What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
As an attorney, many people call my office asking, “What are the steps to filing a personal injury lawsuit?” The best way to move forward is to schedule a free consultation with my office and allow me to review your case in detail. This allows a plan to be created that’s specific to your unique case.
In general, here is what you should do prior to coming in for your case evaluation:
1. File an Accident Report
You need to call law enforcement and have them come to the scene so that an accident report can be written and filed. If you didn’t do so immediately after suffering your injury, file a report after the fact as quickly as possible and retain a copy.
2. Visit the Doctor
The initial examination and diagnosis is critical for receiving the treatment necessary to recover. This also establishes that you were injured in the accident.
3. Call Your Insurance Company
Florida auto insurance policies include personal injury protection insurance. If your accident was a motor vehicle crash of some sort, this comes into effect once you open a claim and will pay for some of your medical bills and lost wages.
The Process of Seeking Compensation
During your initial consultation, we will go over what happened during the accident, along with any details you can remember about the area, where the accident occurred, and the other parties involved. Bring any evidence or notes you have to this meeting. This conversation will help direct our next steps, which generally include those detailed below:
1. Signing a Client Agreement
You need to agree to have an attorney represent you in this matter. We will also discuss all of the other aspects of an attorney-client agreement, such as contingency fees.
2. The Negligent Party Needs to Be Identified
Before a personal injury lawsuit can be filed, someone else needs to be responsible for the accident. This may be immediately obvious, but in some cases, it requires having an attorney conduct an investigation.
3. Lawsuit Is Filed
With the negligent party or parties identified, the lawsuit can be filed in court. This will allege what happened and explain why you are seeking compensation. At this point, a court date will often be set.
The process of gathering evidence is called discovery. Lawyers use this time to find information that can prove things like fault and help back up why you deserve compensation. For example, part of the discovery process will be gathering medical records and collecting financial documentation, such as paystubs to prove lost wages. It might also include conducting depositions and asking the other party questions under oath.
5. Settlement Negotiations
In most cases, a demand letter will be drafted and sent to the other party for consideration. If they agree to negotiate a settlement, offers may go back and forth until a number is reached that fully covers all of your damages and losses. This is handled by your attorney, but you get the final say in whether to accept an offer.
If no agreement is reached through negotiations, the trial will commence on schedule. During the trial, both sides will make their argument, present evidence, and interview witnesses on the stand. A jury will then decide what the case is worth and how much to award in financial damages.
If either party doesn’t like the results, they can be appealed before a new judge—if there are grounds for an appeal.
8. Collecting on the Judgment
Most cases end with the insurance company writing a check. If the negligent party was uninsured, a judgment will be issued against them and collection action may be necessary for recovering all the compensation awarded to you.