If you got hurt because of someone else’s carelessness or intentional act, you might have a personal injury claim. When the at-fault party or his insurance company refuses to pay a reasonable amount to settle your claim, you will have to file a lawsuit to preserve your right to compensation.
When you are facing the possibility of litigation, it can help to know what to expect. A California personal injury attorney can handle your claims and answer the question, “What are the stages of a personal injury lawsuit?”
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
California law does not force you to hire a personal injury lawyer to take care of your lawsuit, but it can be a good idea. Insurance companies have hundreds of defense attorneys at their beck and call. Their job is to find ways to get your lawsuit dismissed or to pay you as little money as possible.
File the Lawsuit and Serve the Defendant
Every state limits the time you have to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for personal injuries. If you miss the deadline, you will lose the right to hold the defendant accountable for your losses.
The papers that get filed with the court to start the lawsuit must comply with all of the applicable rules. Also, the defendant has to get served with those papers properly. Failing to do either of these steps correctly can result in a dismissal of your lawsuit.
How Discovery Works
After the defendant gets served with the initial pleadings, both sides try to find out as much information as possible about the accident. They will try to strengthen their own case and tear down the other side’s case. Depositions, interrogatories, and requests for the production of documents happen during this stage.
Pre-Trial Hearings and Court Conferences
Before the case gets set for trial, there will likely be several trips to the courthouse for status conferences, settlement conferences, and arguing motions. The court will encourage the parties to settle the case, or at a minimum, resolve as many issues as possible before trial.
Try to Negotiate a Fair Settlement with the At-Fault Party’s Attorney
The vast majority of personal injury claims settle out of court. Your personal injury lawyer will make efforts throughout the case to get you a fair settlement from the defendant without having to go to trial. These negotiations can continue even during the trial.
What to Expect at Trial
Each side will get to present their evidence to the judge and cross-examine the other side’s witnesses. Unlike what you see on television, most of the time at court gets spent waiting. After each side rests, the judge or jury makes a decision.
If you have a jury trial, they will deliberate in the jury room until they reach a verdict. In a bench trial, one in which there is a judge but no jury, the judge decides the result. Often, a judge will take the case under submission, which means that they will rule on the case at a later date. It could be weeks or months before you get a decision.
How to Get the Money the Court Awards You
The court can order the defendant to pay you a certain amount of money, but if the defendant does not have any or enough insurance coverage to pay the amount of the judgment, you might have to collect the judgment through other means. Depending on the circumstances, you might have to garnish the defendant’s wages or bank account or take other collection measures.
An Overview of Appeals
If either side is unhappy with the result at trial and has legal grounds for appeal, they can file an appeal of the judgment. Appellate rules require the appealing party to file specific papers with the court within a certain number of days.
A California personal injury attorney can fight hard to go after the compensation that you deserve in your personal injury lawsuit. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.