If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury caused by someone else’s negligence, you may have a personal injury or medical negligence claim on your hands. The truth is, however, that many accident victims are unaware of what these claims entail and what happens once they decide to file one. For example, you may know that a personal injury settlement is meant to compensate you for financial losses and medical treatment, but how are those things calculated? What needs to happen before a settlement can be obtained? What if a settlement cannot be reached?
At The Lawrence Firm, PSC we understand that you likely have several questions floating around your head, and we’re here to help answer them. In this post, we’ll walk you through the process of a personal injury or medical negligence lawsuit and what to expect after you hire an experienced attorney from our law firm. If your questions are not answered to your satisfaction, we would be happy to meet with you for a free legal consultation where we can explain how your specific case might proceed in further detail.
Steps of a Personal Injury or Medical Negligence Claim
As an accident victim, the first thing you should do (after receiving appropriate medical care, of course) is meet with an experienced personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer in your area. This is a legal professional who handles civil cases and is qualified to represent injured individuals throughout the personal injury claims process while working to obtain financial damages, such as recompense for lost wages and medical bills, for their client.
Most personal injury attorneys, including our legal team at The Lawrence Firm, offer free consultations when meeting with potential clients. During this consultation, your attorney will gather basic information regarding your case. They may ask you questions like “How did the injury occur?” and “What is your medical history?” They may also ask you to provide a rough timeline of the pertinent events surrounding the injury, your medical treatment, and the aftermath of the accident, among many other things. It is incredibly helpful to bring with you any supporting evidence, including medical records, photographs, or notes that you documented regarding the accident and your injuries.
After we’ve met with you for a free consultation, we will determine whether our attorneys are able to help you pursue your claim. If so, and you decide to hire us to represent you, a confidential relationship will be established and the investigation process will begin.
1.) Investigation Process
Following the initial consultation and the establishment of a formal attorney-client relationship, injury cases progress to what is known as the “investigation stage.” During this time, your personal injury lawyer will thoroughly investigate your case. Complex medical negligence cases require extensive research and consultation with physicians, nurses, and other medical experts to determine if all elements of a claim can be established. The breadth of their research will focus on how to legally and medically establish the required elements of the claim, such as:
- Duty: Did a person or an entity owe a duty of care to you? Examples include a doctor-patient relationship or a duty to not cause injury to others on the roadway.
- Breach: Was there a deviation from the standard of care? (a medical question) or did the defendant fail to act reasonably under the circumstances?
- Causation: Did the specific breach of duty cause the specific injury or outcome? In other words, would the outcome have been different but for the breach of the standard of care?
- Damages: Injuries you or your loved one sustained from the accident or as a result of medical negligence.
After conducting extensive research, your attorney will begin compiling evidence to support each element of the claim. At some point, your attorney may contact insurance companies and, if applicable, the lawyer representing the at-fault parties. During this time, you should focus on recovering from your injuries and getting back in the swing of things to the best of your ability. It is important, however, that you keep us updated on any and all medical treatment you receive during this time and throughout the progression of your case. Our lawyers will also keep you up-to-date with any prominent developments as they occur.
How are Damages Calculated?
Damages will be calculated based on the financial losses you experienced as a result of the accident. This may include medical expenses (medical bills, emergency room fees, surgery costs, prescription medication, medical equipment, physical therapy, and any other medical treatment related to your injuries), lost wages, loss of earning capacity, property damage, pain and suffering, mental distress, and more.
2.) Settlement Negotiations
After discussions with the defendant’s attorney and insurance company, it is possible that pre-suit settlement negotiations may take place. Some personal injury claims are resolved at this stage. If the defendant is unwilling to consider settlement negotiations (which is often the case) or negotiations are unsuccessful, it is then necessary to proceed with filing a lawsuit.
3.) Filing Suit
Personal injury claims that do not get settled through negotiations will move on to become personal injury lawsuits. This is where your attorney will file your legal claim in the proper civil court. Next, your attorney must physically deliver or “serve” this complaint to the at-fault party. These papers will outline your claim, including how the accident occurred, the injuries that resulted, and how the defendant is at fault for such injuries.
