They say the best things come to those who wait, and in a personal injury case, that is very true. Each personal injury situation is unique and wrought with its own complexities. It can take years for a complete and thorough investigation to turn over all the facts with an end result being fair and full compensation. Some cases are settled more quickly than others, of course. But it is in a client's best interest to bypass the first settlement offer from the insurance company and talk to an expert. The insurer will not necessarily offer all the compensation an accident victim may qualify for. Also, for someone injured in an auto crash to take the case to trial is a fool's errand. Insurance companies know this. The legal system is complex, which is why attorneys must attend law school and work their way up to earning the reputation of being an experienced expert in their field. Insurance companies have their own attorneys ready for a legal battle if need be. Having someone on your side to fight for you who knows the rules and has a tried and true record of winning high settlements is your best way forward.
If you're injured in a car crash here in Bellingham or Whatcom County, you will be wondering what steps you'll need to take to resolve your personal injury case. Here's a rough sketch of what to expect:
Medical Injury Evaluation – Sometimes it takes time for injuries in an accident to fully show. Especially in cases with serious injuries, it can take a year or more to understand the impact of the injury, its severity and longevity.
Discovery – Once you sign on with a personal injury lawyer, the case enters the discovery period. This is the phase of the case where both sides can gather information, exchange disclosure statements and documents such as accident reports, medical bills and records, and answer interrogatories. It's also during discovery that accident victims undergo medical examination(s) by an independent doctor. The process can take about six months.
Deposition – Part of the legal journey involves being asked questions by opposing council. You will be questioned about the accident and the injuries you incurred. They may also ask about your personal background and life prior to being injured. Your attorney will coach you through this process and be able to prepare you for what may be asked. During the deposition, if you are asked irrelevant or harassing questions, your lawyer will call this out and prevent such questions.
Pre-Trial Motions – Attorneys may file a motion or many of them. These motions identify the issues that can and cannot be discussed at trial, in case a trial is necessary. Motions may deny certain evidence from being revealed to jurors, or even to dismiss a case altogether due to lack of evidence.
Mediation, Settlement or Arbitration – Often, it's required that mediation or settlement discussions take place before a trial date is set. This helps to keep our courts available for cases that truly reach an impasse and need a judge and jury to weigh in. A neutral mediator will listen and discuss the issues with both parties in hopes to guide everyone to a fair settlement. An arbitration is slightly different, and involves someone acting as a judge, hearing evidence and then deciding the case's outcome.
Trial – This is the last resort, if no settlement or mediation is successful. In a trial, a jury decides the value of your injury. Simply scheduling a trial date can take six months, and the trial itself can last anywhere from a couple days to a couple of weeks. Even after the trial's verdict, more motions and appeals can be filed. Even during a trial, the parties can still settle the case out of court.
Long story short, patience is important to this process as you weigh the expense of litigation and trial. Sometimes not even going all the way to mediation will result in you walking away with all you are due. Having a lawyer on your side is your best chance of receiving a full settlement deal. If this post inspired more questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me. Call me at (360) 392-2833 and set up a consultation. It's free, and we can discuss the details of your particular case.