Maybe you were just driving down the road, listening to your favorite music on the radio, when another car T-boned you out of nowhere at an intersection.
Or you were riding your bicycle through the neighborhood on a beautiful sunny afternoon when an angry dog appears from nowhere, grabbing your leg in his jaws as the impact knocks your bike to the pavement.
Regardless of the type of accident and injuries, you know that someone is responsible for your medical bills and compensation for your suffering. You will need to contact your personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to begin the investigation and claims process, and you are wondering what is is going to happen next.
Although every case is different, we have outlined the typical stages of a personal injury lawsuit below.
1. An Injury Caused by Another’s Negligence
Every personal injury case begins with an injury of some kind that is caused by another person’s or company’s negligence, carelessness, or intentional actions. If there is an injury that is someone else’s fault, there are monetary damages, and if there is a source of recovery to collect from (the defendant’s insurance or assets), you probably have a valid case.
2. Finding a SC Personal Injury Lawyer
Any person is permitted to represent themselves in court, but most people do not. The law, procedures, and court rules are complicated enough that, if you want to win your case, you are most likely going to need an attorney who is experienced in auto accidents and other types of personal injury law.
Talk to several attorneys when possible, seek referrals from family and friends, and do your own research online before choosing an attorney that you are comfortable with and who you trust to handle your case for you.
3. Demand and Negotiations
In some cases, before filing suit, your attorney will send a demand letter once all of the evidence has been gathered and you have completed treatment. In most of these cases, even when liability is clear, the defendant’s insurance company will continue through the discovery process before seriously negotiating.
In other cases, your attorney will begin by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas or the federal court depending on which court has jurisdiction.
The Complaint filed by your attorney will briefly describe your causes of action and the facts that support each cause of action. Although it must state sufficient facts to support a cause of action (i.e. negligence, gross negligence, wrongful death), it should not contain any unnecessary or extra facts – remember that anything you put into your Complaint may be considered an admission by you in court.
Once the Complaint has been served on the Defendant(s), they have 30 days to respond with a formal Answer unless they request an extension. In most cases, the defendant will be represented by an attorney provided by their insurance company.
The discovery process is where both sides exchange their relevant evidence and witness information.
Information is gathered from the other side through:
- Requests to Produce – discovery requests that ask for the production of documents, videos, recordings, and other evidence that is relevant to the claims or defenses;
- Interrogatories – questions that the other side must answer in writing;
- Requests to Admit – you can ask the other side to admit certain facts or events that will help to prove your case; and
- Depositions – in most cases, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney will want to question all critical witnesses (including you) under oath with a court reporter present.
The discovery process continues until settlement or the trial of the case. Each side is under an ongoing obligation to produce relevant evidence as it is discovered or as it becomes available.
Your case can be settled at any time. In some cases, it may be settled early – even before filing the Complaint. Your case could settle during the discovery process, during mediation prior to trial, or even in the middle of a trial.
Usually the defense attorneys will not settle a case until they have completed discovery and taken all depositions, but every case is different.
8. Trial and Appeal
If the defendant or insurance company does not agree to pay full compensation for your injuries, your case may go to trial and a jury will decide whether to hold them accountable.
The judge will decide issues like summary judgment motions (motions to dismiss your case) brought by the defense lawyers, other pretrial motions, and objections made during the trial. A jury will ultimately decide whether the defendant is liable and how much they should pay, however.
At the end of the trial, the losing side can file an appeal based on the court’s rulings during the trial – this means that, when your case goes to trial, even if you win the trial, it could take many more years before you get paid. Most cases will be appealed to the Court of Appeals, and then another appeal to the Supreme Court may follow.
Depending on the issues on appeal and how the appellate courts rule, the decisions could be final after the appeal or you may have to retry your case again.
Are you thinking of bringing a lawsuit?
Seeing a personal injury claim through from beginning to end can be a complex, drawn out, and exhausting process.
It is critical that you hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible who can help you. Call Coastal Law, LLC’s Myrtle Beach personal injury attorneys at (843) 488-5000 or complete our online form to set up a consultation.