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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 was at fault for an accident or how serious the injuries are. Be sure not to sign any documents, or make any statements, written or oral, without consulting and review of an attorney. It is important 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 party’s attorney gets to ask the potential jurors questions before the twelve people are selected. This is called voir dire. 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’s attorney always begins and asks questions to witnesses they have called. The defense's attorney will then ask the same witness questions, and after the defense attorney has finished, the plaintiff's attorney may again ask the witness follow-up questions. Once the plaintiff’s attorney is done presenting their witnesses, 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.
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.