So it’s happened: you’ve suffered a personal injury, maybe due to a car accident, or because of the negligence of a property owner, employer, or medical team. Your everyday routine has been interrupted, and your long-term plans may be uncertain. What’s worse, while you’re trying to recover and plan for the future, you have to decide whether to sue for damages. The procedural rules of a personal injury case are complex and frustrating, especially when you’re anxious to get healthy and move forward.
To help you know what to expect, the attorneys at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey have developed a step-by-step look at the stages of a personal injury case.
Step-by-Step: The Personal Injury Case Process in Kentucky
While each personal injury case has particular details, timelines, and procedures, here’s generally what you can expect and how you need to prepare.
Meeting With a Kentucky Personal Injury Attorney
When you first meet with a Kentucky personal injury attorney, this is when you’ll discuss aspects of your case. They’ll ask for details about what happened and follow-up questions. They’ll also want to know about your insurance coverage and any statements you’ve made to insurance company representatives. The attorney might request permission from you to release medical records, too. If they agree to take your case, you’ll talk about fees, how the process should proceed, and the overall next steps.
Initial Court Papers
Filing a lawsuit starts with the complaint, which outlines the case including your legal claims, facts related to them, and what you want the court to order the defendant to do. A summons notifies the defendant of the lawsuit. The defendant’s answer addresses your complaint. The defendant’s answer might also include a counterclaim against you. And that counterclaim is answered by your reply drafted through your attorney.
Both sides of a lawsuit should know all relevant information before a trial. This is done through discovery. Questionnaires, shared documents, case evidence, and depositions are all used to collect information. It’s important to be honest, as everything typically comes out in discovery and anything that seems untruthful will be used against you.
Some pre-trial motions are filed for a ruling on a minor piece of your case. Other motions can end your case. A motion to dismiss is generally filed because of:
- A jurisdiction or venue issue with the court
- The summons or complaint wasn’t properly served
- The defendant claims no legal responsibility for your injury
If the facts of the case aren’t disputed, a summary judgment motion may ask the court to consider the facts and make a judgment in their favor. A motion for default judgment may be filed when a defendant fails to answer the court. If this happens, the only question the court has to answer is how much you should receive in damages.
Most personal injury claims end in settlement. Your legal counsel will provide valuable insight as to the value of the settlement offer and if it’s suitable for the financial recovery you deserve. In exchange for payment, you agree to cease legal action.
There are numerous factors to consider before accepting a settlement, including the verdicts and settlements of similar cases and everything related to a trial, such as timing and negative publicity.
A judge or jury considers all evidence and determines if the defendant is legally responsible for your injury. There are several stages of a trial including:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Presentation of evidence through testimony and cross-examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury instructions
- Jury’s deliberation and verdict
The timeframe of a trial varies greatly.
Collection After Verdict
If a financially-stable person or business owes you a judgment, they will most likely pay without incident. If a person or business isn’t financially stable, there’s more work ahead. It’s possible the court will order the garnishing of wages or seizing income and assets. However, if the negligent party files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you won’t be able to collect the judgment.
An appeal reviews proceedings and how the law was applied. If an appeals court finds an error in the application of the law, the judgment may be reversed.
Though most personal injury cases end early in the process, it’s important to understand all phases. We encourage seeking legal advice about the specifics of your circumstances.