What are the Steps Involved in a Personal Injury Case?

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Car accidents, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, and slip and fall accidents are just a few examples of incidents that can cause serious injuries. Depending on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injury, the victim is often left with thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages if he or she is unable to return to work for an extended period. If the accident was caused by another person’s negligence, the injured party may seek financial compensation by filing a personal injury claim. However, it is important for the injured victim to understand that these cases do not get resolved overnight. There is a process that must be followed before compensation can be collected. A skilled accident lawyer can assist his or her client with every stage of the personal injury claims process and seek the best possible financial outcome.

What is the Timeline of a Typical Personal Injury Case?

Every personal injury case is unique, and the amount of time it takes to resolve the case will depend on a number of factors, including the type of accident that caused the injury and how likely it is that negligence can be proved. Oftentimes, the parties involved will settle the case out of court. Although every case does not necessarily follow this timeline, the following is a chronological overview of the steps involved in the personal injury case process:

  • An accident occurs. Serious accidents can occur when least expected, from a motorist getting hit by another driver who ran through a red light, a construction worker who gets struck by a falling object at a construction site, to a patient who suffers a serious injury after their doctor leaves a surgical instrument inside their body. It is important for the injured victim to document the accident by collecting as much evidence as possible. It is important to take pictures of the accident scene, write detailed notes about the accident, obtain copies of medical records, and gather witness contact if other people saw the accident happen. If police were present at the scene, it is highly recommended that the injured party obtains a copy of the police report.
  • Medical attention is sought as soon as possible. It is critical that accident victims are examined by a skilled medical professional, even if the injuries do not appear to be serious or life-threatening. Oftentimes, the adrenaline that is coursing through the body after a stressful event can mask the symptoms of a serious injury. Other injuries may not appear until a few hours after the accident, or even the next day. For example, a car accident victim may not experience any symptoms of whiplash or a concussion immediately following the accident. A skilled medical professional knows the signs to look for and can diagnose an injury before the victim even feels any pain or discomfort. Even if an ambulance does not transport the injured victim to the nearest emergency room, he or she should go directly to the hospital to get checked out.
    Accident victims are also urged to take pictures of their injuries, including any bruises, cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. These injuries heal over time, and the pictures will provide photographic evidence of the injuries before they healed. Finally, it is crucial that a car accident victim seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident. A failure to do so will prevent the victim from collecting the $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits available through his or her car insurance policy.
  • Personal injury lawyer is contacted. Although it may be tempting to hold off on hiring a personal injury lawyer until the insurance company makes an initial settlement offer, it is highly recommended that the injured victim consults with a skilled accident lawyer who can review all the details of the case and recommend the best legal course of action. Individuals who obtain legal counsel are more likely to secure a favorable settlement than if they handled the case on their own. In fact, according to a study by the Insurance Research Council, those who hire injury lawyers to handle their personal injury claim receive settlements that are more than three times larger than those who handle the cases on their own.
  • Lawyer investigates the claim and reviews the case. One of the first things an accident lawyer will do once they have been hired is to conduct a thorough interview with the injured victim. The accident lawyer will want to know exactly what happened, the events leading up to the accident, any medical conditions that the client had before or after the accident, and where he or she was treated for the injuries. The legal team will likely ask a range of detailed questions, some of which may seem quite personal. However, the more information the lawyer has up front, the more prepared they will be, and better able to avoid unfortunate surprises later. During this stage, the accident lawyer will also collect all medical records and bills associated with the injury.
  • Insurance claim is filed. A personal injury claim will be filed against the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. For example, if the injury was caused by a car accident, the claim will be filed against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. In slip and fall cases, the claim may be filed against the property owner’s insurance company. In medical malpractice cases, the claim is filed with the hospital’s insurance carrier.
  • Lawyers negotiate a settlement. If the lawyer believes that the case can be settled out of court, he or she will draft a demand letter, which summarizes the claim and includes the compensation amount that the injured victim seeks. The demand letter and the court filing are made after the client has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), as it is difficult to have a comprehensive understanding of what the case is worth until the client has completed their medical treatment.
  • Injured party’s lawyer files a lawsuit. If a settlement cannot be reached, the accident lawyer will file the lawsuit and take the case to court. Once the lawsuit is filed, the clock starts running on when the case will go to trial. Generally, it takes one to two years for a personal injury case to go to trial. The accident lawyer will ensure that the claim is filed within the statute of limitations.
  • The discovery phase begins. During this stage of a personal injury lawsuit, both parties investigate the other side’s legal defenses. They may depose witnesses and request a wide range of documents from all relevant parties. For example, if the injured party was in a car accident, the other driver’s lawyer may ask if the injured party had been treated for an injury prior to the accident, and if they were wearing their prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses at the time of the accident. This process can last up to a year, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s deadlines.
  • Mediation and negotiation discussions occur. Following the discovery period, lawyers will enter settlement discussions. Depending on the nature of the case, the lawyers may be able to agree on a fair settlement amount. However, this is not always the case. There are times when it becomes necessary to go into mediation, where both clients and both lawyers get assistance from a neutral third-party mediator who will work with all parties involved to agree on a settlement. The following an example of a typical medication process:
    Initiation: A request for mediation is filed.
    – Mediator selection: Each party selects a mediator.
    – Sessions:
    Both sides meet and discuss the information.
    – Settlement:
    Both parties come to an agreement and resolve the claim.
    – Impasse:
    The parties do not reach an agreement, and the case moves to trial.
  • Case may go to trial. If a settlement cannot be reached through mediation, it will be scheduled for trial. This can last for a period of days or weeks, or even months. Some lawyers will conduct focus groups or mock trials to prepare for the trial and identify potential weaknesses in the case. Trials often get pushed or rescheduled if the judge overseeing the case has a scheduling conflict. This happens often and does not mean that something negative is happening. A personal injury trial consists of the following phases:
    – Choosing a jury
    – Opening statements
    – Witness testimony and cross-examination
    – Closing arguments
    – Jury instruction
    – Jury deliberation and verdict

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Clients with Each Stage of the Claims Process

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, you are urged to contact the experienced Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. The claims process can be confusing and overwhelming, but we will address all your questions and concerns and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries.  We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.