Injury and accidents are unfortunately a common issue most people live through many times in their lives. Most of the time accidents intervention of the civil courts, or sometimes, the criminal system. However, what if you were traveling to work, and suffered a serious injury on because of a negligently driven 18-wheeler that totaled your car, and left you bed ridden for many months. These types of injuries can affect your financial well-being, and become a tremendous stressor on you, and your family.
Thankfully, we have the civil justice system that allows private parties to be compensated for their losses, or injuries, usually paid for by the at-fault party. But how does one start a lawsuit? How long does it take?
The first step is to contact an attorney. Preferably, as soon as possible, because for most personal injury claims, plaintiffs have 2 years from the date of the accident to file their claim. The attorney will then talk with you regarding the facts, to double check they fully understand the story you just presented them.
Next, if the attorney believes you have a valid claim, they will submit the formal petition/complaint with a court of competent jurisdiction. On the rare occasion the defendant may file a motion to dismiss, but for personal injury claims this happens sparingly. Typically, the defendant files a response to the initial complaint filed against them. The response could accept the victim/plaintiff's claims as true, or even dispute the allegations in the complaint.
After the response, the parties enter the discovery phase. Discovery is one of the most important procedural components to a lawsuit; it allows the plaintiff to ask for information about the defendant, or for evidence relating to the accident, such as insurance records, driving records, and maintenance conducted on the vehicle that hit you. The information gathered in this process is used to support the allegations made in the original complaint, and will be critical to winning the overall lawsuit.
After discovery has concluded, both parties typically file a motion for Summary Judgment. This means, that based on the record from discovery there is no "issue of material fact." This means that the judge can render a ruling on the claims as a matter of law. This means the case never goes to trial, and the case is over. The purpose of trial is to determine what happened- or, determine the issue of fact that could not have been decided by the judge at Summary Judgment. The fact is, more than 95% of cases settle before court, because going to trial is expensive, and can take time.
If the court rules in your favor, then you will be awarded compensation for your injuries, and depending on the claim, attorney's fees as well.
If you have been in a car accident, slip and fall, or have received any other injury, please call Reich & Binstock today.