At the initial stages of a personal injury case the main goals are to ensure you get proper medical care, and that we locate and preserve all the evidence we can if your case would need to proceed to trial. Many of the big box firms want cases in and out as fast as possible. Unfortunately, the severity of an injury, and long-term implications are not always clear until months after you suffer an injury. Settling a case too quickly can mean you leave money on the table and end up paying thousands in medical bills that should have been covered. Once you settle the case, there is no going back for more.
Preserving evidence is the term used to ensure that things like videos, photos, and the details of the accident scene are recorded and kept safe for use in the future. This is critically important in building your case. Surveillance videos usually have a relatively short time frame before they are overwritten. Construction changes building layout and may fix the issue that caused your injury. Crash scenes that have things like skid marks, that fade and damaged guard rails that get fixed. The more evidence, the stronger your case and larger recovery in most cases.
Today, most personal injury cases resolve before trial. Many times, that can settle even before a formal lawsuit is needed. If the insurance company gives you an early offer to settle your case, you want to proceed with caution. Insurance companies are there to make money. An early offer now usually means the case is valued much higher and the defenses the insurance carrier has are few. We can evaluate your case looking at the totality of the circumstances and advise you about the risks or benefits of settling now, or continuing to negotiate.
In the event that the insurance carrier does not offer you a fair settlement during these initial phases of the case, a formal lawsuit will be filed on your behalf. This can be against the other person or companies insurance, or your own. Many times there will be multiple parties that are sued as each may have some liability for your injury. As discussed about, this needs to be done before the statute of limitations has expired, or you are unable to sue. Most personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years.
Once a lawsuit has been filed the defending parties must respond to the allegations. They can admit or deny certain facts or seek to have the case thrown out immediately. This is known as the initial pleadings stage. A demand for “discovery” is filed which requires the opposing parties to provide copies of documents, videos, etc., which we are entitled to. There are often disputes about discoverable evidence and there may be motions on both sides seeking Court intervention.
After the initial pleadings have been completed the process of building your case gets serious. We retain any experts we would need to testify at trial, conduct witness interviews (that have not already been done), and start setting depositions. At any time during this process a evidentiary motions can be filed as we head into the final stages.
If the parties cannot resolve the case beforehand, you then go to trial. Your case is presented to a jury and a decision known as a verdict is entered. Trial takes a lot of preparation and work, and it is expensive. Also, you never know the jury you’re going to get. The juror selection process called voir dire is designed to minimize juror issues, but sometimes there are few good choices. For these reasons, most cases resolve before trial. However, in high dollar cases a trial is sometimes necessary for the insurance company to pay the fair value of your claim.