Steps In the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
An attorney focused on getting results for the injured
A personal injury accident can happen at any time and leave you with serious injuries. If the negligence of another caused the accident, you have the right to seek financial compensation. But the negligent party may deny responsibility and insurance companies may not take your claim seriously. You may be considering suing the other party, but you’re not sure what to expect.
Attorney Colin Scott of The Scott Law Firm, PLLC fights for injury victims in the Vancouver, Washington area. He understands the impact an injury can have on your life. He can guide you through the legal process every step of the way to help you hold negligent parties accountable and recover the compensation you deserve.
Here are the general steps that are followed during a personal injury lawsuit in the State of Washington.
Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
A lawyer can review the details of your accident and go over your legal options for recovering compensation. One of the first things to consider is when the accident took place. In the state of Washington, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is generally three years from the date of the accident. (This could be shorter or longer in certain situations.)
Three years may sound like a long time. But your case for compensation can weaken as time goes by. Valuable evidence can be lost or destroyed. Witnesses may forget important details about what they saw. The sooner you get legal advice, the better.
A lawyer will prepare your case.
Attorneys will use their investigative resources to get more information about what happened. This involves gathering evidence such as accident reports and other documentation, as well as any photos or video of the accident. Witnesses will be identified and interviewed. If needed, experts may be consulted.
Your lawyer will also carefully review your medical records to determine the damages you suffered.
There may be a settlement offer.
Most cases are actually settled out of court, sometimes even without filing a lawsuit. Your attorney may talk to the negligent party’s insurance company to discuss the possibility of settling your case. The insurance company may want to avoid court and make a settlement offer. If an offer is made, you can talk with your attorney and decide whether to accept or reject it.
A lawsuit is filed.
If no settlement is reached, your lawyer will draft formal documents to begin your lawsuit and file them in the appropriate jurisdiction and venue. These documents include a complaint which will include the facts of your case, and possibly the amount of compensation you are seeking. A summons is an official notification informing the other party of the lawsuit. Instructions will be given to the party about providing an answer – a response to your claim. A trial date will also be set by the court.
The discovery process will begin.
This process involves a formal exchange of evidence. Each side may provide questions and answers to the other. Copies of documents are exchanged. Witnesses are asked to give depositions, or sworn testimony, about the accident. This can take several months to complete. During this process, each side gets a good idea of what evidence will be presented in court.
There may be more settlement negotiations.
As both sides get a better sense of what to expect during a trial, settlement negotiations continue to try to resolve the matter outside of court. Your lawyer will keep you informed about any settlement offers that are made and advise you whether they are in your interest. The choice to accept a settlement is always yours, however.
The trial begins.
If no settlement is reached, the case will go to court. You may have a jury trial or a bench trial in which a judge will make the final decision.
The trial will begin with each side presenting their opening statements. Then your attorney will present evidence and witness testimony. When that case has been presented, the insurance company’s attorney will present their case.
When all evidence has been presented, each side will give closing statements. When those have been completed, the judge in a jury trial will provide instructions for jurors. The jury or judge will then consider all of the evidence and reach a decision. This could take anywhere from hours to days to weeks. Remember that it’s still possible to reach a settlement during a trial at any point before the verdict.
When filing a lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for damages including current and future medical expenses related to your injuries, lost wages if you were unable to work and other damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.