The Typical Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Your particular situation may be different but I have outlined the typical steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit.

1. Choosing an Attorney

First, unless you plan on acting as your own attorney, you must find an attorney.  In choosing an attorney to handle your case, keep in mind the following: (a) Look for biographical information of your lawyers on the internet; (b) search the internet using key words such as “waxahachie injury lawyer;” (c) check to see if the attorney belongs to personal injury associations such as TTLA or DTLA; (d) if you have a relationship with an attorney who practices in another area, ask him or her for a recommendation of a personal injury attorney; (e) if you have a friend or relative that was involved in a personal injury lawsuit, you might ask him or her for their thoughts or recommendations; (f) contact the local or texas bar association; and/or (g) check out the yellow pages or your local telephone directory.

2. The Initial Investigation

In any lawsuit, it is crucial to obtain evidence by performing an investigation of the incident. Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, the investigation process may include interviewing witnesses, gathering physical evidence, consulting with expert witnesses and any other evidence gathering that may assist your case.  After the initial investigation, your lawyer will compile the evidence and make a determination whether to proceed with the case.

3. Settlement Negotiations Prior to Filing a Lawsuit

Generally, after the initial investigation, your lawyer will engage in settlement negotiations with the responsible party prior to filing a lawsuit.  The lawyer will compile the evidence obtained from the initial investigation and prepare a “demand” that will be sent to the responsible party. The “demand” is a letter that sets forth the facts of your case, explains the legal justification for holding the wrongdoer responsible for the incident and provides evidence pertaining to the injuries.  After receiving the “demand” from your lawyer, the insurance company may provide an offer to settle.  If the offer from the insurance company is not acceptable,  negotiations may  continue back and forth until either your case settles or an impasse is reached.

4. Litigation

If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawsuit may be filed by your lawyer.  A lawsuit involves your lawyer filing a petition with the state or federal court and serving the responsible party.  Both sides are usually entitled to written discovery and your lawyer may choose to take the deposition of the responsible party along with any witnesses or experts.  The counsel for the responsible party may also choose to take depositions.  The Court or the parties may schedule a mediation at any time during litigation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which consists of a meeting between the parties. The role of the mediator during a mediation is to act as an intermediary between the parties.  Offers and demands are exchanged until either a settlement is reached or until the parties reach an impasse.

5. Trial

Generally, after the above process, the parties will decide to go to trial if they cannot agree to settle.  The trial can be decided by the Judge or a jury.  Typically, your case will be decided by a jury.  Although your case may not have settled prior to the trial, it is still possible for the parties to settle during the course of the trial.

Author Information: Stephen Daniel is an attorney practicing personal injury law in Ellis County, Texas and works for Jenkins & Jenkins, P.C.

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