The 5 Steps Toward Settling a Personal Injury Lawsuit
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The 5 Steps Toward Settling a Personal Injury Lawsuit

July 28, 2021

Personal injury lawsuits are never fun, either for the plaintiff or defendant. If someone or some business entity harms you, though, this is usually the most logical action you can take. You’ll need to follow some particular steps to have the best possible outcome, and that’s what we’ll talk about in the following article.

Remember that these are general steps that occur in most personal injury lawsuits, but not every one of them. Sometimes, the plaintiff either aborts the case because they feel they don’t have enough evidence, or else the defendant decides to settle out of court if they don’t want a jury to determine their fate.

Start by Hiring a Competent Lawyer

Before you can start thinking about things like how long it might take to settle your personal injury lawsuit, you’ll almost always need to hire an attorney to get the ball rolling. You might do some research to see what lawyers there are in your area who have dealt with cases in the past that are similar to yours.

If all you can find are newer lawyers who have just passed the bar, that’s not exactly ideal. You want an experienced trial lawyer, just in case the defendant is not willing to settle out of court.

Meet with the lawyer you’re considering hiring, and tell them in as much detail as possible about what happened. They can listen to you and take some notes, and before long, they should be able to tell you whether they feel you have a valid case or not.

If they do decide you have grounds to go after the defendant in court, and they’re willing to take your case, you’ll have to work out a payment plan. Lawyers do not come cheap, but you may be able to hire one based on a contingency payment basis. That means you will only pay your attorney if they win the case for you, but if they lose, you’ll pay them nothing.

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File a Complaint

Your lawyer will then file what the legal system calls a complaint against the person or business entity that harmed you. The complaint is a formal declaration to that person or entity, telling them that you plan to sue them.

The complaint will lay out some of the critical lawsuit details, such as why you plan to sue. This gives the defendant a chance to hire their own lawyer, and together, they will start to prepare a defense if the lawsuit does go to trial. Their lawyer might also advise them to settle before the process goes any further.

Whether that happens depends on whether the defendant did something egregious or whether they harmed you entirely by accident. If the defendant feels like your suit is meritless, they’re likely to spurn a settlement and allow the matter to proceed to a courtroom appearance and a jury trial.

The Discovery Phase

Assuming that the defendant does not want to settle with you, the case will work its way through the discovery phase. This is a time that could take days, weeks, or months.

During discovery, you must show the opposing counsel precisely what you have come up with that demonstrates why you believe you have a valid legal case against their client for damages you sustained. Some action on their part may have injured you, or perhaps their actions killed someone in your family. If so, you’re pursuing a wrongful death case, which is a particular kind of personal injury lawsuit.

During discovery, the opposing counsel might depose you. A deposition is a meeting where you sit in front of the opposing counsel, and possibly the person you’re suing, and the opposing counsel asks you any questions they feel are relevant so they can better defend their client.

Depositions can be challenging since you have to try to answer questions so that you don’t give the opposing counsel any evidence they can use against you to disprove what you say happened. Your lawyer can prep you for the deposition. They will tell you what to say and what not to, and they’ll warn the opposing counsel if they try to make you answer any questions that are off-limits.

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The Trial

Next up is the trial, where you and the defendant appear in a courtroom setting. A judge will be there, as will jury members who are there to listen to your arguments and the defendant’s counterpoints.

You might have to appear on the stand, but not always. The defendant may also appear on the stand, but not necessarily. Your appearance on the stand, or theirs, will depend on whether either of your lawyers thinks that action will benefit either one of you.

The Verdict

If you get through the trial without the defendant settling, the jury must decide who is in the right. Jury verdicts are notoriously unpredictable. You might feel that your lawyer proved beyond any doubt that the other party caused your injury or a wrongful death, but the jury might not see it that way because of some technicality.

If you do win your case, though, congratulations are in order. You made it through this very challenging portion of your life, and hopefully, better times are ahead for you.

The next logical query, of course, is how long you will have to wait to get the financial compensation the jury instructed the defendant to give you. They should pay you expediently, but of course, you have no way of knowing exactly what their financial situation is.

They might pay you within days or weeks, or it could be months or even years. If they don’t have the money to pay you a lump sum all at once, the court might garnish their salary at work for many years since that’s the only way you can get your financial compensation. You’ll probably see all of that money eventually, but it’s likely not going to come to you instantaneously.

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