I Was Hurt and It Was Not My Fault. What Can I Do?
Every personal injury case is its own unique story. Rarely does anything repeat according to a pattern. Facts, locations, laws, injuries, jurisdiction, liability and insurance coverage will vary. If you have been injured, as you assess your situation, you may wish to consult an attorney.
The initial meeting with a personal injury attorney often is free. During that meeting you will have a chance to talk to the attorney and he will have an opportunity to assess your case.
Based on that meeting, the injured party may decide to look elsewhere or the attorney may feel the case is not one he can pursue for any number of reasons, or there can be mutual satisfaction with both sides feeling confident about the case.
Here are the crucial questions your attorney will ask:
Where and When Did Your Injury (Damages) Occur?
Did it happen at home, at work, in a setting such as while visiting a business or a municipal park, or in a vehicle?
Did it take place within the time frame that will allow you to recover? This time frame is typically one or two years under what is called the statute of limitations.
Was There a Triggering Event?
Were you damaged because of an auto or construction accident? Did you slip in a wet store aisle or trip over a broken sidewalk? Did a product or service malfunction and cause injuries? Were you exposed to hazardous materials or burned in a fire?
These are just some of the causes of personal injuries, there can be many more.
In the event of an on the job injury, your case may go through Workers Compensation and thus negating a lawsuit against an employer. However, some job related injuries may also involve third parties, who can still be made defendants in a suit.
Was there Negligence Involved and/or a Responsible Party?
Lawyers at the Bryant Law Center will discuss your case with you and review your legal options. We will identify the injury and damages, identify potentially responsible parties, calculate the full scope of your loss including current and future medical expenses; lost wages, any property damage, living expenses, rental car, a loss of consortium, or assess any permanent impairment.
We will determine what insurance coverage may apply (health insurance, workers comp, vehicle insurance including personal injury protection, uninsured or underinsured, or business and commercial insurance.)
We will review federal vehicle defect and consumer product defect databases to see if there was a contributing factor to your accident and/or injury.
What Happens Next?
If your attorney accepts your case, you will sign a contract for the law firm to represent you. That contract will outline how fees and expenses will be calculated.
Typically, personal injury cases are taken on a contingent fee basis, meaning that the attorney will be paid according to a percentage of the settlement obtained.
When the injured party’s case is prepared, the attorney will contact the defendant and present his request for damages / compensation in what is called a demand letter.
Once the responsible party has been contacted, a defense attorney will probably get involved.
Will a Suit Be Filed?
Many personal injury law firms will attempt to negotiate with insurance carriers or defendants to obtain a settlement without filing suit. A large majority of personal injury claims are resolved this way.
In the event that negotiations stall, the next step may be to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. People who bring the lawsuit are referred to as the plaintiff. The other side will be the defendants who will also have their own attorney.
Even after filing suit, most cases are still settled without a trial.
What is Expected of Me?
An injured party contemplating a lawsuit may wonder what demands there will be on his or her time. Will it force them to miss work? Will they have to arrange additional day care or arrange for an after school sitter? Will special trips be required and will you have to spend days with your attorney. You may wonder what if any types of information will I have to provide?
After initial meetings with the attorney who takes your case or with his paralegal, you will be asked to provide medical records or authorize medical providers to release your records.
Depending on the case, you may have to provide information about your income and taxes and possibly provide a few years of tax returns.
Defense attorneys may ask you to turn over archives of all of your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see if you have discussed your injuries or accident with others online.
You may have to provide employment records such as timesheets or attendance records or 1099 or W2 forms.
You may be asked to sit for a deposition, which is a meeting, usually held in a law office, in which both attorneys in the case will get to ask you questions. You will be sworn in, but a judge will not be present. A court reporter will record, transcribe and may video the deposition. This may last for a few minutes to several hours, depending on the complexity of the case and damages sought. A deposition is usually scheduled weeks in advance allowing you to prepare and arrange for child care or schedule time off from employment.
It is important for you as a client to keep your attorney’s office updated on any changes in your address, phone number or life events such as a marriage or divorce or employment.
Will I Go to Court?
Plaintiffs and defense attorneys many times are able to resolve cases by negotiation. Once a suit is filed, each side will exchange information in a process called discovery – each side is discovering facts about the other side’s case.
After the discovery is exchanged, key witnesses may be asked to sit down for a question and answer session – the above mentioned depositions. It helps both sides discover more evidence and also provides both sides with an in-depth look at the case and the facts. There may also be requests for additional records made of both sides.
Prior to trial, both sides may meet with another attorney acting as a referee and engage in mediation, another method of resolving cases without a trial.
Will I Have a Trial?
Actually sitting in a courtroom through a trial on your personal injury case only happens in a very small percentage of cases. Plaintiffs who go trial will be advised they can always run the risk of a jury awarding them no damages.
However, in some cases, where both sides are passionate about their positions, a trial may be the only resolution. There will be an opening, and both sides will present their cases, lawyers will then file motions to try and seek a full or partial dismissal of claims.
Depending on the complexity of the case and the damages, a trial could take a day, several days, two weeks, or longer. Each side may face additional expenses for any expert witnesses who are called to testify such as physicians.
A plaintiff may wait several months or a year to actually get a trial date for his or her case. There is also the possibility that the defense may petition to remove your case to the local US District Court if out of state parties are involved.
When Does It End?
A jury award may not be the last word. Either side may appeal the outcome, usually based on a legal issue in the jury instructions or a witness or evidence that was either introduced or excluded. Appeals can be costly and time consuming.
From a Kentucky circuit court, appeals would go to the Kentucky Court of Appeals and then the Kentucky Supreme Court. Appellate courts can either agree to hear a case or pass, in which case the lower court ruling would apply. Appeals can take a year or more to work through the system.
An appellate court can also remand a case back to a trial court with specific instructions. No new evidence is introduced during an appeal; judges will review the trial record and exhibits.
If you receive a jury award, others may have a legal claim on the outcome like health insurance providers or auto, workers compensation, or property insurers, or Medicare, which may demand to be reimbursed for any medical or other expenses they paid.
After all third party claims are cleared, and your attorney and your case expenses have been paid, you will receive the remaining funds in a check from the attorney to be spent or managed as you see fit.