What Happens if I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In the United States, we have criminal law and civil law. When someone violates a state or federal law, they can be prosecuted, fined, and incarcerated under the criminal justice system. But when accidentally someone injures another person, they can be held liable for the victim’s financial damages through a civil lawsuit (a personal injury lawsuit).

If you were injured in a car accident, a bicycle accident, a pedestrian accident, or if you were injured on someone else’s property, or if you were even a victim of an assault, you may have a good reason to seek monetary compensation (“damages”) through filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you decide to proceed with a claim, what’s going to happen?

After You File the Personal Injury Lawsuit

Once you file a personal injury lawsuit, you become what’s called the “plaintiff” and the at-fault party, the person or entity responsible for your injuries, becomes the “defendant.” Typically, the attorneys on both sides and for the insurer will start to research what happened. They’ll gather evidence and facts and they’ll exchange documents with each other.

Next, the lawyers will start to ask questions in the form of interrogatories (written questions) or depositions (questions that are asked under oath and in-person). This whole process of gathering facts and asking questions is known as “discovery.”

Once discovery is completed, upwards of 90 percent of personal injury cases are settled before trial. Only a very small percentage (5 percent or less) of personal injury cases ever see a courtroom.

Most Cases Reach a Settlement

As we mentioned above, most personal injury cases do not go to trial because they settle.

“Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dropping your action against the person who injured you. You’ll actually sign a release absolving the other side of any further liability. To help you decide whether to accept the settlement offer, your lawyer will be able to provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful,” according to the American Bar Association.

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