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If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you may face mounting medical bills and loss of income. You’ll probably also have physical pain and suffering, along with anxiety, during your recovery.
The person or company that hurt you needs to pay for what they did. If they don’t do the right thing, you’ll probably have to file a lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil lawsuit which could help you gain compensation you may be due.
After suffering a personal injury the first step is to seek immediate medical care. Even if your injuries do not seem serious, still get professional medical attention.
Medical records are necessary to help you document the injuries you suffered due to someone’s negligence. They also document your medical expenses.
This documentation is critical to any legal action you may take. It helps prove you have been injured.
Keep up with your medical visits and follow your doctor’s advice on treatment. “Gaps in medical documentation are among the most certain ways to sabotage a personal injury case.” (1)
The next step is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options. Your attorney goes over what happened to you to cause your injuries and helps you determine what compensation you should seek.
Experience counts when dealing with a personal injury lawsuit. You want to choose an attorney who has handled hundreds of personal injury cases.
You also need a law firm with the financial resources to fight for your rights against the person or company that harmed you. A firm that can take a stand and win against large corporations, if necessary.
This should be done as soon as you are able, since there is a time limit for filing personal injury lawsuits.
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New York, like many states, has a statute of limitations on the majority of personal injury cases. For most cases, you have only 3 years from the day of injury to file your lawsuit. (2)
According to the New York Courts, “Statute of limitations laws are based on fairness. Over time, memories fade, evidence is lost, and witnesses disappear.” (3) This is why it is so important to begin litigation as soon after you have suffered an injury as possible.
Once you have consulted with an attorney, the investigation of your case begins.
During the investigation stage, your attorney gathers and reviews the facts about your case. The more information you can provide, the better for your case.
Your attorney needs all documentation you have regarding your claim. This includes medical records, bills related to your injury, and any existing pictures or video of the scene where your injury occurred. These items are useful in providing context or as evidence to support your claim.
The attorney also reviews any accident or police reports related to the events causing your injury. In addition, a good attorney interviews anyone who might have seen what happened. Favorable witness testimony strengthens your claim.
At this stage, be prepared to provide as much information as possible to your attorney. If you have names and contact information for potential witnesses, this would be a good time to share them with your attorney.
A complaint is a written document which your attorney prepares and files with the court. It then must be served upon the defendant (the one being sued) and initiates your actual lawsuit.
The complaint lists all parties in the lawsuit. It gives the reasons for the lawsuit and the type of relief being sought.
A summons normally accompanies the complaint. A summons is a written notice to the defendant and the court, prepared by the plaintiff’s attorney. The plaintiff is you — the person who is doing the suing.
The summons notifies the defendant of the date of the first court appearance.
The term “cause of action” is the set of facts you use to justify your right to sue. In New York, “The jurisdictional limit for each cause of action in the Civil Court is $25,000.00.” (4) If the amount you are suing for is greater than $25,000.00, your case belongs in New York Supreme Court.
The summons and complaint are issued by the court and must be served on each defendant in your lawsuit. (5) The term “served” refers to the actual delivery of these documents to the defendant, in person.
After the summons and complaint have been served, the defendant has some time to file an answer with the court. An “answer” is simply the defendant’s response to the claim made against them. (6)
During the stages before filing of your personal injury lawsuit, your attorney drafts a demand package. It allows your attorney to begin negotiations for a settlement with the person or company you are suing.
The demand package consists of the medical bills, lost wages, financial records, and other documents clearly illustrating the extent of your injury. This allows both sides in the case to begin to negotiate for a settlement prior to going to court.
Trials are time consuming, stressful, and expensive. That is why most personal injury lawsuits settle out of court. While results from a trial risk an unfavorable result from a judge or jury, a settlement is likely to be more favorable for you, the plaintiff. (7)
After your lawsuit has been filed, there is a discovery and disclosure phase. During this phase, the defendant’s attorney gains access to documents, property, and other items related to the case for review and testing.
Depositions are taken. A deposition is where questions may be asked by both the defendant’s attorney and the plaintiff’s attorney.
Depositions are any witnesses’ sworn testimony. This testimony is used to gather information and possibly will be submitted as evidence during a trial.
There may also be an examination under oath. This is a formal proceeding where a person who is insured is questioned by an attorney for the insurance company.
This is also the time when physical examinations may be required. Sometimes, a defendant requires you to undergo a physical or mental examination. The exam report is then submitted to the court as evidence.
Additionally, motions may be filed by either side in the lawsuit. A motion is a request to the court for a desired ruling. For example, a decision on procedural matters, or a move to dismiss the case based on a key piece of evidence or testimony.
Mediation can help resolve conflicts in lawsuits. Mediation is when a third person, not the defendant or the plaintiff, works with the attorneys on both sides to try and settle the case and not go to trial.
This trained, impartial person can sometimes help the two sides in a lawsuit reach an agreement. Both sides in a lawsuit must agree to mediation.
The Civil Court of The City of New York allows mediation in some cases. (8) If the mediation does not come to a successful conclusion, cases often proceed to trial.
If the personal injury lawsuit settlement process fails to reach a successful conclusion in your case, the next step is to go to trial.
Most cases never get to trial. If your case does reach this stage, you are in good hands with our attorneys.
At trial, we are with you to make sure you understand everything happening. We help you prepare for testimony and explain every part of the process, step-by-step.
During a trial, a judge and jury hears testimony and reviews evidence by both parties. The judge or jury weighs the evidence presented and renders a judgement.
Although our attorneys have gone to trial thousands of times, most cases settle before reaching this point. However, our attorneys are highly skilled at presenting your trial case in its best possible light.
W&L trial attorneys have the ability to make the judge and jury understand what caused your injury, and why the defendant is responsible for the bad things which happened to you.
An appeal is when the judge or jury’s decision is challenged. The case then is presented for review by a higher court.
Appeals may be either discretionary or of right. An appeal of right is a case which the higher court must hear if the losing side demands it.
Discretionary appeals are cases which the higher court may review, but does not have to. (9)
Why do most personal injury cases settle? It’s simple — settlements are often more favorable for you than going to court. They also spare you time, money, and stress.
Once you settle your personal injury claim, you waive any future claims against the defendant in connection with the case. (10)
Experienced personal injury attorneys, like the Weitz & Luxenberg team, play a vital role in negotiating settlements and representing client interests at trial.
We have successfully negotiated billions of dollars in settlements for a wide range of personal injury cases. W&L attorneys have taken on large, powerful companies to fight for the rights of those who are unable to fight for themselves.
The attorneys who work for W&L have years of experience in negotiating settlements with large corporations. After handling thousands of negotiations, they know what amount of money equals a fair and reasonable settlement for your injury.
We are not afraid of powerful companies who may try to avoid doing the right thing when someone gets hurt. Our attorneys push hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
Our team knows New York law and the personal injury lawsuit process. We realize the harm you have suffered. Our attorneys try to get the best outcome for you and your family. We are honored to represent you.