How Do I Pursue a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Filing a personal injury lawsuit usually happens after a serious accident or other incident when you or a loved one have been hurt, or even killed because of someone’s negligence. You have medical bills and other expenses, and you don’t know how to make the other person pay for them. What are the steps you need to take to get compensation for your injuries?
Contact a Lawyer
As much as we like to think we can do things ourselves, this is one area you should never try to “go it alone.” There are a number of things that need to happen after this first step, and they involve legal deadlines, requesting documents from police and doctors, and preventing their attorneys from asking the wrong questions. At The Benton Law Firm. we can review the facts in your situation and give you our opinion on the best way to go forward with your case.
Investigate Your Claim
In car accidents and some kinds of workplace injuries, the police or a site investigator may have already done an investigation. Your attorney will get a copy of that report if it is available. But most of the time, you need to do your own investigation. For instance, suppose you slipped on a puddle in a store. The investigation would include:
- Getting pictures of the aisle, even after the spill was wiped up
- Obtaining a copy of any security videos
- Getting copies of the maintenance schedule, if any exists
- Witness statements and interviews
Listing and Assessing Damages
Before the insurance company can make you an offer of settlement, you must have an estimate of your accident-related losses. Losses must be reasonable and related to the injury itself. If you slipped on a puddle in the store and broke your arm, you may not file a claim for millions of dollars for pain and suffering.
However, you are allowed to file for any expenses that reasonably flow from the injury itself. You may sue for:
- Medical bills, including past expenses prior to filing your lawsuit, and future costs if the injury is likely to require additional treatment
- Lost wages or other income due to time off for treatment or rehabilitation
- Damage to property from the accident
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
Most of this assessment can be determined from your medical bills and your paychecks or other pay statements. Texas uses a multiplier rule to determine pain and suffering. Your lawyer can help you with that.
At this stage, once all the investigation has been done and your damages have been calculated, your attorney will send a demand letter to the insurance company or their attorney. This demand will lay out the facts you and your attorney have gathered, and the amount of your demand based on your bills, lost income, and other factors.
If it seems evident that the other party is at fault, and especially if the amount is not great, the other party may be willing to settle at this point. In that case, your attorney will review the other party’s offer and give you their best advice on whether or not to accept.
If you do not wish to accept, or they choose not to make a settlement offer, your lawyer will file a lawsuit with the court.
Discovery and Litigation
After the lawsuit is filed, things slow down. The court will set deadlines for the completion of discovery. Discovery is the process of exchanging information. During discovery, the parties will request additional information from one another, regarding injuries, treatment, the accident itself, and so on. For instance, if you were injured in a grocery store, your attorney might ask for depositions from the manager and the janitors, records showing how often the floors are mopped, and records of any other claims against the store.
The grocery store might ask you to sit for a deposition and might demand your medical records to see if you have had a broken arm in the past and if you have had any other civil suits against grocery stores.
During this process, the attorneys will continue negotiation and a settlement offer can be made at any time. If either side wishes to accept the offer, it will end the process, although sometimes the attorneys will ask that a judgment be written to finalize the case.
If an agreement can’t be reached, the case will proceed to trial and the judge or jury will determine whether you are eligible to be compensated and if so, the amount of damages you’ll be paid. Contact us if you have any questions about your case.
How We Can Help
As you see, this is an extremely complex and time-consuming procedure. You can expect it to take at least one to three years from the start of the case to the final judgment if the case goes all the way to trial.
The Dallas personal injury attorneys of The Benton Law Firm know this can be an emotional and difficult time for you, and we want to see that you get the compensation you are entitled to receive. Contact The Benton Law Firm at (214) 777-7777 today for a free, confidential consultation about your case. Let us get started today.