What Happens After a Lawsuit is Filed?
After filing a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant will typically obtain their own legal counsel if they have not already. They must do so before their first scheduled hearing. From here, the litigation process officially begins and both sides move on to what is known as the “discovery phase.”
What Does Litigation Mean?
The term “litigation” describes legal proceedings that follow the filing of a lawsuit. It is the process of either enforcing or defending injury claims via a court-supervised legal process.
From here, both the plaintiff’s attorney and defendant’s attorney must appear before a judge to determine how the case will proceed. A trial date may also be set during this time. Then, the discovery phase commences.
The discovery process is a pre-trial proceeding that allows the legal team from both sides to gather and exchange evidence regarding the case, such as witness testimony, police reports, medical records, and other relevant documentation and information. It begins with written discovery, which includes written interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admission of facts, and third-party subpoenas. Both sides will also be required to disclose expert witnesses who will testify concerning the elements of the case. This is often the longest phase of the litigation process. During discovery, depositions will also be taken.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is essentially an oral question-and-answer session that takes place under oath. Both sides will interrogate the other as well as factual witnesses and expert witnesses. A court reporter will be assigned to create an accurate and verbatim record of everything stated during the deposition.
How Long Does Discovery Take in a Lawsuit?
The discovery process can take anywhere from a few months to several years or even more, depending on a number of different factors, including the availability of witnesses and opposing attorneys and the capacity of the court system. As such, it is not uncommon for the trial date to be pushed back more than once.
Before the case proceeds to trial, however, both parties may engage in last-chance settlement negotiations called “mediation.” This may be requested at any time during a lawsuit. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that involves the plaintiff, defendant, and both of their attorneys as well as a neutral mediator.
What Happens During Mediation?
During mediation, both parties will present their case to the opposing side while being facilitated by the mediator. This will work similarly to prior settlement negotiations, as offers will be presented from both sides. The mediation process is one that is non-binding, so either party may choose to accept or reject a settlement offer. If again a settlement agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial.
A typical personal injury trial consists of six different stages. These are jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments, jury instruction and deliberation, and finally, the verdict.
Once the injury trial begins, your attorneys will argue your case, call witnesses, and work to hold the at-fault party legally responsible for your injuries. Meanwhile, the opposing party (the defendant) and their defense attorneys will have a chance to refute the claims made against their client. Once both parties have argued their cases, the judge or jury determines whether the defendant is liable for the acclaimed injuries by a “preponderance of the evidence.” If they do find the defendant was negligent, they must also decide the amount of damages that they must pay.
How Long Does a Trial Last?
Most personal injury or medical negligence cases that make it to trial will likely require several days in court. In complex medical negligence cases, the trial may even last for multiple weeks. However, keep in mind this is simply the length of the trial and not the timeline for the entirety of your case. Personal injury cases can go on for years, so it’s important to have reasonable expectations regarding the potential time frame of your case.
Why You Need The Lawrence Firm for Your Personal Injury or Medical Negligence Case
When you are injured due to the fault of another, it is imperative to you and your case that you equip the help of an experienced attorney from a law firm you can trust. At The Lawrence Firm, our team of Cincinnati and Covington personal injury attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured individuals, holding negligent parties accountable, and fighting for maximum compensation for our clients’ injuries. Once we take on a case, our client becomes a part of our team. Our number one goal is to remove the burden and worry of pursuing your case so that you can focus on your recovery. But remember, from time to time, client involvement and participation may be crucial to help the case move forward.
At The Lawrence Firm, we handle a range of practice areas, including (but certainly not limited to) medical malpractice, birth injuries, motor vehicle accidents, mass tort litigation, products liability, wrongful death, and more. In addition to the free consultation we offer clients, we also work on a contingency-fee-basis, meaning you don’t have to pay us unless we recover compensation on your behalf.
If you believe you have a personal injury or medical negligence claim you would like to pursue, call the experienced Ohio and Kentucky injury lawyers at The Lawrence Firm today. We will give you a free evaluation of your case to determine the feasibility of your claim and, if possible, work aggressively to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. You can reach us toll-free at (800) 698-4054 or fill out our online intake form here to get started.