Steps to a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The Department of Justice reports that between 300,000 and 500,000 personal injury cases are filed each year within the United States. Exceptionally few people may be fortunate to file a personal injury lawsuit. The road to a personal injury lawsuit starts with some form of an accident. Maybe you were the victim of a severe car accident. Perhaps you discovered that the baby stroller that you place your child in has the potential to seriously harm your child. Maybe your neighbor’s dog, who was supposed to be on a leash, took off across the street and bit you. In any case, you have several options after enduring severe injuries from an accident.
Speaking With a Personal Injury AttorneyIf you decide to file a lawsuit against a particular party, you may want to speak to an attorney regarding your accident. Speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney can help give you additional clarity about your lawsuit process. The closest that most people get to a personal injury case is the daytime court shows on television. Because most people have not gone through a personal injury lawsuit before, it is best to seek the guidance of someone knowledgeable in that area.
Benefits of Speaking With an AttorneySome of the benefits of speaking with an attorney include saving time and money, guiding you through the legal process, and evaluating the worth of your claim.
Saving You Time and MoneyLittle mistakes can cost you time and money that you can't afford to lose. A personal injury lawyer can save you so much time and money by laying out how the legal process will proceed, what actions you want to avoid during the process, etc. A personal injury attorney can cut time in half by taking the reins and completing the time-consuming tasks for you.
Guiding You Through the Legal ProcessPersonal injury attorneys have the necessary experience to handle all accidents, from motor vehicle accidents to medical malpractice accidents. The nature of your accident and the injuries you have sustained may cause you to feel overwhelmed about seeking compensation for your accident. A personal injury attorney can be that beacon of light and guide you through the legal process. Having someone knowledgeable and determined to fight for your best interest can remove stress.
Evaluating the Worth of Your ClaimA personal injury attorney can analyze and discuss the different types of damages that you can list in your claim. Because this is most likely your first time filing a personal injury lawsuit, you may not be aware of the different types of compensation that you can seek from a negligent party. A personal injury attorney can evaluate the actual worth of your claim and break down the multiple forms of compensation that you may not have even thought about pursuing.
Filing a Claim on Your BehalfAfter speaking with an attorney, the next step in the personal injury lawsuit process is filing a claim. Although you can file a claim without the help of an attorney, you can benefit from the legal experience of an attorney before filing your claim. In addition to offering their legal knowledge, personal injury attorneys can file a claim on your behalf. This job is another task that a personal injury attorney can take off of your hands.
Assessing the AccidentWhen filing the claim, a personal injury attorney will ask you about every detail concerning your accident. Your personal injury attorney will analyze:
- The cause of your accident
- A police report
- Eyewitness statements
Measuring CompensationAnother crucial part of your claim that a personal injury lawyer can help with is measuring the amount of compensation you want. After reviewing the facts of your case, it will be easier for a personal injury lawyer to assess how much compensation you deserve. The types of compensation that you pursue vary based on the facts of your accident. If you have suffered a wrong by one negligent party, you will only have to be concerned with filing one claim. However, if multiple parties wronged you, you must file a claim against each one. A personal injury lawyer can also review the different forms of compensation open for you to pursue. Current and future medical expenses, current and future lost income, emotional distress, and pain and suffering are just some of the forms of compensation that a personal injury lawyer may recommend for you to list. If your loved one died due to a personal injury accident, you can seek compensation for your loved one’s funeral expenses and a loss of consortium.
Negotiating for Your CompensationAfter filing your claim, the negotiation process is next. This point is the step where the insurance company meets with you and your injury lawyer to resolve your compensation. During this step, the insurance companies and your injury lawyer will share all of the accident evidence and decide how best to proceed. One of the options that the insurance company will present is a settlement offer. This option usually appears if the other party’s actions were highly negligent. Another decision is that there is no resolution, and the insurance company does not want to budge on your demands. If the insurance company reacts in this manner, you still have several options that you can exercise. You can continue your fight for your compensation by proceeding to a trial. This option can be beneficial for you in many ways. You can pursue additional types of compensation if you successfully win your lawsuit.
