Filing a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover the cost of medical bills, lost wages, future earnings, and other losses may seem intimidating. Many people think or hope that they will be covered fully by insurance—the responsible party’s or their own—and shy away from going to court. However, it is not unusual for an offered insurance payout to fall far short of an injured party’s actual needs. If you need to go to court, here are the steps you can expect to follow.
Meeting With an Attorney
If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit, you should not delay in contacting an attorney. In general, personal injury lawsuits in Arizona must be filed within two years of the date of the injury. This statute of limitations can be much shorter, however, if you are filing suit against a public entity or public employee. A personal injury attorney can help determine the limitations that apply in your particular case.
Most personal injury attorneys will offer you a free initial consultation to go over the facts of your case. The more details you can provide, the better. The attorney will ask you questions, and will want to know who else you have spoken to about the case, such as insurance adjustors. If the attorney decides to take your case, they may ask you to sign releases allowing them to obtain relevant information such as your medical records, and you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement naming them as your counsel for the case. Finally, the attorney will caution you not to talk to others about the case; careless statements can come back to haunt plaintiffs in court.
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Filing a Lawsuit
To initiate a lawsuit, your attorney will file paperwork called a complaint with the court. This lays out the basic facts of your case. In Arizona, the defendant must be served, which means notifying them that they are being sued, within 120 days of when your complaint is initially filed. The defendant has 20 days to respond to the complaint.
Disclosure and Discovery
Each party must file a document called an initial disclosure statement with the court. This lays out the basic case on each side. After that, information on the case is gathered through a process called discovery. Attorneys may use interrogatories (written requests for information), document production (gathering documents relevant to the case such as accident reports or medical records), and depositions (sworn statements from witnesses or experts recorded by a court reporter) to obtain as much information as possible. Your attorney can help prepare you for deposition, but it is vitally important that you give them all the information you have. Concealing facts from your attorney will only make their job harder and your chance of a successful lawsuit worse.
Resolving the Case
In Arizona, if your case is valued under $50,000, it must automatically go to arbitration before proceeding to trial. Your case could also be resolved by settlement, where both sides come to a mutual agreement about the compensation the defendant will pay to the plaintiff. In fact, the majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. Your attorney will inform you of your rights and protect your interests in negotiating any settlement. And of course, if your case does go to trial, the expertise of your attorney will be vital in court.
If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, the expert attorneys at Hodes, Milman & Liebeck are there for you. Contact our attorneys in Arizona today online or call (949) 640-8222 for a complimentary case evaluation.