4 Steps to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you’ve been injured or suffered damages as the result of a car accident, you might be able to get compensation from the person or people responsible, if you can prove it wasn’t your fault. Over 95 percent of all personal injury cases get settled before trial, if you take the steps in order to file a lawsuit and get the ball rolling. Not everyone wants to hire an accident lawyer to sue someone over a personal injury and it is possible to do it all yourself. Read on to learn how.
1. Prepare Your Case
Write notes about everything that happened. As soon as it’s practicable for you to do so after the accident, while your memory is still fresh. In addition, keep a log of what happens after the accident, including pain, medications you take, doctor or hospital visits, phone calls regarding the accident, lost work, property repairs, and anything else that is relevant to the case.
Find out if your injuries and property damages are covered by any insurance policies. If the person is covered by an auto insurance policy, you might not have to sue the person in court. Remember, you can sue someone all you want, but if the person is broke, you will never see any of the money.
Collect evidence. As soon as possible, take photos of your injuries and the damages you suffered. Take photos of the place where the accident happened, and document any other important info. Remember to take photos every few days as they heal. Injuries always look the worst a few days after the accident, so make sure everything is documented. Preserve as much evidence as possible. If you don’t need to get your car fixed, don’t. Bring a person along to witness the time and date when the photographs were taken, or use a camera that can time-stamp all the photos.
Get the names and contact details for all witnesses. If anyone sees the accident, make sure to take down their name and number so you can reach them later. You might want to ask them later to write out a witness statement for you, and to testify as needed if it goes to trial. If you speak to anyone about the accident, record it if possible, and take notes including the date and time of the conversation. Get the witness to date and sign any statements.
2. File Your Complaint
Notify all possible defendants as soon as you figure out who you will be suing. Remember there are deadlines for when you have to file and notify everyone.
Attempt to settle the claim. You can send a demand letter to all defendants or their insurance companies letting them know how much money you would be willing to accept to resolve the claim out of court.
If you cannot come to an agreement, file your complaint in the appropriate court. Once it is filed and the defendant has been served, the lawsuit is placed in motion.
3. Participate in Discovery
Discovery is where the case enters into a pre-trial stage. Both sides share evidence and witness information. You might need to appear in court to inform the judge of the status of your case. Depending on the complexity of the case, this discovery process could take six months to a year.
You may have to attend depositions, which are live interviews with any parties or witnesses to the case. These are taken under oath with a court reporter.
You may be invited to participate in mediation, which is less formal and less expensive than a trial. The purpose of mediation is to arrive at a compromise without going to trial.
4. Go to Trial
If you aren’t able to settle your case before now, it is time to prepare for a formal trial in court.
Generally, personal injury lawsuits are complex, require a lot of witnesses, some of them expert, and take a good understanding of how the court system works. Unless you are very confident you know what you’re doing, it’s always a good idea to hire an experienced accident lawyer who will help guide you through the whole process.