Being injured in an accident can be a frightening and potentially life-altering experience. If you find yourself in such a situation, you likely have questions about the process of pursuing a legal claim for your injuries, and how long the process takes.
This article will walk you through the standard timeline of events and help you better understand what to expect. Although this timeline is relevant to most personal injury situations, your particular situation may differ slightly and it’s important to have a qualified attorney help you through the process.
Medical Treatment and Recovery
If you are injured in any type of accident, the first priority is you. The first thing you should do if you are injured is seek medical treatment. This includes going to the hospital immediately or seeing your doctor soon afterward. In addition to ensuring your health and safety, seeking medical treatment is also important to document the nature of your injuries soon after the accident. If you do not seek immediate treatment, an insurance adjuster may attempt to argue that your injuries were not caused by that accident, and deny your claim.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Once you’ve obtained immediate medical care, you should then choose an experienced and qualified attorney that you trust. Insurance companies or third parties may try to offer you a quick settlement in order to avoid large liability. An attorney will help investigate the accident and evaluate how much compensation you are owed. An attorney can deal with the insurance companies for you, as well as negotiate settlements and represent your best interests.
File a Claim or Make a Demand
In most situations, your attorney will file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Once a claim is filed, an insurance claims adjuster will investigate your claim and will likely attempt to negotiate a settlement. The investigation will likely include interviews, review of relevant medical records provided to the adjuster by your attorney, and other evidence regarding the claim. Once the investigation is complete, the insurance company will likely offer you a settlement. Your attorney will advise you on whether or not the settlement is fair, and whether or not you should reject the offer and file a lawsuit.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit (Discovery, Negotiations, and Trial)
If a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, then the next step is to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. It is important to note, however, that in Texas a personal injury lawsuit typically must be filed within two years of the date that the injury occurred.
Complaint, Answer & Counterclaims
The first step in filing a lawsuit is to file a petition. Your attorney can file the petition on your behalf with the appropriate court. The other party’s attorney will then answer the petition and file any counterclaims they may have. Your attorney can also respond to any counterclaims on your behalf.
Once the petition, answer and counterclaims have been handled, your lawsuit will then enter the discovery phase. In this phase, each party investigates the other party’s legal claims and defenses. This investigation may include interrogatories (a lawyerly word for questions), depositions of all parties and witnesses, and subpoenas for police reports, medical records and other documentary evidence. Depending on the complexity of the case, this can take anywhere from 6 months to over a year.
Negotiations between the two parties will commence once the discovery phase is complete. Once each side has obtained all the necessary information, each side will once again attempt to settle the case amicably. Your lawyer will carefully any proposed settlement and weigh the settlement amount versus the cost of going to trial.
If an agreement cannot be reached in which you are fairly and fully compensated for your injuries, then the case will be scheduled for trial. Again, while the times may differ on a case-by-case basis, trials can last a day, a week, or even longer. It is important to be aware that if your case proceeds to trial, and if the other party can prove that you share in part of the blame for your injuries, your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of fault (so long as the jury finds that your fault is less than 50%).
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the handling of a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. If you have been injured, you should consult a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will advocate on your behalf, handle negotiations with the insurance company, help you navigate the legal process, and make sure you are fully compensated for your injuries.