When a new or prospective client approaches us for information regarding their legal options after suffering a serious injury, one of the first questions we usually get is “How long will my case take?” or “When will I start being paid?” We understand that you’re eager to get to the conclusion of your case and start receiving the benefits you need (especially since those benefits include treatment for your injury), but unfortunately the answer to that question isn’t always straightforward. Each personal injury case is as unique as you are, and the amount of time your case will take as well as what kind of benefits you’ll receive are all fairly unknown until your case starts progressing. This is a little unsettling to some people, but to help you better understand what to expect, here is an extremely generalized timeline for your claim, including the steps your Pocatello personal injury lawyer will help you with along the way.
This is your first meeting with your attorney. After you have been seriously injured, you should talk with a lawyer about your case, discuss your options, and choose a legal representative who you feel the most comfortable with. Remember, this is an extremely important choice, as you’re entrusting your attorney with your well-being. However, you also want to make this decision quickly, as the longer you wait, the tougher it will be to obtain critically important evidence.
Once you have chosen an attorney, you will work with them to conduct an initial investigation. This includes taking witness statements, getting pictures of things involved with the accident (such as car wreckage, the machine that caused the injury, and more). You’ll be communicating with your attorney a lot during this period as they’ll be trying to gather as much evidence in favor of your rights as possible.
Once you have obtained evidence, including having your condition evaluated by a doctor, you should have a better idea of 1) how the accident happened, 2) how long you can expect to recover, and 3) the damages you have sustained, both financial and otherwise. This allows you and your attorney to make your first initial demand of the parties who are responsible (usually their insurance company). They review this initial demand, and usually it’s rejected or they make a counter-offer. However, you want to make sure the other party knows you’re serious, or it’ll probably be outright rejected. Therefore, a high-quality initial demand letter is important.
Filing a Lawsuit
If your case cannot be settled through initial negotiations via the demand letter and counter-offers, your attorney will likely tell you to prepare to go to court. They’ll file a lawsuit against the other party on your behalf. The other party will have to answer, and their insurance company will likely provide them with legal representation, per the terms of their policy.
Before the trial begins, both parties are required to exchange evidence they have obtained in order to fully evaluate the other side’s case. This process is called “discovery” and is vital to a successful outcome. Having an attorney that knows what evidence to request and how to request it can help you gain far more insightful knowledge into the defense’s case than simply using your own evidence would.
Before the case fully proceeds to trial, both parties may be required or voluntarily opt to undergo mediation. This is an informal process in which both parties meet to see if they can resolve the issue before it has to go to court completely. These meetings are conducted by a mediator, or a neutral third party who is usually a current or former personal injury judge. These sessions can be extremely helpful and even get you the outcome you’ve been seeking, so come to the table willing to work.
If the matter is not resolved via mediation or a court motion, your trial will begin. These trials will often involve a jury, who will evaluate the facts of your case, deliberate, and come to an agreement over who is at fault and award an appropriate amount in damages. These can take days, or even weeks, depending on the complexity of your case.
If the trial does not go in your favor, or you feel as though your jury award was erroneous, you may to appeal the decision, which would elevate it to a higher court for purposes of review. If the higher court evaluates your case and feels as though your judgement included mistakes in the judicial process or overstepping of legal boundaries, they can send the case back to for reconsideration.