Steps In the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
Our attorneys can guide you every step of the way
If you’ve been hurt in a personal injury accident, you may not be sure what to do next. You needed medical treatment for your injuries and have the medical expenses to prove it. You may have missed time from work and suffered other damages. If your accident was caused by the negligence of another, it’s important to know your legal rights.
The South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Johnson + Johnson Attorneys at Law understand the impact an injury from an accident can have on your life. Born and raised in Lexington, attorneys and brothers Kevin and Steven Johnson are proud to fight for clients to help them recover the compensation they deserve.
When can I file a lawsuit?
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations (legal deadline) for filing a lawsuit is generally three years from the date of your accident. If you miss this deadline, you will lose the opportunity to recover financial compensation for your losses. However, different deadlines can apply in certain circumstances, and only an attorney can tell you which legal time limits apply to your case.
Three years sounds like plenty of time, but it is in your best interests to start the process early. It can take months to build a strong case. Also, the more time that goes by, the more likely it is that witnesses will forget important details about your accident. And over time, valuable evidence can be lost or destroyed.
What are the steps of a personal injury lawsuit?
In general, you will follow this process:
Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. While you aren't required to have a lawyer in a personal injury matter, it’s always in your interest to get legal representation. An attorney can review the details of your accident and explain your legal options. An attorney can also determine the total damages you have suffered as a result of what happened. These may include current and future medical expenses for your injuries, lost wages if you couldn’t work and other damages such as pain and suffering.
An attorney will investigate. A strong case is built on facts. Your legal team will gather evidence of your accident, such as any video footage from nearby cameras. Any accident reports and other documentation will be carefully reviewed. Witnesses will be identified and interviewed. If needed, experts will be consulted. Your lawyer will also carefully review your medical records to understand your injuries and the impact they have had on your life.
A lawyer can demand compensation. This usually won’t happen until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This means your condition has stabilized and you have recovered from your injuries as much as possible, in your doctor’s medical opinion. Your attorney may reach out to the insurance company for the negligent party to see if a settlement can be worked out.
A personal injury lawsuit is filed. If settlement talks break down or if it seems like both sides are too far apart, your lawyer can file a complaint with the appropriate court and pay the filing fee. The defendant will be served with a copy of the complaint and a summons that provides instructions for responding. A trial date will be set.
The discovery phase begins. During this phase, each party investigates the other’s claims. Documents are shared and depositions are taken. Depending on how complex the case is, this phase can take several months.
There may be mediation or negotiation. At the end of the discovery phase, lawyers for both sides have a better idea of what a trial might look like. They may negotiate to try to resolve the matter through a settlement. In some cases, they may go through mediation, in which a neutral third party tries to help both sides agree on a resolution.
If no settlement is reached, there is a trial. First, a jury will need to be selected. Lawyers for both sides will make opening statements to the jury. Your lawyer will present evidence during the trial. Then the other attorney will present the defendant’s case. Both sides will then give closing arguments. The judge will provide the jury with instructions, and the jury will then begin deliberations and eventually reach a verdict. However, your lawyer can still negotiate a settlement with the insurance company while the trial is ongoing, at any point prior to the verdict.
It bears repeating that filing a lawsuit does not mean you will go to trial. A settlement may be reached at any point in the process; indeed, most personal injury claims are resolved via settlement at some point in this process. Filing a lawsuit just keeps your options open – and keeps up the pressure on the insurance company to make a fair offer.
Experienced legal representation makes a difference
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may not be sure what to do next. The process can seem confusing and all you have are questions. Our lawyers can guide you through the legal process every step of the way. We can keep you updated on the progress of your lawsuit and advise you of your options.
How much will this cost you? We work on a contingency fee basis. That means you owe us nothing unless we recover financial compensation. Learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation.