In personal injury cases, many clients hope to reach a settlement without having to go to court. But if a fair resolution cannot be reached through settlement negotiations, it becomes crucial to litigate your case with an experienced trial lawyer who cares about you and your case. Litigation refers to the process of resolving disputes through court proceedings. Although the term “litigation” might sound intimidating, it’s important to keep in mind that most cases are still settled before reaching a jury trial. This article discusses aspects related to litigation in personal injury cases, such as how it starts, its key components, and post-trial proceedings.
Litigation starts when a lawsuit is filed with the court (known as a “complaint” in Virginia). Once your lawyer files the complaint and has it served on the defendant, the defendant’s attorney responds with an answer to the complaint admitting or denying the allegations.
To understand litigation in a personal injury case, you need to be familiar with its five main parts: discovery, motions, expert witnesses, trial preparation, and the trial itself.
The discovery process involves the sharing of information and facts between the parties involved in the lawsuit. During the discovery phase, lawyers have the ability to request written documents or specific answers from the opposing party. This step helps gather evidence to support each party’s arguments. Discovery also includes depositions, where witnesses are questioned under oath and their statements are recorded.
Motions are filed when one party seeks a court ruling on a disputed aspect of the case. A motion hearing typically entails presenting written briefs and making arguments before a judge. Discovery motions are quite common and often involve requests for additional time to complete discovery or to compel the opposing side to respond to submitted inquiries.
Once discovery is finished and the case has taken shape, it may become necessary to involve expert witnesses. These professionals, such as doctors or private investigators, possess expert knowledge in a certain field. Expert witnesses can play a role in supporting claims and providing testimony during trial proceedings. For instance, an expert witness in a personal injury case involving a driver might testify that driver distraction was the primary cause of the injuries.
As a case progresses through the litigation process, the attorney begins to prepare for trial. A good trial lawyer spends a significant amount of time and energy preparing for trial.
During the trial, both sides present their cases to a jury and/or judge. They introduce evidence gathered during the discovery process and argue on behalf of their clients. Expert witnesses may be called to offer their opinions and support the arguments put forward. Once both parties have presented all of their evidence, they conclude the trial by delivering closing arguments. The jury then deliberates before reaching a verdict.
The litigation process doesn’t necessarily end with a verdict. After a verdict is reached, further steps are taken such as collecting any awarded compensation, engaging in negotiations, or addressing disputes related to the award. If dissatisfied with the verdict, the losing side may file an appeal.
One of the toughest decisions in a case is deciding whether its best to settle or proceed with litigation. A skilled trial lawyer can evaluate the strength of your case and give you advice on whether going to trial is the right option.
But don’t forget that insurance companies do not do the right thing because they should. They only do the right thing when you make them, and the only way to make them is to take them to court. And too many law firms do not go to court—they take whatever offer the insurance company makes them.
If your lawyer is consistently at court winning, the insurance companies know that and will settle your case for the right result. But if your law firm does not take cases to trial, the insurance companies will never do the right thing because they know that your law firm cannot get results in court.
Please note that this article is meant for information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. To schedule a free case evaluation, call RVA Personal Injury Lawyers at (804) 915-1611 or contact us online.
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