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Timeline of a Personal Injury Case According To a Personal Injury Lawyer
Although every personal injury claim is different, there is a structure that applies to most claims.
Following is an example of a typical progression of events that must occur, from the immediate aftermath of the accident to the moment your compensation appears in your bank account. This sequence might vary according to the circumstances and strategy.
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What you do after an accident can dramatically affect your chances of winning a resulting personal injury claim.
Take the following actions, depending on the severity of your injuries:
You might need to take other actions as well, depending on the nature of your accident.
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Seek medical treatment immediately, even if you don’t think you are seriously hurt. Delaying medical care will make it much easier for the defendant to deny that the accident caused your injuries.
Remember that certain injuries, such as traumatic brain injury and whiplash, may take time to develop symptoms. Seek medical treatment anyway to safeguard your health and to create evidence that you can use later.
Schedule an initial consultation with a lawyer. In fact, you should schedule consultations with more than one lawyer so you can hire the one who seems the most competent. In any case, get a lawyer involved as soon as you can. The sooner you get started enforcing your claim, the better your chances will be.
After the initial consultation, your lawyer will conduct an investigation to find out as much as possible about your claim.
Relevant evidence might include:
All evidence must comply with the Texas Rules of Evidence before you can use it in court. Although police and accident reports are generally inadmissible, they can be useful during settlement negotiations.
You need to send a demand letter to whoever is responsible for paying your claim—an insurance company, for example. The demand letter triggers the negotiation phase of your case.
You might include the following:
You may or may not choose to include a specific amount of damages. Some attorneys prefer to let the other side make the first offer.
Negotiation is where most personal injury claims are resolved. However, most insurance adjusters have several tricks to lower the value of your claim or deny it altogether. The other side won’t dare even try these tactics if you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer with a strong track record of winning at trial.
Filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go to trial. All it means is that you have filed a formal complaint and notified the other side of it. The opposing party will then file a formal answer. After that, you could wait weeks or months for your actual trial date.
Filing a lawsuit offers three strategic advantages for people who don’t want to go to trial:
A settlement is the most likely outcome of your case, even after you file a lawsuit.
The pretrial discovery process allows both sides to access evidence that is in the other side’s possession. This includes under-oath testimony, answers to written questions, copies of documents, and physical evidence.
Keep in mind that just as you get access to the other side’s evidence, they also get access to yours. That might even mean an independent medical examination of your injuries.
Courts often pressure parties to submit their dispute to mediation because an early settlement ends the case, meaning less work for a busy court. A third-party mediator will try to help the two parties resolve their dispute by agreement. The mediator, however, has no authority to compel the parties to accept a solution.
At any time during the claim resolution process, you can agree with the opposing party to submit your claim to arbitration. In arbitration, the parties hire a private judge to impose a resolution of their claim. The process works like a trial except quicker, simpler, and easier. You normally cannot appeal an arbitration judgment.
A trial proceeds in the following stages:
You can reach a settlement at any time before the jury announces its verdict.
The defendant or insurance company will send your awarded compensation to your lawyer. Your lawyer will deduct any applicable amounts, such as legal fees and amounts covered by a medical lien. They will then transfer the rest of the money to you.
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Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial case consultations, and you are under no obligation to hire the lawyer. At an initial consultation, you will likely get a ballpark estimate of your claim’s viability and value. Hopefully, you will then be able to decide whether to pursue it.
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