What to expect in a personal injury trial in Washington.
Although most of us would prefer to avoid filing a lawsuit or going to court, it is sometimes necessary to pursue litigation to get full value for your claim. Lawsuits usually become necessary when there are disagreements with the other party's insurance company over who caused an accident or how serious the injuries are. You should be sure not to sign any documents without prior review by an attorney. You need to attend all scheduled doctor appointments in order to document your injuries. Accurate records should be kept of time you missed from work, medical bills, and property damage repairs. You can document your damages with photographs of your injuries or photos of property damage.
After a Lawsuit has Been Filed
Both parties will conduct discovery. Pretrial discovery usually takes about a full year during which time both parties investigate all aspects of the claim. This may include taking oral depositions, obtaining pertinent records, propounding interrogatories, and hiring expert witnesses to obtain more evidence about the claim. During this period of discovery and as the trial date approaches, the parties will exchange settlement offers/demands. A large majority of personal injury claims settle before trial. If you agree to accept a settlement, you will be required to sign an agreement stating you absolve the other party of all further liability in this case.
If the Case Goes to Trial
The trial can either be by jury, or a bench trial. A bench trial is a trial without a jury, and the judge decides the case. A jury consists of twelve people, and each side gets to ask the potential jurors questions before the twelve people are selected. After the jury is selected, each side starts with an opening statement outlining the case. Then the plaintiff, or suing party, presents evidence. The plaintiff, or suing party's attorney, always begins and asks questions to witnesses they call. The defense's attorney will then ask the same witness questions, and after the plaintiff's attorney may again ask the witness follow-up questions when the defense attorney is finished.
Once the plaintiff’s attorney is done presenting witnesses, then the defense has the opportunity to call their own witnesses. After both sides are done presenting evidence, both sides make closing statements. After the closing statements the jury goes into a separate room to deliberate. Jury deliberations can be as quick as a few hours or as long as several days. When the jury reaches a decision, the jurors come back to court and read the verdict out loud.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
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