By: Terry Bennett
You’ve suffered a personal injury, your everyday routine has been interrupted and your long-term plans may be uncertain. And at times, the procedural rules of a personal injury case can be confusing or frustrating, especially when you’re anxious to get healthy and move forward.
Meeting with an Attorney
When you first meet with an attorney, this is the time for your attorney to learn about your case. They will ask you to tell them what happened and they will ask follow-up questions. They will want to know about your insurance coverage and the statements you’ve made to insurance company representatives. The attorney could ask you to give permission for the release of your medial records. If the attorney agrees to take your case, you’ll discuss matters such as fees and next steps.
Initial Court Papers
A lawsuit starts with the complaint, which will outline your case including your legal claims, facts related to the claims and what you want the court to order the defendant to do. The summons notifies the defendant of the lawsuit. The defendant’s answer addresses your complaint. The defendant’s answer might also include a counterclaim against you. And that counterclaim is answered by your reply.
Both sides of a lawsuit should know all relevant information before a trial. This is done through discovery. Questionnaires, document sharing and depositions all are used to collect information. It is important to be honest as everything typically comes out in discovery and a lie will be used against you.
Some pretrial motions are filed for a ruling on a minor piece of your case. Other motions can end your case. A motion to dismiss is generally filed because of a jurisdiction or venue issue with the court, if the summons or complaint were not properly served or if the defendant claims no legal responsibility for your injury. If the facts of the case are not disputed, a summary judgment motion may ask the court to consider the facts and make a judgment in their favor. A motion for default judgment may be filed with a defendant fails to answer the court. When this happens, the only question the court has to answer is how much you should receive in damages.
Most personal injury claims end in settlement. In exchange for payment, you agree to cease legal action. There are a number of factors to consider before accepting a settlement including the verdicts and settlements of similar cases and everything related to a trial, such as timing and negative publicity.
A judge or jury will consider all evidence and determine if the defendant is legally responsible fro your injury. There are several stages of a trial including jury selection, opening statements, presentation of evidence through testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments, jury instructions and the jury’s deliberation and verdict. The timeframe of a trial can vary greatly.
Collection after verdict
If a financially stable person or business owes you a judgment, they most likely will pay without incident. If a person or business is not financially stable, there will be more work ahead. Its possible wages can be garnished or income and assets seized. If they file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however, you will not be able to collect the judgment.
An appeal reviews proceedings and how the law was applied. If an appeals court finds an error in the application of the law, the judgment may be reversed.
Though most personal injury cases end early in the process, the attorneys at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson and Humphrey believe it’s important for plaintiffs and potential plaintiffs to have an understanding of all phases of a personal injury case. We encourage seeking legal advice about the specifics of your personal injury case.
Terry joined the practice in 1974. His areas of focus include personal injury law, real estate law, probate law, estate planning, business law, corporations, and adoptions. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals 6th Circuit, United States District Court Western District of Kentucky, United States Court of Military Appeals, and all Kentucky courts.
A Hardin County native and former Army office in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, Terry graduated from William and Mary in Virginia with an undergraduate degree in government. He received his Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest Law School in Winston Salem, North Carolina, where he graduated with honors.