Understanding Personal Injury Litigation Processes


In the United States, most personal injury cases are made up of motor vehicle damage cases, medical malpractice, and product liability.

These cases are tried in civil court, where victims can attempt to recover damages for any emotional, physical, or financial suffering they have endured resulting from the incident in question.

Of course, the processes of two cases will not necessarily be the same. But there is a general schedule of how personal injury litigation occurs.

To learn more about the typical steps making up a personal injury case, read on below!

Step 1: The Plaintiff Hires an Attorney

You have likely heard the terms “plaintiff and defendant” before. The plaintiff refers to the person pursuing the claims in court, and the defendant is the party responding to the claim.

For plaintiffs with damages exceeding the limits of small claims court (usually $5,000-$10,000), attorneys will be brought in. The lawyer will investigate the claim, and if they are confident there is a legitimate case, they will move ahead.

Step 2: A Complaint Is Filed and Served

From there, the attorney will file a personal injury complaint in the civil court that has jurisdiction over the matter.

The defendant is then served with the court order, typically prompting them to hire an attorney of their own. They must also notify their insurance company as soon as possible in applicable cases, who sometimes provide an attorney of their own.

Step 3: Pre-Trial

During the pre-trial phase, both sides share their evidence and witness information during the “discovery” process.

Each side will depose witnesses, where they answer questions under oath. Intermittent court appearances will also occur, to keep the judge informed on the process.

This is also where the negotiation process starts, in which one side may try to settle with the other out-of-court.

Step 4: Trial Phase

After months of the above processes, the trial begins and can last several days.

During this trial, the judge or jury determines whether the defendant is at fault for the incident in question. This will determine if the defendant is responsible for the damages of the plaintiff, and how much is awarded.

Step 5: Appeals and Other Processes

Following the trial, either side may choose to initiate the appeals process. This can last anywhere from months to years.

Once the appeals process has run out, the losing defendant is then required to pay damages as established by the court.

With this said, the settlement money can often take a while to reach the plaintiff. Some attorneys do offer financial assistance to begin providing these funds ahead of time; check out this post for more information.

Understanding Your Own Personal Injury Litigation Options

In a vast majority of these personal injury litigation cases, out-of-pocket settlement occurs. Settlement can happen at any point in the processes outlined above. This can drastically limit the timeline required (and thus, some of the expensive court costs).

With this brief guide, you can walk away with a better understanding of how personal injury cases work. If you found this information helpful, check out our other posts!


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