No one plans for an accident or an injury, and certainly no one wishes for one to happen. Once an injury or accident does occur, especially as a result of someone else’s negligence, it may feel like the injury has taken complete control of your life. You may be facing expensive medical bills and lost work as a result of your injury, and you may even feel that your overall quality of life has declined.
When this happens, it’s important to get in touch with a personal injury attorney and determine if a personal injury claim or suit is right for you. The process of going through a personal injury suit may look different to each person based on their given circumstances, but here’s how most suits progress and what you should do each step of the way:
The Event Itself
When an accident or injury happens, it’s best to remain as calm as possible. Accidents of any kind can be chaotic and even scary, so remind yourself to try to think clearly and rationally. If you or someone else is able, gather as much information about the event as possible, including pictures and a written record of events. You’ll also need to contact the proper emergency teams, including the police and the paramedics, if need be.
Seek Medical Help
The first thing to do after a major injury accident of any kind is to seek the medical care you need right away. Not only is it vital for your health, but it’s also an important legal step. From your doctor’s point of view, getting immediate medical attention is required for any necessary course of treatment you may need, and it will give you the best physical outcome as well.
From an insurance adjuster’s point of view, if you don’t seek the care you need in a timely manner, they may decide your injury wasn’t as serious as it truly is. This could seriously impact whether they’ll reimburse your health care provider.
After the dust has settled, and once you have received medical care, writing down all the events as you remember them in even more detail is vital. In the moments after any sort of accident, your first thoughts are, of course, of your injuries and the care you need, but after you’ve seen your doctor, be sure to document as much about the event as you can.
While things may seem clear to you in the moment, and you may feel there is no way you could forget all the details of the events surrounding your injury, you’d be surprised what may start to fade in the weeks— or even days—after the event. Take notes, write down names of witnesses, and take additional pictures of your injury.
Seek Out a Lawyer
Your next step should be to contact a lawyer. When hiring a lawyer, it’s okay to ask questions about their expectations and what your working relationship will look like. You’ll also want to present the information on your case so that they can help you determine whether a personal injury lawsuit is right for your situation. Some questions to ask include:
- What is your background? What kind of experience do you have?
- How will my case be managed?
- What is an estimate of my costs?
Be truthful and give them as much helpful information as possible. They’re there to help you!
Investigation of Claims and Medical Records
Once you have hired an attorney and signed a fee agreement, they will interview you more thoroughly on the events surrounding your injury. They’ll request medical records, including details about your injury, your treatment, and your long-term prognosis following your treatment. They’lll also ask about your medical history as a whole, so they have the full picture of your entire medical background. The last thing they want is a surprise, especially when one could have been avoided.
Your attorney will also request all of your medical bills, and they may even ask for pay stubs that can help show lost wages, if applicable. This will give them a strong overview of how your injury has affected you financially and medically. Gathering this information takes time, as they will also want bills and medical updates from follow-up appointments too. This is a lengthy process, but your patience will pay off in the long run.
Filing a Lawsuit
If your attorney feels that you’ve got a viable case, they’ll first attempt to settle your claim through a demand negotiation process. If the insurance company is not willing to offer fair compensation to settle your claim, your attorney will discuss the ability to file a lawsuit. Most personal injury suits are settled well before a case ever reaches a courtroom, but no matter how far a suit goes, it begins with a discovery process.
Each party (you and your attorney, plus the insurance company and/or their attorney) exchanges information, and begins to investigate your claim and your legal defenses. Both sides will request information, ask questions, and take depositions from you, as well as from any relevant witnesses.
Mediation and Negotiation
After the lawsuit is filed and all information is exchanged and recorded, your attorney will make an additional demand to attempt negotiation. Many times, cases are settled at this stage of the process. Lawyers may talk amongst themselves to settle a case through negotiation, or they may seek a more formal mediation process.
There are pros and cons to settling a personal injury case through mediation, and a reputable lawyer will work with you to determine the best course of action for your case.
If a personal injury case is not settled in mediation (though they frequently are), it will move to a juried trial. These trials can last an afternoon, a few days, a few weeks, or even months. Your attorney will guide you through this process and help you prepare for the trial, so that you can have the best possible outcome for your personal injury suit.
If you want attorneys with extensive experience in Southwest Florida’s personal injury law, click here to contact us today.