What to Expect from a Personal Injury Lawsuit: From Consultation to Resolution

Once you’ve had the misfortune of being injured, you may consider legal action to secure your right to financial compensation for your suffering. When another person or entity is responsible for causing harm, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney can often result in receiving a more comprehensive damage award. Attorneys can also make all the difference when dealing with insurance companies that want to keep payments to a minimum. Of course, every situation is unique, and not all accidents can be addressed through legal avenues. That’s why many personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation.

A consultation is an opportunity for you to tell your story confidentially to a professional who can gauge whether there is a legal basis for pursuing your claim. The attorney will ask questions designed to get at the background details that he or she feels are important. Many people are nervous or anxious when speaking with an attorney, which can be lessened thorough preparation. Bringing all significant documents, writing down a timeline of important events, making a list of questions, and contemplating what you would like the outcome to be can all help ease stress. Lawyers understand that potential clients tend to be apprehensive and know how to steer the conversation in the right direction.

Stages of a Personal Injury Action

  • Choosing an attorney
  • Filing papers with the court
  • Discovery
  • Settlement
  • Motions to Dismiss, Summary Judgment
  • Trial
  • Judgment
  • Appeal

If you and the attorney agree to work together, you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement that describes your obligations to each other. The most common payment approach in a personal injury action is a “contingent fee” arrangement, which means the lawyer is paid a fixed percentage of the amount recovered (customarily one-third). If you recover nothing, you pay the lawyer nothing, but you are still responsible for filing fees and other court costs.

To begin a lawsuit, the lawyer you hire will file a document called the “complaint” that broadly explains what you are claiming the defendant did and how it injured you. Once filed, your attorney has a specific period of time in which to locate the defendant and deliver the complaint to him or her as notice of having been sued. The defendant then has time to find an attorney and both sides have an opportunity to discuss with each other what it would take to settle the case. Negotiations can happen at any point after the complaint is filed and involve compromise in order to be successful. If an agreement cannot be easily reached, then trial preparations must continue.

The first part of preparation is called “discovery” and refers to the exchange of information. If not freely given, answers can be formally required through interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for certain documents, and depositions. It is common for cases to settle once each side has a chance to examine the other’s evidence and witnesses. This is also typically when motions to dismiss or for summary judgment are filed. If a lawsuit proceeds to trial, the plaintiff’s side presents its case before the defendant’s side. The judge determines whether the plaintiff has proven that the defendant was responsible for the plaintiff’s injury and, if so, how much the defendant must pay in damages. Of course, winning is not the same as collecting the money, which oftentimes requires its own process. There may also be an appeal of the decision.

There are many terms and nuances involved in successfully resolving a personal injury action, including venue, mediation, and proper service of papers. It is imperative that you speak with a Florida personal injury lawyer who can represent your interests and make the process go as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Law For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families. To learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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