Personal Injury : What You Need to Know
If you are injured by the negligence of another person or company you might need to hire a personal injury lawyer. Personal injury is one of the biggest areas of civil litigation. In 2018 alone, more than 420,000 tort claims were filed in state courts across the United States, according to the Court Statistics Project.
Examples of personal injury cases include the stereotypical slip-and-fall on the icy sidewalk but also extend to cases of negligence or intentional wrongdoing that can cause intense harm, permanent disability or even death.
While it’s important to understand that the laws vary in each state with regard to how long people have to file personal injury lawsuits (this is referred to as the statute of limitations), there are a few steps to take as you consider whether a personal injury lawsuit is the best option for receiving compensation for your injury or loss.
- Consult an Attorney
An adage in criminal courts applies here: A person who represents himself at trial has a fool for a client. This is perhaps even more true when it comes to tort claims and personal injury lawsuits. The civil court process is long and complex, and filing the wrong document at the wrong time could endanger the entire case and prevent you from receiving damages for your injury.
Most reputable attorneys offer free consultations for people who believe they have a strong personal injury case to bring, and it’s important to consult with an experienced lawyer who has handled many such cases, whether they’ve gone to trial or been settled.
- Gather All Documents
Gather all documents that relate to the incident, including printing out relevant emails or online statements. Be sure to collect any receipts, invoices or other financial documents that show any expenses you have had that relate to the accident or injury you suffered.
Include all medical statements, including explanation-of-benefit documents you might have received from your insurance company, as well as any documents or statements from a hospital or physician indicating a medical diagnosis in your case. If police were involved in the incident, some documentation should be public record, and you should be able to make copies of those documents.
It’s helpful to do this before you meet in person with an attorney, but remember that most lawsuits will stretch out for months or even years, and your attorney can help you in the document-gathering process.
- Remain Open-Minded
A crucial part of any personal injury lawsuit is the investigation phase in which your attorney or other members of their staff will question you, often in ways that might seem accusatory, about your claim. This is not because they don’t believe you but rather is an effort to ensure that they are able to prepare you for what you might face if your case proceeds to trial but also so they can be sure they fully understand all circumstances surrounding your case.
In some cases, your attorney might suggest that you and the responsible party avoid a trial and opt for settlement, mediation or arbitration, which are the three main ways that cases can be resolved before getting to a trial phase.
It’s understandable to resist any of these options, as most people who have been seriously injured by the actions of another want to get their day in court, and what most people envision when they think of what that means is sitting in a courtroom for a trial. But it’s often possible to reach an agreement that benefits everyone.
- Keep a Positive Attitude
Whether your case heads to trial or you resolve it through other options, any personal injury lawsuit will be a time-consuming and stressful ordeal in the best of circumstances. But most people who bring tort claims have suffered a serious injury, even including the death of a loved one, so in addition to a legal whirlwind, most plaintiffs are navigating rocky emotional waters throughout the process.
The strain of a lengthy court battle that could involve the defendant appealing the decision by a judge or jury can get to even the most steadfast individuals, so it’s important to remember that your attorney is your advocate, and having a qualified person on your side can help you navigate the complex court system.
Get Help With Your Case
To learn more or to consult with an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer, please contact us. (858) 794-1456