Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
1. Date of Injury
It all begins on the day you have been injured. If you have been seriously injured, call 911 immediately or go straight to the Emergency Room. There are a lot of emotions involved when an accident happens and you are injured. You may begin to feel confused, angry, and frustrated as you are dealing with other parties and their insurance company. It is important that you try to think clearly and seek medical attention if you have been injured.
2. Treatment for Injuries
The most important thing to do after getting injured in an accident is to get treated for your injuries. This may require visits to your primary care physician (PCP), orthopedic specialist, or physical therapist. There are many factors that go into a treatment plan, but the most important thing is that you heal from your injuries. Treatment after an accident can last anywhere from a few days for minor accidents to months and years for more serious injuries.
3. Initial Demand
Once you are done with your treatment, your lawyer will prepare an initial demand to at-fault party or an insurance company for that party. In preparing a demand, additional investigation as to the facts of the accident will be conducted for a liability evaluation. This demand will also include the medical records, medical expenses, lost wage verification, and other documentation for damages that you may be entitled to under the law. In serious injury cases, a demand may be sent before you are entirely finished with treatment.
4. Settlement Negotiations
The parties are usually continually trying to negotiate a settlement from the beginning of the claim, however negotiations can proceed all the way through trial. The time frame for settlement negotiations depends on several factors such as liability, damages, and the facts of each individual claim.
5. Lawsuit Filed; Defendant(s) Served
If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, we may advise to proceed with filing a lawsuit. In Texas, there is a two year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for personal injury damages. This means that you must file your lawsuit within two years from the date of the accident. Once a lawsuit is filed, the proper party (Defendant) must be served under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure to initiate the lawsuit.
6. Defendant(s) Respond
The Defendant has approximately 20 days from the date of service to file a response. Once a response is filed with the clerk, the parties may begin the discovery process.
7. Discovery Phase
The discovery phase is when the parties discover information about the other parties, the facts surrounding the accident, and damages. This phase typically involves:
Interrogatories and Request for Production – Questions and document production requests are sent out by both parties, usually within 60-90 days of the lawsuit. Each side receives assistance from attorneys and typically has 30 days to respond. Extensions are common depending on amount of discovery.
Oral Depositions – A deposition is out-of-court testimony given by a party or other key person under oath. Attorneys for both sides are allowed to ask questions of key persons, witnesses, and the parties themselves. Although a deposition is less formal than court testimony, a court reporter is present and statements made can be used at trial. Depositions require a great deal of preparation by both sides.
If negotiations are still unsuccessful by the time the case is scheduled for trial, the parties may agree on mediating the case. Certain courts have rules that require the parties to mediate prior to trial. The mediator, a neutral third party, reviews the case and the parties continue negotiations. Mediation usually lasts one day and occurs between nine and 18 months into the litigation process.
9. Disbursement of Recovery Funds
Any financial recoveries are typically disbursed to the client within 30-45 days of a jury verdict or successful mediation. This depends on the responsible parties’ ability to pay, the involvement of any insurance companies, and the resolution of any outstanding medical liens.
If the case is not successfully settled at mediation, the parties then head to trial. The average trial can last anywhere from one to two days up to a full week. Simple non-jury trials can take as little as one day, but complex, serious cases can take as long as two months. Jury deliberations can take a few hours to several days depending on the complexity of the case.