Every personal injury case is unique – different contributing factors, different timelines, different impact on the victim’s life. Understanding the stages your case may go through will help you assist your attorney achieve the best possible outcome and also prepare you for the legal process.
Your Initial Case Evaluation
During this stage, you will have the opportunity to meet with a personal injury attorney to determine if he or she should represent your case. It’s important to ask questions during this meeting, as well as bring important documents that help the attorney understand your case, such as medical records and accident reports. Once you’ve agreed to work with an attorney, he or she will investigate claims and review documents you’ve provided while evaluating evidence.
Your attorney may next send a demand letter to the individual or company you intend to sue, demanding compensation on your behalf. In the next step, your attorney will file a legal complaint with the county clerk, listing your allegations. Once the complaint has been filed and the defendant has been officially served, the litigation process begins. A defendant will typically file a response to your complaint with the courts, which serves as an answer to your allegations.
The Discovery Process
During this stage, known as discovery, information is exchanged between both parties and their attorneys. This may be a lengthy process, depending on the complexity of the case.
Depositions are part of the discovery process. These meetings between attorneys, plaintiff, defendant and witnesses serve as official statements regarding the case. Depositions do not substitute for testimony during a trial, but allow each side to learn everything possible before taking the case to court.
A summary judgment is a court motion made after both sides have collected their respective evidence during discovery. This judgment, which is based on declarations under oath, depositions and admissions of fact, decides which side is most favorable in a lawsuit prior to a trial.
Going to Trial
In many cases, if a summary judgment favors the plaintiff, the parties may reach a settlement agreement. If the case is not settled out of court, it will then go to trial to be heard in front of a judge or be tried by a jury. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge or jury will then decide how much compensation to award.
If either side believes an error was made in the case, they may seek an appeal. In this process, the appeals court will review in detail everything that was presented at the initial trial to determine an outcome.
Have questions about the process? Contact Cook, Barkett, Ponder & Wolz today.
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