In the aftermath of an injury you have a lot to deal with – high medical bills, lost wages, and other stressors. Confusion about what happens in a personal injury case should not be one of your stressors. If you have suffered a severe, life changing injury it is highly likely that you would benefit from hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you in your case. An attorney’s job is to get you the most compensation possible under law.
What Happens in a Personal Injury Case
While each case is unique and fact-specific, what happens during the course of a personal injury case generally follows a similar pattern.
Meet with an Attorney
To begin pursuing your personal injury claim you will first meet with an attorney. Many personal injuries attorneys offer free consultations. This gives you the opportunity to garner legal advice about your rights and to better understand the legal process.
Once you retain an attorney he or she will begin your personal injury claim. At this stage any opposing parties, including insurance companies, are no longer allowed to contact you and must deal with your attorney.
Beginning the Personal Injury Claim
Before filing a law suit your attorney will investigate your case, gather evidence, make a determination on the value of your claim, and make contact with the opposing parties.
It is common for personal injury claims to settle even before a lawsuit is filed. In our practice roughly 65% of all cases we handle are resolved by settlement without filing a lawsuit. If a fair and just settlement can be reached in these early stages, accepting the offer may be the best choice. It is always up to you whether or not you want to accept a settlement offer.
Filing a Lawsuit
If your personal injury claim is not settled in the beginning stages, then a lawsuit is filed. As the injured party you are the plaintiff bringing a lawsuit against the party (or parties) who caused your injury.
The legal process with the court begins once a lawsuit is filed. As your case moves forward, formal settlement negotiations will begin. This may include mediation, arbitration, or settlement conferences. Most civil lawsuits are settled before trial. In 2016, the Nebraska Federal Court reported 1,662 filings for the year. Of these, 230 were civil cases. There were 22 cases tried that same year. So, only about 10% of all cases filed, ever go to trial. This is our experience, as well.
In pre-trial discovery both parties gather information in preparation for trial. Discovery includes requests for documents, subpoenas, interrogatories, depositions, hiring expert witnesses, and other evidence gathering to prove your case at trial.
Law in Motion
Prior to trial either side may file Motions, which can be understood as a formal request for the court to rule on a particular matter. For example, the defendant may Motion the court to dismiss the case based on a legal deficiency.
If both parties reach a settlement agreement the lawsuit is ended and will not proceed to trial. When you accept a settlement offer you are agreeing to accept a sum of money (or other remedy) in exchange for your right to further pursue legal action in connection with the accident or injury.
If the lawsuit is not settled then it proceeds to trial. Once a trial begins, the following typically happens:
- Jury selection (also known as voir dire)
- Opening Statements by the Plaintiff’s Attorney then the Defendant’s Attorney.
- Witness testimony and cross-examination.
- Closing Arguments by the Plaintiff’s Attorney then the Defendant’s Attorney.
- Jury instructions are given by the presiding Judge.
- Jury deliberations and verdict.
To learn about each stage of trial, read our article What Actually Happens in a Trial. We hope this article helps you better understand what happens in a personal injury case.
We Are Seasoned Personal Injury Trial Attorneys
The attorneys of Miller Lathrop are seasoned jury trial lawyers. What does this mean for your case? It means we are equipped to get you the best possible outcome. Many insurance companies decide how much someone will recover based on whether or not their lawyer actually picks juries and tries cases to a verdict. Insurance companies know us as attorneys who routinely try cases to verdict.
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We help people who have been injured due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another party get the compensation they deserve. Contact us or call (402) 558-4900 to schedule a free consultation.
Miller Lathrop serves clients throughout Eastern Nebraska and parts of Western Iowa including Douglas County, Sarpy County, Lancaster County, and Pottawattamie County, as well as the cities of Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue, Papillion, Fremont, Blair, Elkhorn, and Council Bluffs.