The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The most important thing for you to do after being injured is to immediately seek medical treatment. Whether you choose to go to a hospital or see your primary care physician, get treatment as soon as you are able. This is not only the best thing for your health, but if there is a delay before you receive treatment for your injuries, the insurance adjuster (and perhaps even the jury) could assume that your injuries are not as serious as your suit claims.
The next step is to obtain a lawyer. You should choose an attorney within days of your injury. You are legally allowed to represent yourself in a small claims case, but you will most certainly want to have a lawyer represent you if the injury was very significant.
Next, your lawyer will interview you about the details of the accident, your medical history, and about any medical conditions you may have. After this, your attorney will gather all of your medical documents and bills related to the injuries you’ve incurred. After reviewing all the information, your lawyer will tell you whether or not he or she thinks you have a case. If so, you’ll move to the next step.
Attorney Demands Award
A lot of small claims cases are settled before the case is even officially started. If your lawyer thinks you are likely to receive damages in this way, they will demand a dollar amount from the opposing attorney or the other side’s insurance company.
Maximum Medical Improvement
If your attorney has decided it is not a good idea to demand an award (or has and it was not successful), a good attorney will then wait until you have reached ‘maximum medical improvement’ (MMI). This is when the plaintiff has stopped medical treatment and has become as well as they are going to get. It is important to wait until you have reached MMI so that a jury will not undervalue your case, as you COULD get better as time goes on if you have not completed your medical treatment.
Suit is Filed
Each state is different, but generally, it can take one to two years for a case to go to trial. Make sure to check your state’s statute of limitations as a guide on when and how to file.
Next, both attorneys will start the discovery process. This is basically a series of questions that both sides’ lawyers will send to each other so that they understand the opposition’s claims. During this time, witnesses depositions might also be taken. This process can take anywhere from six months to a year.
A trial can last a day, a week, or even longer. It is important to know that your trial date can change. Judges often have busy schedules, and the date could change with little warning. Depending on your state, trials can be conducted in full or half day sessions. Check your local laws to get a good idea of how the trial will be structured.