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How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

Most people never think about what it takes to file a lawsuit until the time comes. If you have never had to take part in a personal injury lawsuit, you probably don’t know exactly what to expect. How does a personal injury lawsuit work? The entire process can be intimidating or confusing when it is unfamiliar. You likely have a lot of questions.

Your personal injury lawyer from Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys will be by your side every step of the way, but you still should have an understanding of how the process works. In truth, every case is different, and some are more complex than others. But, there are certain elements that will remain consistent in most lawsuits. Consider this your guide to personal injury lawsuits and how they work.

Why File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Attorney Caroline MunleyFirst, why file a personal injury lawsuit? What is the purpose of a personal injury lawsuit?

After a serious car accident or other major cause of injury, you will likely face a series of unanticipated costs. In addition to the pain and suffering you experience, you may also be facing astronomical medical bills, lost wages, and more. As the injured victim, you shouldn’t have to bear these costs. Under the law, the negligent party owes you compensation for the damage they caused. However, it often takes a personal injury lawsuit to get the full amount of compensation you are owed. Insurance companies frequently make lowball settlements that don’t cover the full extent of your injuries. A lawsuit can help you recover compensation for your past and future medical costs, lost wages, reduced earning power, ongoing physical therapy, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and more.

If the negligent party in your case is a big company, it becomes even more important that you have an experienced personal injury lawyer who can file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. Corporate entities have powerful defense teams who will work to dismiss your claim or settle it for less than you deserve. A personal injury lawsuit levels the playing field, and gives you an equal shot at justice.

Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney

The first step in filing a lawsuit is a consultation with a lawyer. At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, this consultation is free and clear – you will not be charged, nor will you be required to take any action. This consultation is your chance to tell your story, get answers to your questions, and receive advice from an experienced personal injury attorney about what you should do next. The consultation allows the lawyer to better understand what happened, and to determine whether they can take your case.

The initial consultation might be in person, or it may be done over the phone or via video chat. During the initial consultation, the attorney will ask you many questions to get a clear picture of what happened.

There are some items you should be sure to bring with you to your consultation with a lawyer. Bring any documents related to your case, including any police reports you have, and records of medical treatment you have received thus far. If you were injured in a car accident, bring a copy of your insurance policy declarations page. If you have any photos of your injuries or the accident scene, bring those as well.

What Should I Look For When Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Marion Munley speaking with a clientThe purpose of the consultation is not only for the accident attorney to evaluate your case, it is also a chance for you to assess your feelings about the law firm. If you have a case, you can choose to allow the law firm to represent you in pursuing your lawsuit. Your choice of lawyer can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. If you wish to pursue a lawsuit, consider the following elements when choosing a lawyer:

Experience

In a personal injury case, experience counts. You want to find a lawyer who has a depth and breadth of experience. It’s important that your lawyer not only has many years negotiating settlements and winning cases at trial, but also has experience with your specific case type. For example, the attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys not only have decades of experience winning cases in negotiation and at trial, we also have extensive experience in cases not all lawyers handle, such as tractor trailer accidents, bus accidents, mass torts, and more.

Record of Success

The truth is that not all lawyers achieve the same results. Look for a law firm with a strong track record of big wins. Ask about your lawyer’s recent case results and significant client victories.

Reputation

In the legal field, good attorneys will often have a strong reputation among their peers. To gain a good reputation among other lawyers and among past clients, a lawyer must conduct themselves with honesty and integrity. To ascertain a lawyer’s reputation, look for testimonials from past clients about their experience working with the firm. Look also for honors, awards, and leadership positions in their field.

Release, Retainer, and Fee Agreement

When you choose to hire a lawyer, you will be asked to sign a release, and a retainer and fee agreement. The release gives your attorney permission to do things like request your medical records on your behalf. The retainer and fee agreement will describe the lawyer’s fee, which is usually a standard portion of the settlement they obtain for you, as well as any applicable fees.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Many personal injury law firms, including Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, work on a contingent fee basis. This means that they only collect a fee for their services if they win your case and obtain a settlement or verdict for you.

The contingent fee agreement protects you from financial risk associated with pursuing your case. It takes a lot of time and resources to investigate a claim, obtain expert witness testimony, and build a legal case. Your lawyer will put forth all of the necessary resources to help your case prevail. And if we are not successful, we accept the financial loss and you owe us nothing.

The purpose of this arrangement, in addition to protecting you from financial risk, is to give everyone an equal opportunity to hire the best legal representation available. There is no out of pocket cost or upfront fee, making it possible for anyone to afford the best attorney.

