Accidents happen all the time, and they can leave people facing various consequences. Economic and non-economic losses can take a toll on someone. If negligence played a role, the injured person could seek compensation to pay their bills. Every state has personal injury laws to help victims of accidents back on their feet.
If you plan to pursue reimbursement, you should hire a personal injury lawyer. An attorney manages most of the lawsuit process for you. They may be able to answer any questions you have as well. One common concern is how long your personal injury lawsuit will take to resolve.
Common Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits
Personal injury lawsuits cover a wide range of negligent-based traumatic events. However, you must ensure the firm you hire has taken cases like yours. Some lawyers specialize in a few specific categories. Meanwhile, others will accept lawsuits for other forms of injury accidents.
Overall, you have a high chance of finding an attorney for several common personal injury claims. You may have multiple options based on your location.
A car accident is one of the most common forms of personal injury lawsuits. Over 6.7 million motor vehicle collisions cause injuries and fatalities annually in the United States. People are likely to begin a claim because they believe another person caused their injuries.
A driver usually was the one who acted carelessly and failed to keep others safe on the road. However, you may discover the local government or a manufacturing company was responsible instead. An attorney can help you learn who is liable for damages and prove they were at fault.
Plenty of people have sustained injuries while on another person’s property. Premises liability applies to accidents on public and private land. A person could be in a grocery store, mall, neighbor’s home, or a government facility.
Many situations go under the category of premises liability. Over one million people visit hospitals for slips and falls, so reported cases usually involve someone falling. Spilled liquid, melted snow, and debris may cause someone to trip or slip.
Premises liability may include cases of swimming pool accidents and elevator malfunctions. Talk to an attorney if you are unsure if you have a valid premises liability claim.
Wrongful death is another category of personal injury where the victim dies because of their injuries. Their death may occur on the same day or weeks later. Even though the victim cannot file a lawsuit, a family member or personal representative may do so.
Surviving spouses, children, and other dependents may suffer from the medical and burial costs. Additionally, many of them experience emotional distress throughout the ordeal. A lawyer may be able to get them the financial support they need.
Many products have to meet safety standards before they can enter the market. Nevertheless, people may still get injuries or illnesses from an item they bought. Accidents may happen because a product is defective or does not have proper warnings or instructions. Even contaminated food can result in product liability.
Anyone in the distribution chain may be responsible for the injuries an individual sustains. You could sue the manufacturer, distributor, and retail store. During the investigation, your lawyer may discover multiple parties were negligent.
File and Serve the Complaint
While you wait for an outcome, you can expect the standard timeline of a lawsuit to have a few phases. The first step is to initiate the process by filing the complaint. A complaint describes the opposing side’s actions and how they caused your injuries.
Your lawyer has a month to locate the defendant and serve them the papers. Then, you must wait for the other party to respond. The liable person may agree to the allegations or deny them.
After you serve the complaint, the defendant may hire an attorney. They might attempt to negotiate compensation with you or file a motion to dismiss.
The case proceeds to the discovery stage if the judge does not dismiss the lawsuit. Your lawyer begins to collect the facts and produce documents during the discovery. Both sides request papers from each other. Additionally, the attorneys schedule depositions to get official statements from each party and witness.
The entire phase generally lasts anywhere from six months to a year. However, your lawsuit may move on sooner or could take longer.
Mediation and Negotiation
After the discovery, both sides usually meet to attempt a settlement. Both lawyers may discuss possible compensation by themselves. Alternatively, they could attend mediation with their clients. A third party acts as a mediator during the session.
A pretrial settlement is the most likely outcome of a personal injury lawsuit. Around 95 percent of cases do not reach the courtroom.
If neither side can agree on a settlement deal, the lawsuit proceeds to the trial stage. You would present your argument to a judge, and a jury decides on a verdict. The outcome is less likely to end in the plaintiff’s favor than pretrial negotiations.
Trials extend the duration of personal injury lawsuits. The court date could be months away, but the judge could reschedule at any time.
How to Prove Negligence
Personal injury accident claims operate on the concept of negligence. In court, the plaintiff has to prove how the defendant was liable for damages. If the injured party is successful, they can get a settlement.
Duty of Care
The first step to proving negligence is demonstrating how the other party owed you a duty of care. Duty of care is the legal obligation a person or entity has to ensure the safety of others. A person must show reasonable precaution when they perform a potentially harmful activity.
