A personal injury lawsuit is a legal claim filed by someone who has suffered physical or psychological harm due to the negligent or intentional actions of another person, company, or entity. Personal injury lawsuits allow the injured party to seek compensation for losses like medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and other damages.
Lawsuits typically arise from car accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, workplace accidents, or any other situation where the actions or negligence of another party harmed an individual. The injured party must prove that the other party's actions or negligence directly caused their injuries and that they suffered damages as a result. A lawyer knowledgeable about personal injury law can guide you on the steps in a personal injury lawsuit.
How Long Do Personal Injury Lawsuits Take?
A case can take from one to three years to navigate through the court system, according to research by the National Center for State Courts and the United States Department of Justice. Throughout this period, your case will undergo a series of procedures, including collecting evidence, testimonies from witnesses, settlement negotiations, and potential litigation if the case proceeds to trial.
Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits
Personal injury cases may involve:
- Car accidents
- Uber accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Dog bite injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Wrongful death
How Often Do Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?
Most cases resolve through settlements outside of the courtroom—about 95 percent, according to The Law Dictionary. In personal injury cases, plaintiffs and defendants prefer to avoid a lengthy and costly trial. However, for the small percentage that does proceed to trial, research shows over 90 percent of them end with a verdict in favor of the plaintiff who initiated the lawsuit.
What Is the Personal Injury Claims Process Like?
Here is a general rundown of the claims process:
Retaining a Personal Injury Lawyer
You’ll first need to retain a lawyer. Many personal injury law firms provide complimentary consultations, during which your attorney will ask about the details of your accident and injuries. They may also request medical records to determine the extent of your injuries and other evidence to support your claim for damages. Your lawyer will determine whether you have a viable case and advise you on your legal options.
While you are not obligated to follow their advice, should you opt to proceed, your attorney will typically initiate the process by collecting evidence to present to the insurance company.
Settlement Prior to Litigation
Once you complete your initial medical treatment, your attorney will collect copies of your medical records, invoices, proof of lost income, and other pertinent documents to assess your damages. Upon your consent, your lawyer will present this information, along with a settlement demand, to the insurance company.
The insurer may respond with a counteroffer. Negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company can take time. Throughout this process, your lawyer will keep you informed and involved in the negotiations, providing guidance on whether to accept an offer.
Ultimately, the decision rests with you. If the insurance company refuses to settle, your attorney may initiate a lawsuit in civil court.
Filing a Personal Injury Complaint
Your personal injury lawsuit begins when you submit a complaint to the court, pay the filing fees, and serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint. Your attorney will draft the complaint. The complexity of the case, pre-filing negotiations, and the difficulty involved in serving the defendants may extend or reduce the time these tasks involve.
Your lawyer will file your case within the state's statute of limitations. Both Florida and Pennsylvania have a two-year deadline for filing personal injury cases in civil court, which begins on the date of the injury. You cannot recover damages through the court system if you miss this deadline.
During the discovery phase, both parties share preliminary research and evidence before the trial. This information may include police reports, medical records, and depositions. Depositions transcribe sworn oral testimonies from witnesses.
Typically, the discovery process begins shortly after you file the complaint. Discovery typically concludes about a month before the scheduled trial.
After receiving the discovery materials, your lawyer will likely initiate settlement discussions with the opposing party. These negotiations can take various forms, ranging from informal phone conversations between attorneys to more structured processes like mediation or arbitration. Most cases resolve through settlements, often before the trial itself and sometimes as late as on the eve of the trial.
If the other side refuses a fair settlement, your case may enter the trial phase. Courtroom proceedings may begin with jury selection. During the trial, both parties may present opening statements, introduce evidence and witness testimonies, cross-examine witnesses, and present closing arguments. Afterward, the judge provides instructions to the jury regarding their responsibilities. The jury deliberates on the case and delivers a verdict.
Verdict & Award
If the jury hands down a verdict in your favor, it will announce a monetary award the defendants must pay you. If either party disagrees with the verdict, they may appeal the case. If the appeal succeeds, the court may set a new trial date or settlement negotiations may resume. In general, a party must file an appeal within 30 days of the verdict.
What Factors Affect How Long a Personal Injury Trial Takes?
A trial may take from one to seven days.
The time it takes the jury to reach a verdict or settlement depends on:
- The case's complexity
- The number of defendants
- The severity of injuries and the extent of damages
- The strength of your case
- The strength of the defendant’s case
- The court’s caseload in your jurisdiction
- The number of witnesses testifying
- The percentage of fault of each party
Proving Negligence in Personal Injury Lawsuits
To succeed in a personal injury case, you must show the other party's negligence. Negligence refers to the failure of a person or group to exercise reasonable care in a certain situation that harms another person. To do this, you must establish the four elements of negligence—duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Here's an explanation of each:
Duty of Care
To prove that someone had a duty of care, you must show that a reasonable person in the same situation would have recognized that their actions could harm another person. For example, all motorists have a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely to protect others on the road from accidents.
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty is when the defendant fails to act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the same situation. In other words, a driver who runs red lights and stop signs breaches their duty of care.
Causation is the direct link between the defendant's breach of duty and the harm the plaintiff suffered. For example, the other driver runs a red light and collides with your car, which causes your injuries.
Damages refer to the economic and non-economic losses you suffer due to your accident injuries.
Economic damages are those with actual monetary value. Examples include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income and earnings
- Loss of future earnings
- Property damage
Non-economic damages lack objective monetary value, but they take a toll on the injured party. Examples include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Doss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Disfigurement and scarring
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Personal Injuries?
If you or someone close to you suffered serious injuries that resulted in extensive medical treatment, a loss of income, and other life-altering effects, you can greatly improve your chances of recovering more compensation for your losses if you retain a personal injury lawyer.
Insurance companies may offer you compensation to quickly settle your claim. Never accept an offer without talking with an attorney to learn how much your case is really worth.
Insurance companies usually make offers that fail to adequately compensate for the full value of an accident victim’s damages. And, most people don't know which damages they can rightfully claim. A personal injury attorney can investigate your accident and conduct a comprehensive review of your accident injuries to determine the full extent of your damages. They will also handle all negotiations with insurance providers on your behalf.
An experienced personal injury attorney grants you peace of mind, knowing that a professional is handling the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on your recovery.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer with The Levin Firm Today
Whether you suffered injuries in a car accident, dog bite attack, or slip and fall incident, having a personal injury attorney on your side greatly improves your chances of recovering maximum compensation for all your losses.
Look for a personal injury lawyer with the experience you need to proceed through settlement negotiations and, if necessary, a lawsuit. Contact a personal injury lawyer from The Levin Firm today for your free consultation and case evaluation.