wages from being out of work, and the legal process to get the compensation you deserve can be too daunting to go through on your own! When you hire an attorney, such as Phoenix area personal injury lawyer Mike Lyding, your lawyer’s job is to guide you through the process, but understanding the typical timeline of the process can help you feel more at ease.
Personal Injury Case Timeline
This timeline is meant to walk you through the standard or typical timeline of a personal injury claim after you’ve been involved in an accident. This timeline can apply to those injured in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, on the job, or even due to medical malpractice. Every case is unique, and it’s important to note that most personal injury cases end in a settlement, and don’t actually get to the point of being a lawsuit filed in court, but here’s an expected timeline if you are injured in an accident.
- Seek Medical Treatment. It’s exceptionally important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel like you’ve been injured. Sometimes injuries don’t show up right away, especially when your body’s adrenaline kicks in after trauma. By seeking medical attention right away, you’re taking important precautions for your health and healing following the accident, but it’s a necessary step for your injury claim. If you don’t have proof that you didn’t see a doctor right away following your accident, insurance companies may claim that you “weren’t really injured.” And, it’s important to continue to seek medical treatment if you are experiencing ongoing symptoms caused by the accident. Gaps in medical care could significantly hurt your claim to compensation.
- Consult a Personal Attorney! It may seem pretty early to already be “lawyering up,” but remember that most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee. That means, they don’t get paid unless you do so consulting with one won’t be at any cost to you. A lawyer won’t take your case unless they feel like you really have a valid claim and they can help you. You may want to consult a few different attorneys, but you should really only hire a lawyer that takes personal injury cases (check out our previous blog for the reasons why). According to a study conducted by the Insurance Research Council, people who hire a personal injury lawyer receive 3.5 times more in settlement compensation than people who don’t hire a lawyer, so hiring a lawyer could mean a huge difference in your case!
- Your Personal Injury Lawyer Investigates Claim and Medical Records. Your lawyer will need to interview you and get all the necessary details about the accident, your background, and your medical history before and after the accident. Lawyers hate surprises and don’t want to be caught off guard down the road, so answer all of their questions thoroughly and honestly; remember, your lawyer is on your side fighting for you!
- Time to File an Insurance Claim or Demand a Settlement. A claim will be filed with the at-fault party’s insurance company, whether it’s the other driver’s car insurance company, or a company or hospital liability insurance carrier (depending on the specifics of your case). The insurance company will assign a claims adjustor to investigate your claim and negotiate a settlement. If an insurance company isn’t involved, a demand letter will be sent by your attorney mandating a settlement for the injuries. The demand letter will explain why you believe the other party is at fault, what your injuries are, and what you are demanding. Remember, most personal injury cases are settled before they ever go to court, but a good lawyer will be honest with you about whether you should settle or keep fighting. If you’ve hired a big law firm, be aware that they take on a LOT of personal injury cases and settle most of them because that’s how they make a lot of money with little time or effort. Hiring a lawyer from a smaller firm, like Mike Lyding, will get you more personal attention and more transparency when conducting a cost/benefit analysis about settling early on.
- The Personal Injury Lawsuit is Filed. If your settlement offer or demand letter is not accepted by the at-fault party, it’s time to file a lawsuit, which will begin the “litigation” phase of your personal injury case. All states have a statute of limitations of how long a lawsuit can be filed after an accident (you can read more about Arizona’s statute of limitations here), so hopefully you haven’t wasted time in getting the help you need from an attorney. Filing a lawsuit is sometimes not ideal because it could take anywhere from 1-2 years to actually get to trial and you probably want to receive payment sooner rather than later. However, your personal injury lawyer should have discussed this with you when you considered your settlement options, and sometimes filing a lawsuit is simply a necessary step to put pressure on the other party to get you what you deserve.
- The Discovery Process Begins. The discovery phase is when both parties involved in the lawsuit investigate the other’s legal claims and defenses. Document requests and interrogatories (a fancy word for questions) will be sent to each other, and depositions (a fancy word for interviews) will be taken of all relevant parties and witnesses, generally beginning with the plaintiff and defendant. This process can take six months to a year, depending on the court’s deadlines and the complexity of the case.
- Time for Mediation and Negotiation. As the discovery phase concludes, it’s common for both side’s legal teams to try to negotiate a settlement again since essentially “all cards are on the table.” Sometimes, both sides will agree to a third party mediator to help them reach an agreeable settlement. The mediator has no interest in the outcome of the case and is not a decision maker (e.g., a judge or an arbitrator). The mediator will not decide who was at-fault or what the amount of compensation should be to you, the plaintiff. Instead, the mediator’s purpose is to facilitate the negotiations between the parties. Other times, both sides may agree to arbitration (and some claims may require arbitration), which is a type of alternative dispute resolution that isn’t as formal as a trial in a courtroom. In an arbitration, the decision made by the arbitrator is final.
- Trial is the Final Step. Again, it is rare for personal injury claims to come all the way to this step, but it happens! A trial involving a personal injury can conclude in a few hours, or can take months, depending on the complexity of the case. During this process, all of the information that was collected during discovery will be presented to a judge or jury. They will evaluate the facts, determine fault, and award damages if they rule in your favor. Trials can be time-consuming and expensive, and you can never be certain if the verdict will be in your favor, which is why many cases will settle beforehand.
Get an Experienced Phoenix Lawyer To Help You Every Step of the Way
Mike Lyding of Lyding Personal Injury never charges for consultations, and he doesn’t get paid until your case is settled. With nearly 5 decades of experience as a personal injury attorney, there’s no other attorney from the Valley that can do a better job fighting for you. If you’ve been involved in a car accident or you’ve been the victim in another accident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact Mike today to get your questions answered.