If you have been injured in an accident and think you may have a personal injury claim, you might be curious as to how the process works, and what you can expect when filing your claim. Here is a typical timeline for a personal injury cases from start to finish.
How do Personal Injury cases work?
First Step: With personal injury cases, the customary first step in the process is to see a medical professional to treat your injury or injuries as soon as possible, whether that means going to a hospital ER following a crash, going to an urgent care in the days after the accident, or following up with your primary care doctor. Insurance companies will attack personal injury claims where individuals don’t seek medical treatment for an extended period of time following an accident. They call this delayed treatment or care and will argue against the severity of your injuries and will sometimes unreasonably argue that you weren’t even injured. Make sure to get checked out medically as soon as you can after an accident.
Second Step: Find a lawyer. We always recommend getting an attorney from the outset to handle all the calls from the insurance companies and to work through preserving evidence and investigating the crash through our own investigators – which includes tracking down witnesses, getting police bodycam footage, traffic light footage, hiring and sending experienced accident engineers out to the scene of the crash, and putting together a strong liability case. Getting evidence early is critical to your case and something that you can’t properly handle alone. So, hire an attorney fast.
Third Step: Once you settle on a lawyer to represent you, your attorney will interview you regarding the accident, your medical history, your injuries, and any lost wages or other potential damages in your injury case. He or she will want to review your medical records relating to all treatment received for your injuries and make a determination regarding the merits of your personal injury case. The attorney will also seek to identify what your long-term prognosis is by interviewing your doctors and asking very specific questions about what future care or treatment you may need in the months or possibly years after the accident.
Fourth Step: Putting together the Settlement Demand. If your attorney believes that your case can be settled out of court satisfactorily, they will draft a lengthy legal document known as a Settlement Demand. Settlement demands can often range, depending on the nature of the case, from 20-30 pages in length where they outline the critical parts of the case. The Settlement Demands include a summary of the incident, the liability of the person who caused the accident, the medical treatment, future care needs, economic and wage losses, non-economic losses, permanent impairment losses where the injuries have a recognizable degree of disability caused by the incident, case law on damages, supporting arguments where applicable on punitive damages, authoritative jury instructions under Colorado Law, and many other pieces of the presentation of your injury case. The attorneys will set a deadline to respond and then will persuasively negotiate the value of your case with the insurance company and their defense lawyers.
Fifth Step: Filing a civil lawsuit. If an out of court settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit. Every state has a time limit within which to file a claim, called the statute of limitations. Your lawyer will know what the statute is in your state. Be prepared to wait for your case to be heard. It can take up to 18 months after your lawsuit is filed to go to trial. After the filing of your lawsuit, the defendant’s lawyers will file a civil answer to the claims that are being brought. Once the initial pleadings have been filed, the Judge will then hold what’s called a Case Management Conference (CMO). At the case management conference, all the deadlines will be set in the case – strict timelines to disclose documents, get statements, take depositions, file motions, identify experts, go to mediation, and the date of the trial.
Sixth Step: Discovery. The discovery process is a pre-trial process whereby both sides gain valuable information about the accident, injuries and damages. The lawyers exchange written, under oath questions (called “interrogatories”) between the parties involved in the accident. Thereafter, the lawyers can take depositions of not only the parties involved but also the witnesses and medical doctors or experts hired in the case. The purpose of the discovery process is to establish the facts of the case and to work through the damages and injuries being claimed as accident related losses. After discovery, both sides often come to an agreement or recognition regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each side's case and then everyone participates in a mediation to see if the case can be resolved; thereby, eliminating the expense and risks of a trial. The attorneys involved may reach a settlement agreement on their own, or the attorneys and clients involved may enter into mediation to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement.
Seventh Step: Trial. If negotiations and/or mediation don’t work, the case will go to trial. The lawyers will file many pre-trial motions to restrict and focus much of the evidence at trial. The lawyers will also work together to file what is called a Trial Management Order (TMO) which outlines the evidence, witnesses, experts, exhibits and parties who will testify in the case. There is no way to tell how long your trial will take; it could be over in a matter of days, weeks, or in some instances close to a month. Your trial may be rescheduled due to the court’s docket or the judge’s availability. If your trial is delayed, that is not a reason to panic. There are many reasons for trial delays, and if one should occur in your case it does not signal that something is wrong. Once a verdict is reached and a judgement is entered the trial is over and damages are paid by the responsible party or parties, unless an appeal is filed.
Past Case Results
If you believe you have a personal injury case, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your situation and consider your legal options. At Whalen Injury Lawyers, we have the resources and experience to thoroughly represent you in a personal injury case. Our goal is to help ensure you receive adequate, fair, full compensation for any losses you may have suffered. Our personal injury attorneys are ready to provide you with the best representation available in pursuing a legal claim, including taking your case to trial if needed.
You can reach us in Denver at (720) 307-2666 or Colorado Springs at (719) 644-7000 to learn more. You can find us in the Denver Tech Center at 7955 East Arapahoe Court, Suite 2375, Centennial, CO 80112. You can find us in Colorado Springs in the Alamo Corporate Center located at 102 S. Tejon Street, Suite 1100. We look forward to working with you to help you receive fair and just compensation for your injury case.