When you file a personal injury lawsuit in New York, there are multiple steps in the process before your case goes to trial. This is why, for better or worse, personal injury lawsuits take time when they are pursued appropriately and zealously by a personal injury attorney.
While most personal injury cases resolve without the need for a trial, you should nevertheless prepare yourself for the possibility of taking your case all the way to trial. Regardless of the strengths of your case, the insurance company for the defendant, or another party, is likely to try to limit your claim every step of the way.
The Seven Major Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York
While there are numerous individual tasks that your attorney will handle in order to prepare your personal injury lawsuit for trial, here is a general outline of how your case may proceed:
Regardless of whether you were injured in a motor vehicle collision, fall, or any other type of accident, the first major step your attorney will take is to conduct a comprehensive investigation. In a typical scenario, this will involve hiring investigators to collect evidence at the scene of the accident, talking to witnesses, and determining what other evidence may be available.
In order to collect key evidence before it disappears, the investigation should be conducted as soon after the accident as possible. The attorney you choose should know that time is of the essence and take timely steps to begin building your case.
2. Claim Assessment
After conducting an investigation, your attorney will review the evidence and assess your claim. This will involve answering questions such as:
- Who was at fault in the accident?
- Is it possible that you could have been partially to blame?
- How strong is the evidence of liability, or fault, for the accident?
In addition, your attorney will review your medical records and consult with your doctors in order to determine how much you may be entitled to recover. New York law allows accident victims to recover fair compensation for the financial and non-financial impacts of their injuries, and your attorney will need to make sure that the damages you seek are supported by the evidence.
3. Preparation and Filing of the Lawsuit
Next, your personal injury attorney will prepare the Summons and Complaint, file them with the Court system, and then have them served, by a process server, on the defendant or defendants. The defendant or defendants, through their insurance carriers and attorneys, will then have about a month to file an Answer to the Complaint, to respond to the allegations against them.
4. Informal Settlement Negotiations
Settlement negotiations may commence any time after the defendant, through his, her or its insurance company, receives notice of the case. If liability is not in dispute, it is possible that the settlement negotiations could move fairly quickly and your case could be resolved at an early stage in the proceedings.
However, it is absolutely imperative that you avoid settling too soon. Your attorney will advise you of any settlement offers and discuss when and if it makes sense to settle or move forward with your lawsuit.
If all likelihood, even if settlement discussions have begun, your lawsuit will move into the discovery phase of the case. During discovery, each party has the opportunity to formally obtain relevant records, including medical records, accident and incident records, etc., and to take the depositions of the parties and other witnesses, during which these individuals are asked questions, under oath, about the case.
Your attorney will handle the discovery phase of your case. He or she will protect your interests and challenge any requests or questions that are inappropriate or otherwise irrelevant to your case, and intended only to harass and discourage you.
6. Pre-Trial Practice and Preparations
After discovery, your attorneys will begin preparing your case for trial. Settlement negotiations may continue during this stage as well. In order to prepare for trial, your attorney will continue to build on his or her comprehensive and cohesive case strategy, file motions to exclude irrelevant evidence, and take various other steps to ensure that your case is as strong as possible.
Finally, if your case still has not settled, it will go to trial. As the plaintiff, your attorney will present your case first. The defense will then present its case.
After final arguments, the judge or jury will render a decision. If the defendant is held liable for your injuries, then a judgment will be awarded in your favor, with the judge or jury determining the amount of your compensation for your injuries.
Get Started on Your Personal Injury Lawsuit Today
Many injury victims are daunted by the prospect of going to court. Insurance companies count on this trepidation, and use it to offer you less than your case is really worth. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it is important to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
At Lever & Ecker, PLLC, we take personal injuries…very personally. Our attorneys prepare every case as though it will go to trial while pursuing a favorable settlement on your behalf.
Start building your case today. For a free consultation, please call Lever & Ecker, PLLC at (914) 288-9191 for service in White Plains and nearby areas of New York.