Many personal injury claims are settled prior to filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, if an insurance company denies your claim or makes an unreasonable offer, you should consider pursuing a lawsuit.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
The following is a summary of the different steps involved in a lawsuit.
Court: Most lawsuits are filed in a District Court or Superior Court. If there is a reasonable likelihood that your recovery will exceed $25,000.00, you will file your lawsuit in Superior Court. Otherwise, your personal injury lawsuit will be filed in a District Court. (Where you file your personal injury lawsuit will have NO impact upon what your case may ultimately settle for or what a judge or jury will award you if you go to trial.)
Complaint: Your personal injury attorney will prepare a Complaint, file it with the Court (this is called “filing a lawsuit”), and serve it on the defendant. A Complaint contains your name and address, the defendant’s name and address, and a concise summary of the facts and legal allegations. (If you are suing someone, you are called a “plaintiff”, the person being sued is called a “defendant”, and the plaintiff and defendant are sometimes referred to as a “party”.)
Answer: The defendant has 20 days after the Complaint is served on him to answer the Complaint.
Tracking Order: When a personal injury lawsuit is filed in Superior Court, a Tracking Order is sent to your personal injury attorney. The Tracking Order contains a schedule as to when certain actions must occur such as filing the answer, the completion of discovery, the filing and hearing of certain Motions, and a tentative Pre-Trial Conference date.
Discovery: The attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant may engage in different types of discovery including:
- Written Discovery: Each side may send the other written discovery requests which must be answered within a specified time period. Written discovery includes interrogatories (questions which must be answered), requests for documents (documents which must be produced), and admissions (factual allegations which are admitted or denied). Your personal injury attorney may object to discovery requests which seek information that the other side is not entitled to.
- Depositions: A deposition involves an attorney questioning a party or a witness, under oath and before a stenographer, at the attorney’s office. Your personal injury attorney will prepare you for the deposition, attend the deposition with you, and receive a copy of the deposition transcript.
- Medical Examination: In a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant’s attorney may file a Motion with the Court to have you examined by a Doctor. The Doctor will review your medical records, examine you, and prepare a report which will contain his findings and opinions as to your physical condition. Your attorney will receive a copy of the report.
- Motions: During the personal injury lawsuit, various motions may be filed which may or may not affect the outcome of your case. Generally, motions do not affect the outcome of a personal injury claim. However, if you do not have sufficient facts in support of your claim, your claim may be dismissed prior to trial.
- Pre-Trial Conference: In a personal injury lawsuit, the attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant are required to attend a Pre-Trial Conference. During the Pre-Trial Conference, the attorneys discuss the personal injury claim with the judge, resolve any outstanding discovery issues, discuss the status of any settlement negotiations and obtain a Trial date.
Personal Injury Trial
A personal injury trial progresses in the following manner:
Proving Your Personal Injury Claim: You must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following four elements in order to obtain an award for compensation: that the defendant owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care; that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care (negligence); that you suffered injury or harm; and that the defendant’s negligence caused your injury or harm.
Trial Motions: The attorneys will file Trial Motions with the Court before the Trial. The judge will hear the attorneys on the Motions and make a ruling.
Jury Instructions: Each attorney will file proposed Jury Instructions (instructions on the law) with the Court.
Jury: A jury is selected. In a Superior Court trial, usually 14 people are chosen by the parties including 2 alternates. In District Court, there are 6 jurors with 2 alternates.
Opening Statement: The plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney make an opening statement. An opening statement is a summary of the evidence you expect to present to the jury during the trial.
Evidence: The plaintiff’s attorney puts in your case by way of witness testimony and documents (medical records and bills, photos, etc.) and then the defendant’s attorney puts in the defendant’s case. Each attorney may cross-examine the other party’s witnesses.
Closing: The defendant’s attorney and then plaintiff’s attorney make their closing arguments during which they go over the evidence presented to the jury and attempt to persuade the jury of the merits of their claims.
Law: The judge instructs the jury on the law.
Jury Deliberates: The jury considers the evidence and, hopefully, returns a verdict in your favor.
Verdict: Obtaining a favorable verdict from a jury in a personal injury lawsuit does not happen by accident. There are a number of factors which will affect the outcome of a Trial. However, unquestionably, the most important factors are CREDIBILITY/HONESTY and PREPARATION.
Call Now For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one were injured because of someone’s negligence, contact Attorney Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out an online contact form. We look forward to talking to you about your claim.