Most people are at least passingly familiar with the idea of a personal injury settlement; if you were harmed by another party, you might be entitled to compensation, and since most parties want to avoid going to court, that compensation usually manifests as a settlement.
But how exactly do personal injury settlements work? And how do you maximize your chances of getting a fair and robust settlement?
The Basics of Personal Injury Cases
There are many types of personal injuries that can justify a legal claim to compensation. If another person has an explicit or implied duty of care, and they neglect that care, resulting in your injury, you can bring a claim against them. For example, if a person drives negligently, crashes into your vehicle, and causes a severe leg injury, they may be responsible for compensating you for any expenses relating to that leg injury.
The process always looks a little different, depending on the area where the personal injury occurred, the extent of the personal injury, and the dynamics of the individual, unique case. But it usually goes something like this.
First, the injured party contacts a personal injury lawyer. While it’s technically possible to pursue a personal injury case on your own, the law is incredibly complicated, negotiations are difficult, and inexperienced individuals usually run into countless challenges when trying to manage their own cases. It’s much better to work with a legal expert, who can provide you with guidance and advice from the outset.
The lawyer typically issues a complaint, filing a lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiff. This usually outlines the broad premise of the claim and gets the ball rolling on initial proceedings.
The complaint is answered by the defendant’s team. Usually, this means a lawyer representing the defendant’s insurance company steps in.
After this brief back and forth, legal teams work together on discovery and depositions. During this phase, both legal teams gather and provide evidence, share information, and take statements from both the plaintiff and the defendant, as well as any witnesses.
At this point, the case usually enters mediation. Going to trial is agonizingly time consuming and expensive for both sides, so in most personal injury cases, both legal teams are highly motivated to negotiate a personal injury settlement without ever having to set foot in a courtroom. During mediation, the parties review the information that’s currently available and negotiate. In the vast majority of personal injury cases, the parties can reach a fair agreement during this stage.
If mediation fails, and the parties cannot reach a mutually agreeable solution, the case goes to trial. Each legal team presents their side, then a judge rules on the case.
How to Maximize Your Chances of a Higher Personal Injury Settlement
How do you maximize your chances of receiving a higher personal injury settlement?
- Hire a good lawyer (and trust their advice). Hire a knowledgeable, experienced personal injury lawyer and trust what they have to say. Ask lots of critical questions, work with them to better understand the process, and rely on them to do the heavy lifting. Always do your due diligence before making a hiring decision, so you can feel confident you have the best possible representation.
- Gather evidence early and often. Evidence can make or break a personal injury case, so gather and preserve this evidence early and often. If you can, in the immediate aftermath of your personal injury, take photos, videos, and witness statements. You should also document the extent of your injuries and keep tabs on how these injuries are affecting your life.
- Follow all medical advice (and keep documentation). Always get medical attention and follow medical advice after a personal injury. Keep ample documentation of all your medical costs, take any medications that are prescribed to you, and use any medical devices that are recommended; if you don’t follow medical advice, it could compromise your settlement.
- Be honest, consistent, and private. Throughout the process, present your perspective honestly and consistently. Your lawyer will likely advise you to avoid talking publicly about the details of the case, to minimize the chances of a contradiction or problematic developments.
- Consider all forms of damage. There are many types of damages you can win in a personal injury case. For starters, you’ll likely be entitled to compensation for any and all medical expenses associated with injuries you received in the incident. You may also be entitled to compensation for any lost wages, if you were forced to temporarily stop working as a result of this incident. Additionally, you may seek punitive damages, which are meant to punish the party responsible, rather than compensating you for documented expenses. Your lawyer will help you with understanding these types of compensation and how they relate to your case.
- Be patient. Unfortunately, personal injury cases can sometimes be lengthy and complicated affairs. It takes time to gather evidence, negotiate, and file paperwork – which means it could be weeks or months before you receive your settlement.
Personal injury cases can be complicated, but a good lawyer can make things much simpler for you. If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s malice or negligence, it’s important for you to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible – and definitely within the statute of limitations in your area.