Being Represented at TrialThe next stage after the negotiation step is the trial. During this step, your injury lawyer will have the opportunity to prove the defendant’s negligence by establishing four critical elements. To prove that the defendant was negligent, here are the four elements that a personal injury lawyer must prove:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
- The defendant’s careless actions breached the duty of care
- There is a connection between the defendant’s breach of duty of care and the plaintiff’s injuries
- The plaintiff suffered damages due to the defendant’s breach of duty of care
Dealing With Any Issues Along the WayWhile these are the typical steps of a personal injury lawsuit, the process will transition smoothly in the most ideal of terms. However, as with every process in life, not everything will go according to plan. One of the most challenging aspects of a personal injury lawsuit is collaborating with insurance companies. Even if the defendant has been blatantly negligent, insurance companies will not concede to defeat and reward you with your compensation.
Deceptive Practices by Insurance CompaniesInsurance companies will not fight fair when it comes to avoiding a settlement and offering injured parties compensation. These are just some of the deceptive practices you can expect from insurance companies during a personal injury lawsuit.
Accusing you of being the negligent partyBecause plaintiffs must prove negligence in personal injury cases, insurance companies will paint you as the negligent party. If the insurance companies can establish you are the negligent party, they won't need to pay you compensation.
Missing the deadline to file a personal injury claimEvery personal injury victim must file their claim within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the length of time you have to file your claim against the person or party responsible for your injuries. Insurance companies can use the statute of limitations by stating that you filed your injury claim past the statute of limitations.
Accusing you of exaggerating your injuriesAnother deceptive tactic that insurance companies use is insinuating that you exaggerate your injuries. Insurance companies might attempt to use this tactic if you did not seek immediate medical attention following your accident. Even if you did seek immediate medical attention, insurance companies might insinuate that your injuries existed before the accident and that you are attempting to seek compensation for a previous medical condition.
Accusing you of having a lack of evidenceInsurance companies do not want to admit that their client was negligent and that their negligence caused an accident. Instead, they will state that the evidence that you have presented is not enough to prove their client’s negligence. If insurance companies request that you provide additional information surrounding your claim, that is a sign that they believe you have a lack of evidence to prove your claim.
Following Your Social Media AccountsAnother deceptive tactic that insurance companies have practiced for decades involves hiring private investigators to follow personal injury victims around. This tactic was (and still is) often used by insurance companies to gather evidence that insinuates that personal injury victims are faking their injuries. Private investigators take pictures of personal injury victims performing errands, playing sports, and moving easily throughout town. Now, private investigators can use the posts and pictures from victims’ social media accounts to paint victims in a negative light. When filing your injury claim, a personal injury lawyer will advise you on how best to proceed on and off social media.
What Actions Can You Take Against Deceptive Insurance Companies?If you suspect the insurance company of acting negligently during the lawsuit process, there are actions that you can take to hold the insurance company liable. A personal injury lawyer can help you file another claim against the insurance company for exhibiting bad faith practices during the process. Bad faith practices are a type of negligence that insurance companies practice. Insurance companies have a legal responsibility to perform their duties fairly and transparently. Insurance companies that fail to operate fairly and transparently can be held liable for bad faith practices. Some examples of bad faith practices involve:
- Failing to communicate. Insurance companies must remain in communication with you during the claims process. If insurance companies take a long time to investigate your claim, that is an example of bad faith practice.
- Unreasonable demands. Insurance companies who request that you provide ridiculous documentation to prove their client’s negligence can be an example of bad faith practice.
- Failure to properly investigate a claim. Insurance companies have a legal responsibility to investigate your claim promptly. Insurance companies can be held liable for failing to adequately investigate a claim if you discover that they have not even investigated your claim before denying it.