Personal injury claims are time consuming, tedious, and stressful. When you have a personal injury attorney on your side fighting to get you the justice and compensation you deserve, it’s much easier (but still may take a long time to settle the complex cases).
Whether you were injured in a car accident due to someone’s negligent driving and the injuries you suffered were minor, or if you were paralyzed after a fall from a construction site scaffolding, there is a certain process you can expect with almost all personal injury cases.
Since most personal injury claims arise from car accidents, we will focus on this type of claim.
If someone else caused your car accident—either by driving recklessly, driving under the influence, or driving while using a cell phone, you need to collect as much information at the scene as possible. This is the first part of the personal injury timeline: information gathering.
Timeline of Events Following an Accident
If you were in a car accident and you’re able to take photos, please do so. If you’re injured so severely that you’re rushed to the hospital, any passengers with you who are able to should take photos. The police officer on the scene probably will write up a report and take pictures of the accident scene, but it’s always wise to have your own.
At the accident scene, you should collect as much information as you can, including:
- what happened
- who was involved
- who caused the accident
- what the surrounding area looked like
- weather conditions
- any other information you can recall from the time accident
Be sure to request copies of the police accident report at the time of the accident or shortly thereafter. You may be able to access motor vehicle accident reports online.
Seek medical attention at the scene or right after via ambulance, if necessary. Don’t ever turn down medical attention as that fact might be used against you later. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to prove your injuries are a direct result of the accident.
Take photos of any visible injuries and be sure to go to a reputable doctor or medical facility. With any personal injury claim, medical records are one of the most important pieces of evidence, so it’s crucial that this step gets careful attention.
Get a Lawyer
Find a personal injury attorney who you feel comfortable with and trust. Choose a lawyer you trust, who has a good record of wins, and shows interest in your case.
Your lawyer will ask you a lot of questions about the accident and about your personal life. While this may make you uncomfortable, it’s important that your lawyer knows everything about you because the other side will certainly do some digging into your background. Any information that comes to light to discredit you will be used against you. If you are not honest with your lawyer, the outcome of the case will be affected. If you’re not willing to share intimate details about your life in order to prepare your attorney for anything that may come up during the investigation, then you may want to consider dropping your claim.
During the discovery stage, each party will investigate what the other side’s legal claims and defenses are, and depositions will be scheduled.
After all information is gathered and both sides have made discovery, you may choose to attempt to negotiate a settlement. Most personal injury cases never even make it to court, so it’s important for you to realize there’s a very good chance your case will be settled between insurance companies with the help of your attorney. Regardless of the type of personal injury claim, insurance companies are almost always involved.
If the insurance companies cannot agree on a settlement after the negotiation process is complete, the case may need to go to trial.
Personal injury claims can be settled at any time, even the day before or during the trial itself. If one side feels they cannot win or if the defense is concerned that the jury might award a substantial verdict, it may be convinced to increase its settlement offer.