Investigation

Once hired, your lawyer’s first order of business will be to investigate your claim to better understand what happened to you. This might include collecting witness statements, obtaining photos, surveillance video, and other information from the scene of the incident. We will also work with a doctor to review your medical records and better understand your injuries. Investigation will also help us identify any and all defendants in your case. It can take six to eight weeks to receive medical records from your healthcare providers, so this aspect of the legal process can take some time.

Settling Your Personal Injury Case Before Filing a Lawsuit

Attorney Melinda Ghiardi working at her deskYour lawyer will make a demand for an agreed-upon amount of compensation based on the extent of your injuries and your financial losses. We will negotiate with the insurance company

The insurance company will usually make an offer of settlement. Your lawyer will advise you as to whether their offer is reasonable, but we will never accept an offer without your consent. This negotiation will continue throughout the process of filing and pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.

Complaint

If a settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer will file a complaint in the appropriate civil court. The complaint is a document that sets forth the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant(s). The complaint will identify the involved parties, and describe in painstaking detail the events that lead to the plaintiff’s injuries, how the incident happened, and the injuries and damages sustained as a result. It will also include the causes of action and the demand for compensation.

Filing the complaint is the first step in the litigation process and sets your lawsuit in motion. The defendants have a specific amount of time (usually 60 days) to respond to the complaint.

Discovery

During the discovery phase of the litigation, the plaintiff and the defendant will collect evidence, documents, and information related to the case. This may include written question-and-answer sessions known as interrogatories, as well as depositions, e-discovery, and requests for documents. Your attorney may issue a “request for production,” asking the defendant to provide copies of important documents, photographs, or other types of evidence. The defense may request the same.

Deposition

A deposition is an oral question and answer session. Depositions are typically conducted outside of a courtroom (often at one of the lawyer’s offices) but they are under oath. The plaintiff, defendant, as well as witnesses and other involved parties can be deposed. The deposition may be recorded on video, and a court reporter will transcribe each question and answer. Each party will have the opportunity to review and sign the transcript. Depositions are important, so your personal injury attorney will prepare you before a deposition. Your lawyer will give you an idea of what questions you will be expected to answer, as well as anything you should be careful to say/not say. Of course, it is extremely important that you tell the truth in a deposition.

E-Discovery

Another part of the discovery phase is e-discovery, or electronic discovery. This involves digital or electronically stored information and data. This includes emails, social media posts, cell phone use, and more. For example, e-discovery can uncover whether a driver was using their cell phone at the time of a car crash. Other digital information may come from the electronic data recorder on a truck or other vehicle. Electronic data recorders, also known as the “black box,” captures information about the vehicle such as the speed, whether the brakes were applied, and more details about the time of the crash.

Going to Trial With a Personal Injury Lawyer

Negotiations can continue up until the date of the trial. Most personal injury cases settle before going to trial because a trial significantly increases court costs for both parties, and settlements can be kept confidential.  If no settlement is reached, the trial will proceed.

  • Jury Selection – During jury selection, both parties can ask questions of the jurors to determine whether their individual life experiences might hinder their impartiality.
  • Opening Statements – Each party’s attorneys will have the opportunity to briefly state their case.
  • Witness Testimony – Witness testimony and cross-examination is the longest part of the personal injury trial. Your lawyer will use evidence and expert testimony to clearly demonstrate that the defendant was negligent and that you suffered pain and suffering and other damages.
  • Closing Arguments – The attorneys for both parties will summarize their arguments and make a final statement to the jury.
  • Jury Verdict – Finally, the jury will deliberate and reach a decision.

How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Claim?

Attorneys Marion Munley, Caroline Munley, Robert Munley, and Chris MunleyEvery personal injury lawsuit is bound by a “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations varies by state; in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of injury.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, in medical malpractice cases, you might not know immediately that negligence or injury occurred. In cases like this, the two-year clock would start ticking on the date you learned of the injury, even if this was some time after the injury took place.

In either case, it is best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. As you can see, there are several steps that must be taken before a lawsuit can be filed in court. The entire personal injury claim process can take anywhere from several months to a few years. The sooner you speak to an experienced injury attorney, the sooner you can get the process started. Even if you are unsure whether you have a case, it’s never too soon to seek counsel. We will advise you each step of the way and take action if and when it’s necessary.

If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, don’t handle it on your own. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free consultation.

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