What are the steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit?
If you ever find yourself involved in a personal injury dispute, it is common to be unsure of the steps. Most of us do not plan to get injured, but when something takes place that could put us in harms way it is important to react correctly. For example, you should first and foremost look to carry out an investigation into a personal injury lawsuit. This would mean taking the individual, or company, involved in your injury to court to receive compensation. For many, the idea of doing this can be quite daunting to say the least.
So, what are the most important factors involved? What are the main steps you should take in a West Virginia personal injury lawsuit?
In this guide we will quickly break down the main steps involved in taking litigation further. Hopefully, if you follow these steps, you are more likely to wind up with a positive solution and an end result that meets your expectations.
Getting started with a West Virginia personal injury lawsuit
The first steps that participate in any personal injury claim will be pretty specific. If you are injured or hurt in any way then you, the plaintiff, can take legal action against the individual or enterprise involved. They will typically be regarded as the defendant moving forward in the legal case. Your aim will be to receive some form of compensation to cover for the injury or change in life quality caused by the incident.
While everywhere is different, including West Virginia, the typical steps to follow for such a claim are standard. For the most part, you will find that any personal injury legal claim that you make will tend to follow the upcoming steps towards overall progress.
Beginning your complaint
The first and most important step will be to actually make your complaint. This will mean filing your complaint with a legal body. You will need to pay some form of filing fee, which for the most part will be around $30. However, for more severe courts and in some more strict states, it could be as much as $300.
Normally, a legal complaint in a personal injury lawsuit will contain the following details:
- The identification of all parties involved, including yourself and the defendant(s)
- The reason you have chosen this particular court – what legal basis do they have?
- The claim that you are bringing to the court in the first place – the reason for your complaint
- The facts of the matter including what happened, when it happened, and where it took place
Once the complaint has been filed with the courts, it will be sent to the defendant – this is known as being “served” and is the next step in making your complaint genuine and official. It must be served properly, otherwise the lawsuit can be dismissed due to a lack of proper process.
You also must make sure that your filing is done, and the summoning is complete, before the statute of limitations has run out on the injury that has taken place. What happens next once you have made the first steps towards making your complaint legitimate?
Answering the complaint and development of the facts
The next stage in any typical personal injury lawsuit will be to wait for the defendant to respond. They typically have around three weeks, or 21 days, from the serving to actually make a response to the courts. This is regarded as their “answer”, and the response they give will determine what happens next.
It is most common that the other party will not admit guilt and will lay out the reasons why they feel they are not responsible for what happened to the plaintiff. In some cases, they might even return with a counterclaim of their own – this means they could actually accuse you of certain activities and actions. You would then be given a chance to answer back on said counterclaim, giving you an opportunity to fight back and state your case further.
Once the initial claims and processes above are in place, then the parties involved start to build up a list of what took place. This is typically when your personal injury lawsuit timeline will begin to move forward. You will need to accurately record everything that matters to the case. This includes what happened, why it happened, where it happened, and when the incident took place. The more corroborating information that can be collected at this time, the better.
These processes can be long and drawn out, and it can include:
- Asking questions of the other party – specific lines of questioning that are put across by either plaintiff or defendant that must be answered under oath and in writing.
- Asking the other party to provide documentation that can prove their assertions; this can include any relevant documents showing what took place. This often includes admissions/denials.
- Depositions which can include one party being asked questions by an attorney. They must answer the questions faithfully and under oath and will be recorded word-for-word for posterity.
- Physical examinations that could take a look to see the mental and/or physical condition of those involved; this is particularly common to assess damage in a personal injury lawsuit.
This is typically when a lawsuit gets serious, and it is vital that you are honest with both the other party and your legal support. The next phase of this process, then, will be taking the trial further and trying to assert any kind of negotiation before going to trial itself. How can you make sure the trial actually begins?
Setting the trial in motion
The next phase for any lawsuit like this would be to set the actual trial in motion. You do this by asking for a specific motion, which can include but are not limited to motions for summary judgments, for default judgments, for a change of venue for the dispute to take place, and a motion to compel. These are important to understand, and you should speak with your attorney to better understand what motions are worth moving forward with and trying to achieve.
At this phase, you might also be asked to look into a negotiation. For example, most parties will look to find an out-of-court settlement. This can include some form of compensation in exchange for not taking the process to court. This is usually conducted via written letters, offers, counteroffers, or discussions between the attorneys involved.
If no pre-court agreement can be found, it could be taken to a mediation. A neutral third party then looks over the settlement closely and determines the pros and cons of either case. However, a mediator can only make clear the reality of the case – they cannot force an agreement or a settlement. The other option is to go to an arbitrator, which is like a smaller version of the same trial. The cases are made by both parties, and the arbitrator decides who wins – if you agree to settle based on the arbitration, you likely cannot go any further in a courtroom.
Should none of the above negotiations come to any fruition, then the next step is to take the personal injury lawsuit to trial.
Going to trial
A trial will begin and tend to be around one day to seven days in length depending on the complexity of the case and the strength of argument on either end. In a civil trial, a judge (or a jury in some cases) will look closely at the information provided by both parties. They then decide whether or not the defendant is responsible for what took place to the plaintiff.
A jury will be put in place, opening statements will be made, cross-examinations of both parties will take place, and closing arguments are then made. The jury is then given a chance to consider what they have heard, and then they draw up a verdict.
The judgement is then put in place. At this phase, you will need to wait for the judgement to be made clear to both parties. If you have been decided as the victorious party, then the defendant must pay out the agreed settlement that has been made with you. What happens if you manage to succeed in your trial?
If you are successful
If you are not able to get a successful verdict the first time around, you have several things to consider. The first starting place for most would be to look at going down the route of an appeal. Either party can appeal, though, so you might find that your successful judgement is then appealed. This could mean that you need to wait for the appeal to be heard in a trial court.
The briefs and the records are then looked over by the appellate court. The court reviews everything to do with the case, and then will provide their view on whether or not a retrial could shake place. If they do, then this could mean that a new trial is started entirely. At the same time, if a clear mistake was made during the trial, an appellate court could reverse the decision and thus you could stand to succeed.
Legal appeals can be costly in time and in money, though, and could be for nothing. Unless you feel like the verdict handed down was completely wrong, you might find that you are more likely to benefit from simply moving on. You should speak with your personal injury lawsuit attorney and see what they believe is the best course of action.
Legal trials can be a long and arduous process, and so it matters that you hire the right people to support you. If you are unsuccessful, make sure you consider the possibility of an appeal closely beforehand.
Getting the right support for your personal injury lawsuit
Of course, before you do anything else you should ensure that you are in the right position to challenge the lawsuit fairly. To do this, you want to find experts who you can trust to make your job easier. You want an attorney who focuses on the facts of the matter and the likelihood of success over the potential payout.
With that in mind, any West Virginians facing off against a personal injury lawsuit should consider legal help from Wolfe, White & Associates. With extensive personal injury experience, they can provide you with the insight needed to begin your case, to make your argument, and to have the best chance of a successful trial. Should your trial be unsuccessful, they can also offer the right insight onto whether or not going for a retrial would be a wise choice.