The majority of personal injury cases, including those that involve motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, and pedestrian accidents, typically settle long before a civil trial ever occurs. The insurance company for the at-fault person or entity eventually makes a satisfactory offer, and the accident victim’s lawyer accepts it on their client’s behalf.
However, the insurance company refuses to fully compensate the accident victim for their injuries in many cases. The accident victim’s lawyer can file a lawsuit in the court system that seeks monetary compensation and damages when that happens.
Even after a personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit, the parties can still negotiate a favorable settlement of the claim. If that does not happen, the parties can litigate the case in court at a trial. At other times, the parties might agree on alternative dispute resolution proceedings, such as mediation or binding arbitration hearing.
Suppose you have suffered injuries in an accident that resulted from someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. In that case, you want to have a skilled personal injury lawyer on your side advocating for you at all times while your case is pending. In addition to filing a claim on your behalf and negotiating with the insurance company, your lawyer can litigate the case if necessary.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim arises when a person or entity commits an act of negligence that leaves someone else injured. A negligent act is one where the at-fault party does something that a reasonable person would not do or fails to do something that a reasonable person would do under the same or similar circumstances. Personal injury claims can arise due to several types of accidents.
Some of the most common types of accidents that lead to personal injury claims and lawsuits include:
- Motor vehicle collisions (including both car and truck accidents)
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Negligence security incidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Boat accidents
- Workplace accidents
If you have suffered injuries in one of these types of occurrences that resulted from the negligence of another person or entity, you might be eligible to file a claim. Your injury lawyer can investigate and determine whether you can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit with the at-fault party’s insurer. If so, your lawyer can assist you every step of the way and help you decide whether to accept a settlement or pursue litigation.
Who Has the Legal Burden of Proof in a Personal Injury Case?
It seems counterintuitive, but the person who suffers the injuries in an accident has the legal burden of proof in any personal injury claim or lawsuit that they file. This means that to recover monetary compensation and damages, the accident victim has to satisfy several legal elements. First, the accident victim must show that the at-fault person owed them a duty of care that they violated.
For example, in a motor vehicle accident, another driver must have ordinarily violated some road rule, such as running a red light or stop sign, resulting in the motor vehicle collision.
In addition, the accident victim must demonstrate that they suffered at least one personal injury that directly resulted from the accident. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer near you can help you establish all of the legal elements of your claim and will work to negotiate a favorable settlement with the insurance company on your behalf.
Preparing a Personal Injury Claim for Filing
After determining your eligibility to file a personal injury claim arising from your accident, the next step is to prepare a settlement demand package for the insurance company adjuster to review. That settlement demand package will include a settlement demand letter that demands a certain amount of money to settle the case.
This demand package will also include copies of any police report, investigation report, and witness statement that is available. Your lawyer can also include copies of your medical records, medical bills, and lost wage statements if any. Finally, your lawyer may include photographs of the property damage to your vehicle and any photographs that depict your personal injuries.
The insurance company adjuster will review this demand package in detail and decide whether or not to make an opening offer. Since these initial offers are typically not very good, you will need to decide whether to continue to negotiate with the adjuster or go ahead and file a lawsuit in the court system. If you choose the latter, your lawyer can file the lawsuit on your behalf and forward a copy to the insurance adjuster so that they can assign defense counsel to the case on their end.
Settlement Negotiations in Personal Injury Cases
There have to be settlement negotiations for the insurance company to arrive at a full and fair number in almost all personal injury cases. Your lawyer can go back and forth with the insurance company adjuster and work to get you the full amount of compensation you deserve to recover for your injuries. After filing a lawsuit in the case, your lawyer can continue the settlement negotiations and participate in the case’s litigation stage.
For example, your lawyer will likely need to answer interrogatory questions from the defence lawyer about how your accident happened, your injuries, your medical treatment, and other damages. You will need to review and sign off on these interrogatory answers before your lawyer can submit an executed version to the defence lawyer handling the case.
In addition, the defence lawyer in your case will likely want to take your discovery deposition, which your lawyer can prepare you for. After that point, the insurance company might be in a better position to offer you more favourable settlement compensation.
