Many personal injury lawyers will convince their clients to settle for a lesser amount than they deserve because they don’t want to end up fighting the case in a courtroom. For some attorneys it’s a matter of money; for others, it’s simply that they don’t have the experience or confidence to take a case to court.
The Whisler Law Firm has been representing clients in courtrooms in front of judge and jury for decades. We’re not afraid to take a claim or lawsuit as far as it needs to go to make sure our clients receive what they deserve after suffering a personal injury. While this is the case, we also understand that many of our clients have never filed a lawsuit, or may have never spent time inside a courtroom like us. For many people, the prospect of filing a lawsuit and going through legal proceedings can be scary, because they don’t know what to expect.
We always stand by our clients and guide them through the process of filing and fighting a personal injury lawsuit every step of the way. But sometimes, knowing a little more about what these processes actually entail may help you decide what’s best for you.
Processes Before a Filing a Lawsuit
It’s always possible that a personal injury lawsuit can result in a trial before a jury. But the reality is that most do not. In many cases, after you hire your personal injury attorney and they review your case, do their investigation, and generally get to know you and the injuries you’ve suffered, they will likely first contact the insurance company or their legal team directly to try making some negotiations.
The proper practice for any good attorney is to keep you abreast of these negotiations and any significant developments, but to also give you the time and space you need to focus on recovering from your injuries. While you’re visiting with your doctor, physical therapist, or other specialists, your lawyer should be speaking with the insurance company about what they should really be considering offering you.
If these negotiations go well, it’s most likely that your case will be settled before a lawsuit even needs to be filed. When your lawyer has presented all the realities of the injuries and damages caused to you, as well as the monetary burden of those damages, the insurance company should make a settlement offer. This is for a particular dollar amount the company believes they “owe” you on behalf of their client’s negligent behavior. Sometimes, that amount is reasonable for addressing your pain and suffering; other times, it is not an agreeable or just amount. Your lawyer will let you know their opinion, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not you accept the settlement offer.
Should you choose to deny the settlement offer, your lawyer will go back to the drawing board to continue negotiating with the insurance company to see if a more agreeable amount can be reached. If no such agreement can be made between the two parties, your lawyer will officially file a lawsuit in court on your behalf.
Pre-Trial Phases of the Lawsuit
After a lawsuit is officially filed, a judge will set deadlines for each phase of the lawsuit processes that come next. Depending on the complexity of your case, the pre-trial and trial phases can take several months to several years. This is a reality you will need to make sure you understand and are prepared to face. Fighting battles in a courtroom takes time, though a settlement does still have the opportunity to occur during that time should either party have a change of heart.
The pre-trial process is broken up into three phases:
Complaint and Answer: The Complaint is a document that details your allegations, how you were injured, and the extent of those injuries. It is filed with the county in which you were injured or the defendant lives, and is then served—or personally delivered—to the defendant. The defendant then must “Answer” the Complaint by either admitting to or denying the allegations inside it.
Discovery: This is the time period during which both parties gather evidence, testimony, and documents related to the case from third parties. The process may also involve depositions, or a meeting in which witnesses are asked oral questions that are officially put on record. Your lawyer asks the questions during a deposition, but they will be looking to you to provide them with the information they need to determine the right questions to ask.
Motions: After gathering information, the defendant in your case may file a motion before or after discovery is complete. In doing so, they’re asking the court to take action on their behalf by either dismissing one or more of your claims, or dismissing the case altogether, though there is no guarantee either will happen. Sometimes a hearing may be held so the court can consider both sides of the argument.
In a last effort to avoid courtroom proceedings, mediation may occur. Mediation is much like the initial negotiating your lawyer did with the insurance company, only this time, the lawyers are assisted by a neutral mediator to facilitate the process. You will likely be in the mediation room alongside your lawyer to hear arguments. If no agreement can be made, then the case will officially go to trial.
Taking the Lawsuit to Court
A courtroom trial consists of your attorney presenting your side to the judge or jury, then the defendant’s lawyer doing the same. You will be in the courtroom with your attorney and may or may not be questioned by the attorneys depending on what has been agreed upon.
The trial process itself usually consists of six phases:
- Jury selection: Potential jurors are brought in and questioned by both attorneys, who then agree upon a mix of jurors to hear the case.
- Opening statements: Each attorney introduces their client and their stance on the case to the selected jurors.
- Witness testimony and cross-examination: The process by which witnesses and experts in your case are put on the stand and alternately questioned by both side’s attorneys.
- Closing arguments: Each attorney summarizes the events of the case and once again makes their stance and arguments clear to the jurors.
- Jury instruction: The jurors are given explanation of the charges as well as the legal rules they are expected to follow as they decide the outcome of the case.
- Deliberation and verdict: The jurors are sanctioned together in a private room to deliberate for however long they need to make a decision on the case. Once they do, their verdict is read out loud in court.
After all these phases, it may be possible that the trial is still not over, even if the jury ruled in your favor. The defense may decide to appeal the decision to a higher court, where they will reconsider the ruling. If they do not appeal, it can still take time to receive the monetary distribution owed to you. This is part of the reason overall lawsuit and court proceedings can take months or years.
When it is finally time for you to claim the compensation owed to you, your lawyer will first use a portion of that money to pay any legal liens or fees owed, as well as likely keep the payment owed to them for their services. After that, they write you a check that is yours to keep.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can be complex and lengthy, but with the right personal injury lawyer on your side, navigating the process is entirely possible. Hiring a team like The Whisler Law Firm means bringing on experts who are familiar with every step in the process and are unafraid to take your case to court when necessary. But most importantly, it means having legal aid that is honest with you about your case and strives to always put you and your family first.
Call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form to schedule an entirely free consultation with our team so we can help you determine just how hard you should be prepared to fight.