Filing a Personal Injury Claim: Step-by-Step
Suffering a personal injury can be devastating regardless of the severity of your physical and emotional injuries. Hiring an attorney to help you recover for your losses is the first step to getting your life back, to the extent you can, and move forward. To that end, it can be added stress when you are unsure of what is to be expected when filing a personal injury claim. Understanding the litigation process can help alleviate some of that stress.
Initial Meeting With Your Attorney
During your initial meeting, you and your attorney you will discuss, in detail, the circumstances which caused your injury(s). You can prepare for your meeting by gathering documents which will be very helpful. For instance, if your injury arose from an automobile crash, bring a copy of the police report with you. You can call your local police department for instructions on how to obtain a copy of the police report if you do not have one.
Bring any medical records, bills, and any other documentation you have related to your injuries. It is also helpful to bring a list of all your medical providers, past and present, along with their contact information. Bring any pictures and/or videos you may have relating your injuries. Using the example above, bring any pictures you may have of the vehicles involved, as well as the accident scene and surrounding area. Crash repair estimates are often misleading and do not reflect the full amount of vehicle damage.
Pictures and videos are great visual tools to show a jury, and the insurance company, the severity of your injuries. A hospital document can state that you were severely bruised, but it will not have the same impact as a picture. A picture paints a thousand words. Any information about the vehicles, such as license plate and VIN numbers, and insurance information is also very helpful.
Initiating the Lawsuit
While the majority of claims can be settled to the client's satisfaction the client always has the right to file a lawsuit. After your attorney has investigated the events which gave rise to your injury(s), your attorney will file a Complaint with the court. A Complaint is the formal document which outlines your case against the defendant. Once the Complaint is filed, the court will issue a Writ of Summons. The Writ, along with a copy of the Complaint is served on the defendant and serves as notification that a cause of action has been brought against the defendant. Once the defendant has been served, he/she typically has 30 days to respond by filing a document known as an Answer, which is the defendant’s formal response to the allegations set forth in your Complaint.
The discovery phase is the fact-finding phase of the litigation process in which each party can obtain evidence from the other party by means of discovery tools such as a request for answers to interrogatories (written questions to the opposing party), request for production of documents (request for documents which are relevant to the litigation), request for admissions (statements to the opposing party in which he/she must admit or deny), and depositions.
Once the discovery phase of your litigation is complete, or sometimes during the discovery phase, mediation will occur. Mediation is where the parties (plaintiff and defendant) get together prior to trial to discuss the case and see whether a settlement can be reached. Every lawsuit filed in a North Carolina Superior Court is required to go through mediation. If the mediation is not successful, and a settlement cannot be reached between the parties, the litigation process will continue to move forward.
Pretrial motions set the boundaries for the upcoming trial. Pre-trial motions can also resolve many issues and questions which encompass the lawsuit. A motion can also terminate the lawsuit completely before the trial begins. There are many different types of pre-trial motions.
One example of a pre-trial motion is a Motion in Limine (MIL). A MIL is a motion filed by a party which asks the court for an order to rule out or prevent certain evidence from being presented at trial by the opposing party. Another example is a Motion for Summary Judgment, which is a motion in which one party asks the court for a ruling based on the undisputed facts of the case. The party making the motion is claiming that either the case should not go before a jury at all, or a jury could only rule in favor of the moving party.
Once your case goes to trial, the fact finder (judge or jury) will examine all the evidence, which each party will have a chance to dispute, and it will be determined if the defendant should be held responsible for the injuries sustained during an accident.
If you prevail in your case, and the fact-finder renders a judgment in your favor, you may collect monetary damages.
If you or your loved one has suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence, call one of our experienced lawyers today at 704-714-1450. We have the expertise and experience in matters involving personal injury law and will thoroughly investigate your claim(s) and zealously fight for your right to just compensation.