What to Expect During the Personal Injury Claim Process
Many people who have been hurt in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence have never had to file a personal injury claim, and the process is often unfamiliar to them. Confusion or fear about what to expect can be enough to cause some people to never fully explore all of the legal options available to them.
The two areas of significant financial stress for most accident victims are medical bills and lost wages, both of which are usually covered by the insurance policy of the negligent party. It is important to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you because insurance companies will often try to deny claims or pay as little as possible, even for valid injury claims. An experienced Chattanooga personal injury attorney will know how to deal with insurance companies and will work to build a strong case for the full compensation you are entitled to receive.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Tennessee is one year from the date of the accident, so it is crucial to act quickly. The Chattanooga injury attorneys of Davis Firm, LLC are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week because we understand that accidents happen at all hours. Please call (423) 756-3591 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.
Meeting with Your Attorney: The Initial Consultation
Your first step in filing a claim will be your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer. During this meeting, you will provide all of the details about your accident, including the severity of your injuries, the possible cause, and the other parties involved.
An attorney will be able to use the consultation to get a better idea of the complexity of your case. The lawyer will also be able to advise you on the next best course of action for your case and discuss what to expect as you move forward.
Once you’ve hired a lawyer, your attorney will conduct an independent investigation into your accident. Your attorney will determine the cause of the accident, the extent of the injuries suffered, and every potentially liable party. Your legal team will also collect all relevant evidence to support your claim for compensation.
The insurance company for the negligent party in your case will often assign the case to a claims adjuster who will conduct their own investigation. The adjuster will usually ask victims to provide a recorded statement as part of this investigation. You should always politely refuse any invitation to provide a recorded statement unless your legal counsel advises you otherwise.
Documenting damages in your personal injury case is about more than just saving medical bills. At the scene of your accident, take pictures of everything involved, including damage to your property and any injuries you’ve suffered like broken bone injury, spine injury or brain injury.
Keep track of all other expenses arising from your accident, such as receipts for gas and tracked mileage for doctor’s visits. Keep a journal recording all of the ways that your injuries have affected your ability to work or care for yourself.
Filing a Complaint with the Court
Before legal action is filed, your lawyer and insurance company representatives will usually attempt to negotiate a settlement. When a satisfactory settlement cannot be achieved, your lawyer will likely suggest filing a lawsuit to try the case in court.
When a complaint is filed against a defendant in a civil case, the defendant will be served notice. The defendant is then given 60 days to respond to the action.
The discovery phase of a legal proceeding allows both sides to see all of the evidence the other party has. All evidence, documents, and other information are exchanged during discovery.
Written discovery includes interrogatories, which are written lists of questions and requests for documents. Witnesses, experts, and other parties may be asked to submit to depositions.
Pretrial Motions, Hearings, and Conference
Before trial, both sides may file motions that can affect the case. Courts will hold hearings to consider many of these motions. The court may also schedule a pre-trial conference to discuss any last-minute issues, including the possibility of a settlement.
Continuing Settlement Negotiations
The insurance company will usually resume negotiations with your lawyer as soon as a case is ready to be filed. The settlement negotiations could continue throughout the entire process, right up until a jury issues its final decision.
The insurer often dictates the seriousness of these discussions, as the insurance company will usually become much more willing to provide a more significant amount of compensation as the date of a trial nears. Many settlements are usually reached right before a case is about to go to trial.
While most cases do not go to trial, ones that do can vary in length from a couple of days to several years. The trial process typically consists of jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments, and then jury instruction, deliberation, and verdict.
A jury may award a victim compensatory damages, which are usually a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages and are not subject to any limitation. In Tennessee, punitive damages can also be awarded when a victim proves by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly. However, punitive damages cannot exceed an amount equal to the greater of two times the total amount of compensatory damages awarded or $500,000.
Collecting a Judgement or Settlement
When a court renders a decision in a personal injury case and awards the victim money, it will enter a judgment against the defendant. The judgment is only a piece of paper, however, and a person is still responsible for getting the defendant to pay what was ordered.
Many defendants simply write victims checks, but some defendants can be more difficult to work with than others. You will want an attorney who can take the steps necessary to obtain the compensation you are owed.
How Our Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Did you suffer catastrophic injuries or was your loved one killed in an accident caused by another party’s negligence in Chattanooga or a surrounding community? Do not wait to get the attorneys at Davis Firm, LLC involved in your case as soon as possible.
Attorney Scott N. Davis has more than a quarter-century of legal experience and has the knowledge and resources necessary to fight for the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and learn about your legal options, call (423) 756-3591 today.