A Quick Guide To The Trial Process Of California Personal Injury Laws
Here's the thing: not every Personal Injury Claim goes to trial. Usually, insurance firms and the defendants can be compelled into negotiations with a demand letter from an attorney. However, what happens when you have to take things to court? Here's a quick rundown of the basic Personal Injury Lawsuit in California.
Before you start the lawsuit process, you should already have a California Personal Injury Attorney by your side. Not only will your lawyer fight for you in court, but they'll also do investigative work and legal requirements while you recover from your injuries.
1. Investigation Stage
When you have a California Personal Injury Lawyer, they can investigate your accident for you. This could involve the following:
Collecting statements of witnesses
Compiling and analyzing police records
Gathering and organizing medical records
Gathering invoices, bills, and other receipts
Finding other evidence, depending on the unique circumstances of your case
Your attorney might also hire a private investigator to locate additional witnesses or evidence. If something's not clear, these investigators can trace the evidence. Additionally, lawyers might also consult experts to solidify your claims.
While this is happening, your lawyer will begin performing legal research on your case. This will aid in building the most robust case against the defendant and their insurance provider.
2. Sending Demand Letters
Your Personal Injury Lawyer in California will send a demand letter to the at-fault party's insurance firm. A demand letter contextualizes the your current situation, the legal reason why their insured is at fault, and requests that their claim is reimbursed.
In most cases, the insurance firm will respond with its own settlement offer, which often kicks off the negotiation process. After all, just getting a demand letter from an attorney can put some pressure on them.
As mentioned earlier, a vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before going to trial. If the insurance firm knows your attorney is ready, willing, and able to take the case to trial, they will be more driven to negotiate your insurance claim.
3. Pursuing Legal Action
Unfortunately, it's possible that the insurance company will still refuse to pay you a fair settlement for your injuries. For example, this can happen if the insurance company doubts the severity of your injuries or the accident's culpability.
The actual process of a Personal Injury Claim starts when you file a lawsuit. The first two events will occur:
Your lawyer has a set amount of time (30 to 60 days) to serve or inform the defendant
After being served with the lawsuit, the defendant has 30 days to send their reply
The timing of a lawsuit is controlled in part by court deadlines once it is filed. Your California Personal Injury Lawyer will clarify these rules to you.
You should remember that though the defendant is represented by their insurance provider, they are still legally responsible for your injuries. This means that they will have to also face the consequences should negotiations don't go well.
4. Pre-trial Phase: The Discovery Stage
The parties then move on to discovery, which is a stage of a legal process where both parties request information from the other. The facts discovered during this stage will significantly affect the direction of the lawsuit.
There are numerous details to find during this process, including:
Inquiries that the opposite party must respond to in writing
Written assertions that must be accepted or rejected by the opposing party
An account from a witness questioned under oath
The insurance firm may insist on having you examined by a doctor of their choosing
The discovery process might take a long time, depending on the contentions in your case. During this phase of litigation, known as the pre-trial phase, your California Personal Injury Attorney may consult with experts to strengthen your case.
5. Pre-trial Phase: Mediation
During the pre-trial phase, negotiations are typically underway. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case's judge may order mediation—this is an alternative type of dispute resolution.
A neutral third party (typically a retired judge or an expert lawyer) assesses the case and listens to both sides' arguments during mediation.
The mediator then works with the parties to help them achieve an agreement about the accident. After a case is filed, mediation usually takes place nine to eighteen months later.
Ask your California Personal Injury Attorney to guide you through the process. You wouldn't want to say or do anything that will jeopardize your case.
The matter will be tried if the parties are still unable to reach an agreement. The number of witnesses, the contentions, and the complexity of the issues under dispute determine how long the trial will take. The trial could last from a few hours to a couple of months.
Here's a basic rundown of what can happen in court:
Your California Personal Injury Lawyer will deliver an opening statement during the trial, followed by the defense.
You'll have the chance to present evidence and summon witnesses.
Your attorney will ask questions during direct examination, followed by cross-examination by the defendant's lawyer.
The defendant will have the chance to submit evidence and witnesses. In addition, your lawyer will be permitted to cross-examine any defense witnesses.
Each side will give a closing argument, pleading with the judge or jury to rule in their favor.
The judge will read the jury instructions regarding the law that governs the case if the case is going to a jury.
The jury will next deliberate and make a decision. If the outcome isn't favorable for you, you may be able to appeal the decision with the help of your legal counsel.
Finally, you will receive your compensation if you win at trial or reach a settlement through mediation. You can get your compensation (usually) within 30 days of reaching the settlement decision.
That said, if there's something very specific or complex about your case, this process may change. However, this should give you an idea of what you need to prepare to go to trial.
To avoid getting stressed or frustrated throughout the entire process, you should find a Personal Injury Attorney in California that you can rely on.