Many people who have been injured due to the fault of another person or entity have never dealt with a lawyer or the legal system at all. They are physically hurt, emotionally affected, and find themselves in need of help but generally with no idea of what will happen in terms of working with a lawyer. In this article, we will explain the general timeline of a personal injury case with the understanding that no two cases are exactly the same and no timelines or monetary amounts can be guaranteed.
The first thing that happens in a personal injury case is that someone is hurt at work, in a car accident, while on another’s property, by being assaulted, or in any number of ways where the injury is caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or failure to act. After that, insurance adjusters, medical professionals, corporate representatives, and all sorts of other parties can try to step in and make things even more complicated, often while the injury victim is still suffering in pain or in the hospital recovering. The stress involved in dealing with what may be the most traumatic physical event of your life coupled with the need to deal with all of these parties – each with their own interests at heart – can make even the most pleasant person confused, angry, upset, and feel lost. That’s when the services of a personal injury lawyer can become essential to both your mental health and your ultimate financial recovery.
The nine most common steps in the timeline of a personal injury case include:
- Demand Letter: Before filing a lawsuit and after meeting with you and investigating the facts of your particular case, your lawyer will send a demand for settlement, usually called a “demand letter” to the party or parties responsible for your injuries. The demand letter is received and reviewed by those to whom it is sent and they will respond by either rejecting it or making a counteroffer. Putting together a comprehensive, thoughtful, and assertive demand letter is crucial to setting the right tone for your case as it is the first impression the other side gets of your story and how serious you are about holding them accountable for what they did to you.
- Filing a Lawsuit: It is very rare for a personal injury case to be settled by sending one demand letter; therefore, most cases involve filing a lawsuit. Your lawyer will draft a lawsuit laying out the basics of your allegations against the responsible parties and file it in the appropriate court clerk’s office wherein it will be assigned to a judge for handling.
- Service of Process: In all lawsuits, the party or parties being sued (the defendant) has to be given proper legal notice of the lawsuit; therefore, the law requires all defendants to be served with a summons that puts them on legal notice of the matter being filed against them. After your attorney files your lawsuit, the court clerk will issue a summons to be served. The summons can be served by a private process server or a law enforcement officer on the individual themselves; or, if the party is a business, it can be served on its registered agent.
- Defendant Files an Answer: Once the defendant has been properly served, they have 30 days to file an Answer. Most defendants file what is called a “general denial,” wherein they deny most if not all of your allegations. This is allowed under the law and is to be expected; it’s also the reason why discovery is so important to your case.
- Discovery is Conducted: During the discovery process, each party may be required to respond to written discovery. In an injury case, subpoenas are often issued for applicable documentation including medical records and police reports, among others. Your lawyer’s goal with discovery is to obtain all available evidence that will be used by either side at trial. This process is lengthy and can take months, if not longer, and includes interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions, among other types of discovery methods.
- Depositions are Taken: Any party named in a personal injury lawsuit will likely be deposed by the other side. This means you will answer questions sworn under oath as if you were testifying in court about the incident. Some depositions take just a few hours, while others can last days. In addition to party depositions, others will also need to be deposed, including witnesses and experts.
- Mediation: Most judges require parties to attempt to resolve their legal disputes through alternative dispute resolution – most commonly mediation – before a trial setting. A mediator will try to help all sides resolve their issues in order to avoid a trial.
- Trial: If your personal injury case cannot be resolved after all of these steps, you are going to head to trial with your lawyer leading the charge. Some cases are tried to a judge, some are tried to a jury, but either way, a trier of fact will decide who is responsible for your injuries and other damages and determine how much financial compensation you will be awarded. Personal injury trials can vary in length from one day to several weeks.
- Matter Resolution: Whether your case makes it all the way through trial and is resolved by a bench or jury verdict or it settles somewhere beforehand, the final step in a personal injury case is resolving your matter and hopefully being fully compensated for your injuries and other damages. Some matters are appealed, which could be the next step.
Texas Lawyers for Your Personal Injury Case
There is a lot that goes into the handling of a personal injury case in Texas. If you have been injured, you should consult a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Our attorneys will help you navigate the legal process and make sure you are fully compensated for your injuries, so contact Adame Garza today for help both in Spanish and in English for incidents occurring across the greater Houston area and throughout Texas.