In a premises liability case, the property owner is responsible for keeping visitors safe. Meanwhile, you can establish someone’s duty of care since all motorists must avoid dangerous behaviors.
Breach in Duty of Care
Next, you must provide evidence of how the opposing party failed to meet the standard of reasonable care. A person may have acted while knowing of the potential dangers. Even inaction can result in negligence.
Manufacturers breach their legal duty if they proceed to make a product with a flawed design. Distributors and sellers may have known about the defects but allowed people to buy the items.
Some of the evidence you collect can prove the other person breached their duty of care. For example, video footage may show how a property owner did not fix an issue in time. Phone records can reveal the other driver got distracted before the accident. Witnesses are a valuable asset as well.
The Accident Caused Your Injuries
After you demonstrate the breach of legal duty, you must connect the person’s actions to your injuries. A driver may have gone above the speed limit. However, another outside force is responsible for the bodily harm.
Medical records are necessary for proving negligence. Your lawyer can use them to show the other side caused the injuries. Furthermore, expert witness testimonies explain how the injuries occurred because of the defendant’s behavior.
The Injuries Led to Damages
The last step is to link the injuries to the damages you suffered. You may have missed a lot of work time because of the accident. Medical documents exhibit how you needed extensive recovery, and pay stubs help prove lost wages.
The accident may have led to many expenses as well. You would use medical and property repair bills as evidence of the money you spent because of the other party’s actions.
Negligence is not always easy to prove. Personal injury lawyers thoroughly investigate to find the liable party and establish their negligence.
The Insurer May Delay Your Claim
One reason you may have to wait longer for reimbursement is a delay from the insurance company. You likely will have to deal with the other party’s insurer. For instance, you might file an accident claim after a motor vehicle collision.
While some insurers will pay what they owe, many try to avoid or minimize the payout. Adjusters have multiple tactics to uphold the company’s best interests. A few of their strategies involve delaying claims.
The ways the adjuster may delay your case include:
- Unnecessary documents. The adjuster may ask for additional documents to finish processing your claim. However, they likely do not require the paperwork. The tactic can get you to waste by looking for copies of what they request.
- Lack of communication. Some claimants struggle to get a hold of an adjuster on the phone. They might not answer when you call and could contact you when you are unavailable.
- Delay the settlement. An insurer might make the settlement process last longer than it should. The goal is for you to become frustrated and be willing to accept a lower offer. However, insurance companies may have deadlines for when they need to pay.
Insurance companies might have other tactics they regularly use. They hope the claimant will give up. However, the person needs to be patient and persistent. Become familiar with the terms of the policy and know the value of your claim.
Additionally, you should hire a personal injury lawyer. An attorney deals with the insurer and protects you from unfair delay tactics.
Can You Sue the Government?
Most states allow residents to file a personal injury lawsuit against the government. However, several places may have immunity to specific incidents. A state may not be liable for unsafe street lighting or dangerous conditions on government property. Speak to a lawyer if your accident qualifies for a lawsuit.
Whether you sue the city or the state, you must follow special rules. For instance, you must send a notice of claim and follow the format guidelines. While each jurisdiction may have different requirements, a person usually should include their name and address.
Additionally, you must write the accident’s date, location, and time. Then, you need to send the notice to the correct government agency as certified mail. You would have to wait at least a month before you can file a lawsuit.
Another rule for lawsuits against the government involves a strict time limit. Unlike ordinary personal injury cases, you have less time to notify the government. The length of the deadline depends on where you live. You may have 30 days after you sustained injuries or 120.
Lawsuits against the government are complex. A personal injury attorney can help you go through the process.
What Happens if Multiple Parties Caused My Accident?
Usually, one person or entity is responsible for an individual’s injuries. However, your lawyer could discover multiple parties were negligent. An example would be if you were waiting for a red light when a vehicle stopped too close behind you.
Then, a third car was speeding and rear-ended the second vehicle. The force of the impact caused the middle vehicle to hit you. The other two drivers may be responsible for any injuries and property damage.
You can sue each person who contributed to the accident. Of course, you would need to prove how each defendant was negligent. During the lawsuit process, one party might try to shift the blame onto another liable person. A personal injury attorney works to ensure each side pays the compensation they owe.
The exact amount each party pays depends on how much they contributed to your injuries. One defendant could owe $500,000, and another might have to send a check for $300,000. You can rely on your lawyer to estimate a settlement figure for each opposing side.