If not, you have the option of taking your case to trial or an alternative dispute resolution proceeding. Your personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether a particular settlement is a good offer, given your case—including the nature and extent of your injuries and the income you consequently lost.
What Happens at a Personal Injury Trial?
The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases do not go all the way to a trial, as a trial is usually the least preferable way of resolving a personal injury claim. Cases typically go to a trial if the insurance company seriously disputes fault for the accident.
In other words, the insurance company may allege that their insured did not cause the accident or that the accident victim caused or contributed to the occurrence. Cases also go to a trial when the insurance company, after completing discovery, still refuses to offer the accident victim full and fair compensation for their injuries.
In any case, trials sometimes present various difficulties—especially since a trial leaves the outcome of your case up to a court. Nevertheless, if you take your case to a trial, your personal injury lawyer will aggressively and zealously advocate for your legal interests in court.
Your accident lawyer can play up the strengths of your case by introducing pertinent evidence, including your testimony on the witness stand. Your lawyer can also call upon a medical expert to causally connect your injuries to the accident. Finally, your accident lawyer can downplay any negatives that the defence lawyer might bring up during cross-examination.
After a trial, the judge will decide the outcome of all issues in dispute. If the parties dispute liability, the judge will first decide that issue. If the judge finds the at-fault defendant negligent, it will decide what, if any, damages to award the accident victim.
What Are Some Alternatives to a Civil Trial?
Cases that do not settle before a personal injury trial can go to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceeding. The most common alternative dispute resolution mechanisms include mediation and binding arbitration. At mediation, the parties meet with a neutral, third-party mediator who facilitates focused settlement discussions in the case.
The mediator will typically have breakout sessions with the plaintiff and their lawyer, as well as with the defendant and their legal representative. The mediator will work with both sides to see if the parties will agree to come together and reach a settlement in the case. A mediator can also help value a case and approximate what a likely trial verdict might look like.
Another alternative dispute resolution mechanism is binding arbitration. At a binding arbitration hearing, the parties present their case before a neutral, third-party arbitrator who decides the issue of damages in the case. In most instances, the parties will not agree to binding arbitration unless they stipulate to liability. In other words, they agree that the defendant was at fault for the accident.
A personal injury lawyer can help you choose whether to take your case to a trial or pursue one or more alternative dispute resolution proceedings. In either instance, your lawyer will aggressively advocate for your legal rights and work to obtain monetary compensation on your behalf for the injuries you suffered.
Potential Monetary Compensation in a Personal Injury Case
The monetary compensation and damages that an accident victim can recover through settlement, a trial, or a binding arbitration proceeding are essentially the same. The types and amounts of available damages will depend on the seriousness of your accident-related injuries, the extent of your medical treatment, and how much income you lost while treating them.
Suppose you suffered a permanent injury in your accident, such as spinal cord damage or a paralysis injury. In that case, your personal injury case will likely have more value than if you suffered a non-permanent injury, such as a minor muscular sprain, strain, or contusion.
Some of the most common noneconomic damages that an accident victim can recover through settlement or litigation include compensation for suffering, pain, inconvenience, mental anguish (including PTSD), loss of the use of a body part, loss of life enjoyment, loss of spousal companionship, loss of family support, and permanent disability compensation.
A personal injury lawyer in your case will help you maximize the compensation that you recover by highlighting the strengths of your case and downplaying any weaknesses. If your case goes to a trial, your lawyer will do everything possible to convince the court that you deserve not only compensation for your economic losses but also your noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering.
Call a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Legal Matter Today
If you suffered injuries in an accident that resulted from negligence, you may not know whether to accept a settlement offer from the insurance company or take your case to a trial. You can rest assured that your personal injury lawyer can help you evaluate all of the strengths and weaknesses of your case and determine whether a pending settlement offer from an insurance company adjuster is worth accepting under your circumstances.
If not, your accident lawyer can handle every step of the litigation process, including taking your case to a trial in the court system, mediation hearing, or binding arbitration proceeding. MNH Injury Lawyers will fight for your rights in court when necessary to obtain a successful result.