While each personal injury case is distinct and unique, the timelines often play out in a similar manner.
If you have been injured in an accident, seek medical attention right away. If your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence, you may consider pursuing compensation from the at-fault party. To do this effectively, you’ll want to hire an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer.
Once you’ve been injured, your personal injury timeline begins. For a general personal injury case, you have 2 years from the time of the injury to file a lawsuit.
Here’s a general timeline of the steps your lawyer will take and how long each stage typically takes.
Establish the Facts of the Case
This stage could take mere weeks or drag into months, depending on the specific facts of the case.
Your attorney will investigate how the accident happened and look at all relevant information regarding the circumstances of the accident.
It is important to keep all documentation relating to the accident and your injuries and to give them to your attorney.
Helpful information includes:
- Police reports and witness statements
- Medical invoices and records
- Pay stubs from your job
- Receipts for any expenses that are related to the accident
If necessary, your lawyer will consult with medical experts or experts who specialize in accident reconstruction. These consultations could add to the length of this stage.
Working with the At-Fault Party or Their Insurance Company
This stage could also take weeks or months.
A great majority of personal injury cases end in settlement, as opposed to going to trial.
If your attorney thinks that settlement is a reasonable option, they will send what is called a demand letter to the at-fault party’s attorney or insurance company. This letter spells out the facts of the case and who is at fault and asks for a specific sum to be paid by a set date. Once that money is paid the claim will be closed and resolved.
The two sides will negotiate and if they come to an agreement, the case will settle and the time and expense of going to court will be avoided.
Oftentimes insurance companies will deny liability for a claim or not want to pay the asked-for amount. If no settlement is reached with opposing counsel or the insurance company, your attorney may decide to file a lawsuit.
Sometimes a lawsuit will persuade an insurance company to return to the negotiating table, but this isn’t always the case.
We’ll See You in Court: File a Lawsuit
If no settlement occurs, your attorney will file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. The time between filing a lawsuit and actually trying the case in court can take one to two years.
Your attorney will draw up a document called a complaint, which states your claim against the other party. The complaint gets filed with the relevant court and then delivered or “served” on the other party.
Since you are filing the complaint, you are the plaintiff and the at-fault party is the defendant. In California, the defendant has to file an answer to the complaint within 30 days.
Once the suit is filed, something called the “discovery process” begins. At this point, both sides ask each other for information that could be relevant to the case. Discovery may include:
- Asking each other written questions called Interrogatories;
- Requesting that the other side produce documents and other evidence
- Requests of the other party to admit or deny specific facts
- Recording oral testimony under oath, which is called a deposition
This process can be very tedious and time-consuming for both sides to comply with. It is the hope that your attorney will learn valuable information during discovery that can be used to try and broach a settlement before trial.
By the end of the discovery process each side should have a better understanding of the strength of their case, how much the case is worth, and what their likelihood is of winning at trial. With this in mind, your attorney may try to start up another round of negotiations with the defendant. This can be done informally or through a mediation set up by the court system.
With mediation, a neutral third party (often a lawyer or a retired judge) listens to both sides and tries to move them toward settlement. There is often a lot of back and forth before a settlement is reached.
As mentioned earlier, most personal injury cases settle before trial, so this process often yields an agreement. Negotiations and mediations can take weeks or months but they also can resolve quickly in a matter of days. It just depends on the circumstances.
If Second Attempt to Resolve Doesn’t Succeed, Go to Trial
When the pre-trial negotiations don’t work out, the two sides will prepare to go to trial. Once the scheduled date arrives, the actual trial can last a day or weeks or even longer.
At the trial, both sides present all of the evidence they have gathered during the discovery process. The judge or jury will then decide who is responsible for the accident and how much they have to pay.
Anticipating how a jury will decide is extremely difficult. Sometimes, attorneys will arrange a focus group that presents the case to a panel comprised of individuals that are similar to those picked for the jury. By doing this, the attorney can use the focus group’s reaction to the evidence to help them tighten up or tweak their presentation at the trial.
Going to trial is a time-consuming endeavor. And if you are not successful, that’s it as far as getting compensation for your injuries.
Another factor to consider. Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless you are successful at winning damages at the trial. If the attorney thinks your case is worth going to trial for, you can be sure they will work their hardest to get a successful outcome.
An experienced attorney will make sure you understand the risks and benefits of going to trial.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured in an accident in the Los Angeles area and would like to pursue getting compensation from the at-fault party, it is smart to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
An injury attorney will sort out the facts and unique circumstances of your case and advise you on the smartest way to proceed. if you need legal help, call M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers at (877) 300-4535 today.