Personal Injury Lawyer James Iagmin meeting with clients

Personal injury lawsuits typically proceed through distinct steps, which begin at the time of the injury.  The terminology and procedure, however, can seem confusing to those without experience in the courtroom. So for that reason, we put together a Personal Injury Case FAQ based on the most common questions we receive during our free consultation.

Should You Hire a Lawyer?

Contact a lawyer with a proven track record and set up a meeting to discuss the facts of your case and learn legal strategies to help you get the results you want.

Insurance companies and defense lawyers recognize the names of proven plaintiffs’ attorneys and pay their clients more than they do the clients of inexperienced or unproven attorneys.

When you hire a lawyer, you will sign a client agreement, and the lawyer will begin gathering evidence on your behalf.  Your lawyer should arm you with information to protect your legal rights and should start taking the necessary steps to build your case.

One of a lawyer’s primary and most important responsibilities is communicating the litigation process to clients.  A lawsuit can be complicated, and part of a lawyer’s duty is to inform clients about what to expect.  Your lawyer should tell you about the litigation process and guide you through the entire claim until resolution.

Should You Gather Evidence?

Gathering evidence begins at the time of the injury and may lead to a trial.  Here are some practical and immediate steps you can take to protect your legal rights if you were injured in an accident:

  • Take photos of the accident and all vehicles involved.
  • Call the police and obtain a police report.
  • Record the ID of all persons involved (including witnesses).
  • Record the insurance information of all vehicles involved.
  • Immediately seek treatment for all injuries.
  • Keep accurate records of the event and all medical treatment received.
  • Contact a top personal injury lawyer without delay.  (*before you contact an insurance company)

Gathering evidence properly requires the expertise of a skilled lawyer.  Your attorney will conduct a formal investigation on your behalf, which typically involves the following:

  • Composing a written summary of the facts
  • Securing photos, witness statements, and police reports
  • Deposing defendant(s) and third parties
  • Hiring technical and medical experts
  • Visiting the scene of the incident to obtain photographs and other evidence
  • Obtaining relevant evidence from the defendant(s) and other third parties

What Is a Demand Letter?

A lawsuit often begins with an out-of-court demand letter which (1) describes your injuries, (2) describes the facts and circumstances which caused your injuries, and (3) demands that the defendant complies with specific terms to remedy your injuries.  From our experience, crafting an effective demand letter requires the skill of a quality lawyer, and we recommend having a reputable attorney execute the demand for you.

If the defendant does not meet your demands and an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to file a lawsuit in court.

How Do You File a Civil Lawsuit?

Your attorney will prepare a written complaint, file it in court and begin the discovery process.  The purpose of the discovery process is to discover all of the relevant facts of the case.  The parties send questions and document requests to each other and depose the relevant witnesses.  The discovery process may last for years, and your attorney will update you periodically as your case develops. 

At some point, you will likely be deposed, which means the defending party’s lawyer will have the opportunity to ask you questions about the incident and your injuries.  Your lawyer should always be with you during your deposition and should discuss the testimony with you beforehand to ensure that you are prepared.

The process of gathering and determining which evidence will be allowed at trial may last up until trial.

Should You Settle or Go through Mediation?

You may reach an out-of-court settlement at any point up to or during the trial.  You will likely attend mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution before trial.  Mediation is where you and your lawyer discuss your case with a neutral third party, who also discusses the case with the defendant(s) and attempts to reach a resolution.  Mediation is typically voluntary, except where required by statute or contract.  Mediation is typical in personal injury, workplace, and many other types of litigation.

If your case cannot be resolved through mediation and does not reach an out-of-court settlement, then the case will proceed to trial.

What Are Civil Trials and Appeals?

The trial will involve the presentation of evidence by your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer.  There will likely be testimony from the defendant(s), witnesses, medical and technical experts, and other relevant third parties.  Depending on the case, trials may last anywhere from one day to multiple weeks.

Whether or not you will testify at trial will be decided by you and your lawyer.  However, your testimony to the jury is often the most powerful evidence in your favor.  Your attorney should spend a significant amount of time with you before the trial reviewing your case with you.  Your attorney should explain the trial process and prepare you to testify truthfully and accurately if you go before the jury.

After the trial, the jury will deliberate and issue a verdict.  Jury deliberation may take minutes, hours, days, or weeks.

The jury verdict may be appealed to a higher court by you or the defendant because there was a material error in the trial.  If the appellate court reverses the judgment, the judge may order:

  • A new trial
  • The trial court’s judgment be modified or corrected
  • The trial court reconsiders the facts, takes additional evidence, reconsiders the case in light of a recent decision by the appellate court

Appeals and subsequent court proceedings may significantly delay the resolution of your case.  Even with the care of a skilled lawyer, it may take years to resolve your claim.  However, a quality lawyer will make the process easier and more effective by guiding you with due attention and care from your first meeting until you resolve the case.

How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take?

At the outset of a case, there is no way to know how long it will take to resolve.  The short answer is it may take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on several factors, such as:

  • The availability of insurance coverage
  • The severity of the injuries
  • Whether the treatment is ongoing
  • The extent of the injuries
  • Who is at fault

How can you speed up your personal injury case?  You can make the process as efficient as possible by following these rules:

  • Go to all of your medical appointments
  • Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations
  • Maintain accurate records (medical, billing, photos, police report, witness statements)
  • Respond timely to your lawyer’s requests for documents and evidence
  • Stay off social media

How Much Will Your Case Cost?

A personal injury case should not cost you anything.  If you hire us, you pay nothing unless you win.  You pay us a percentage if you recover money through a settlement or verdict.  A contingency fee agreement is commonly used for personal injury cases. 

The costs of your case will likely include expert witness fees, deposition costs, process servers, court filing fees, and other expenses.  In a contingency fee agreement, the attorney typically pays these costs and expenses and is reimbursed for them when the case resolves.  You pay no money upfront.  If you win your case, the attorney collects the award money and deducts the expenses. 

Ensure your client agreement is clear about who pays the costs if you lose.  Not all client agreements are the same, and you could be responsible for some or all of the costs of the case – which can be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Click here for more information about the fees and costs in your case.