The personal injury case timeline
Phase 1: The accident
Ouch! You were just injured due to someone else’s negligence or lack of care, and now you’re wondering what’s next? If there is one thing we can stress at this stage, it’s documentation, documentation, documentation.
If you were in a motor vehicle accident, you should assess the situation on the scene to determine if you or others need immediate medical assistance. Beyond medical attention, calling the police is another step that you should not skip. Police officers provide official accident reports in addition to questioning any witnesses and onlookers. (You’ll want these documents when you’re filing your claim.)
Phase 2: Seeking medical treatment
Always get treatment after an accident. If you were on a public roadway when the collision happened, chances are there were first responders dispatched to you. Don’t refuse a ride to the ER if the emergency responders suggest it. Even if they don’t, a trip to the ER is worth the time because, with the adrenaline and shock to your system after an accident, you may be hurt and not even realize it.
Phase 3: Following up with your doctor
The next step in the personal injury case timeline is scheduling a follow-up appointment with your doctor. Once you meet with your healthcare provider, pursue whatever recommended treatment they advise you on. Whether that treatment is an operation or therapy, proper recovery is extremely important. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to achieve maximum physical recovery.
How to file a personal injury lawsuit
Phase 4: The rules of filing a lawsuit
If you are researching how to file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington State, it’s important to note you have three years from the date of your accident to file a claim in court. However, if the injured party is a minor, different rules apply.
When you begin the filing process, you must find the proper court to file the lawsuit and be sure to name and serve process (summons and complaint) on all parties involved. Once your case has been filed and parties served, the defendants must answer the complaint.
Phase 5: The pretrial stage
The next phase in the personal injury case timeline is the pretrial stage. The pretrial stage is where parties can discuss and potentially resolve some preliminary issues. During this period, the parties also complete “discovery,” or evidence gathering, which may include documents, depositions of parties and witnesses, medical professionals, etc.
This stage can be cumbersome and take months or longer to complete depending on the case’s complexity. Once the parties understand the lawsuit and the evidence is brought forth, the settlement negotiations may begin. There is a possibility that the parties can agree to arbitration rather than move on to litigation. (Lucky you.) Typically, when the parties agree to arbitrate, a neutral attorney tries to sum up the concerns of all parties and come to an equitable solution.
Phase 6: The settlement or arbitration
If your settlement or arbitration is unsuccessful, the next step is trial. More motions and conferences often take place prior to the hearings commencing. Suppose the trial is to be held before a jury. In that case, juror selection (voir dire) must take place, along with other pretrial motions such as requests for summary judgment (for example, when a defendant alleges that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted).
If, after the hearings, a party is unsatisfied with the judge’s ruling, they may file a series of appeals which can last for months or even years depending on the case complexity and judicial availability. If the non-prevailing party is unsuccessful in their attempts at appeal, the appeals court upholds the hearing judge’s ruling, and the matter is resolved with an order of the court. This either requires the defendant to pay damages or determine that the plaintiff is not entitled to damages, whichever it may be.
What happens now? Going beyond the timeline.
This personal injury case timeline would be what some may call a “30,000-foot view,” aka a broad outline of the lay of the land. But, closer inspection would reveal many finer details — any one of which could drastically alter the path of a claim.
With the help of a legal professional, you can rest easy knowing they are analyzing all the unique aspects of your case so that you can focus on recovery. If you were involved in an accident and feel you have damages that resulted from someone else’s negligence or lack of care, call the personal injury attorneys at Carlisle + Byers to discuss your rights.