If you or someone you love sustained physical, mental, or financial injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you could pursue financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. The personal injury lawsuit process can be complicated, so you benefit from working with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer with experience handling cases like yours.
Understanding how personal injury claims work enables you to make informed decisions about your legal options. So, let's start by answering the question, "What is a personal injury lawsuit?"
Accident victims have a legal right to seek compensation for damages they suffered due to another’s negligence. A personal injury lawsuit is the legal process for pursuing that compensation. Damages you could pursue in a personal injury claim include medical bills, lost or reduced income, and pain and suffering.
Continue reading to learn about the steps in a personal injury lawsuit — from your initial consultation through the trial phase.
1. Consultation and Case Evaluation
A consultation or case evaluation is the first step of the personal injury process. During your initial consultation, a personal injury attorney will review the facts of your case and hear your story. They will evaluate the available evidence and honestly assess your chance of winning a personal injury case against the at-fault party.
2. Filing the Complaint
Filing a legal complaint is the official first step of a personal injury lawsuit. Your personal injury attorney files the complaint to establish a legal claim with the appropriate court. They will also submit copies to the other individuals in the lawsuit, including the at-fault party and their insurance company.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Rhode Island is usually three years, but this time can vary depending on your case. Seek legal representation as soon as possible after your accident to avoid missing critical deadlines.
3. Discovery Phase and Gathering Evidence
Once you file the complaint, both parties begin gathering evidence to prove their side of the claim. Evidence your attorney may gather includes:
- Medical records
- Pay stubs and financial statements
- Photos or videos of the accident
- Bills, invoices, and repair estimates
- Statements from expert witnesses
Depending on the details of your case, other evidence may be necessary. The parties exchange evidence and build their case based on the information they receive. The discovery phase is typically one of the longest stages of a lawsuit, and the chances of winning the lawsuit often become clear at this point.
How Long Does Litigation Take?
Personal injury litigation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years. Factors that can affect the length of a personal injury claim include:
- Your injury’s severity
- How long it takes for you to recover
- Whether you suffered long-term impairment or permanent disability
- The strength of the evidence against the responsible party
- The level of liability the at-fault party carries for your injury
- Whether there are multiple at-fault parties
- How forcefully the liable party fights the claim
For example, perhaps you suffered minor injuries in a car accident with a clear at-fault party. The case may take less time than if you filed a claim against a large trucking company for severe life-altering injuries. The claim could also take longer if the at-fault company or their insurance carrier refuses to settle before trial.
4. Pre-Trial Motions
Using pre-trial motions, the two sides ask the court to make certain decisions about the proceedings before the trial begins. As additional evidence comes to light, either side may move to dismiss the case, remove evidence, or move the case to a different venue.
5. Negotiations and Settlement Talks
Once both sides have finished reviewing the evidence, they will enter settlement negotiations to seek a resolution out of court. Most personal injury claims are settled before trial, meaning both sides avoid paying trial costs.
Rather than trying to negotiate or settle a claim on your own, partner with a personal injury attorney specializing in claims like yours. A skilled personal injury attorney has the knowledge, experience, and resources to fight for fair compensation against aggressive lawyers and insurance representatives.
6. Mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
If the parties cannot reach a fair settlement, they may pursue mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR refers to general procedures both parties use to achieve a resolution without resorting to litigation.
Mediation is a type of ADR. During mediation, both parties present their cases to a neutral third party. The third-party mediator examines the evidence and attempts to provide an objective resolution. If both parties agree to the mediator’s suggested solution, the parties may sign a settlement agreement, and the case will not proceed to trial.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the parties may also consider arbitration, another form of alternative dispute resolution. Like mediation, arbitration involves both parties seeking a mutually beneficial resolution.
While the parties in mediation can decide to decline a settlement and proceed to trial, arbitration is often binding. This means all parties agree to accept the arbitrator's resolution, regardless of whether they fully agree.
7. Trial Phase, Verdict, and Judgment
If negotiations, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution fail to achieve a final settlement, the personal injury case will go to a personal injury trial. Both parties present their cases to the judge or jury during the trial phase.
The court determines who is responsible for the personal injury and submits its decision as an official verdict. Based on the case facts, the court determines the consequences, including awarding compensatory and punitive damages to the injured party.
If the personal injury settlement is for a minor, the court will also decide how the compensation is disbursed.
Explore Your Legal Options With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligent behavior, you could pursue compensation for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering with the help of a personal injury lawyer.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Sands Law can explain your legal rights and guide you through the personal injury claim process. Contact our personal injury lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.
Recover more compensation. Save time. Worry less. Leave it to the experts at Sands Law to help you. It’s what we’re here for.