How Does Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?
Phase One: A lawsuit is initiated when a petition is filed in court
against the defendant by the plaintiff's attorney.
Phase Two: In the discovery process, attorneys gather information that
will be used to support or dispute allegations of the lawsuit.
Phase Three: If the parties involved cannot agree on a negotiated settlement
before the appointed court date, the case proceeds to trial.
A lawsuit is initiated when a petition is filed in court against the
defendant by the plaintiff's attorney. The court numbers each case then
issues a citation to each party named as a defendant. The defendant is
served with a citation, a copy of the petition, and is given a specified
amount of time (usually 20 to 30 days) to file a formal response. The
filing of a lawsuit does not always lead to a trial. An estimated 90
percent of all personal injury claims are settled out of court.
Attorneys are prevented by law from approaching anyone in order to solicit
business. "Barratry," which is the legal term for the act more
commonly known as "ambulance chasing," is not only unethical,
it is also illegal. Barratry laws are designed to protect citizens from
unscrupulous legal practitioners, but the laws apply to all licensed
attorneys. The person approaching an accident victim may not even be
a lawyer, but someone hired by the lawyer to solicit business in order
to avoid the barratry laws. This is still illegal.
In the discovery process, attorneys gather information that will be
used to support or dispute allegations of the lawsuit. Attorneys for
both sides have equal access to all information gathered during this
phase. Discovery can involve oral depositions and written answers from
witnesses, medical professionals, product and liability experts, and
other individuals who can shed relevant light on the investigation. Each
side usually requests extensive written documentation ranging from medical
and personnel records to photographs and product design specifications.
Discovery often requires thousands of hours logged by attorneys, paralegals,
private investigators, numerous other staff members, and outside consultants.
After discovery, a settlement can often be reached. This eliminates
the third phase of a personal injury lawsuit, during which the case is
tried before a judge and jury.
If the parties involved cannot agree on a negotiated settlement before
the appointed court date, the case proceeds to trial. The jury selection
process then begins, wherein members of the community are called at random
to appear in court as juror candidates. Attorneys from both sides may
question the potential jurors, with the right to excuse those individuals
who appear to lack impartiality. When a jury is selected, the actual
trial can begin.
Without detailing the intricacies of courtroom procedure, the process
can be briefly summarized as follows: Attorneys from both sides present
opening statements to the jury outlining the case and any supporting
evidence that will be presented. After the conclusion of opening statements,
the plaintiff's attorney proceeds by presenting evidence to the court.
Evidence is usually a combination of oral witness testimony and physical
evidence such as documents, photographs, x-rays, and medical records.
The defense attorney then has the opportunity to present evidence that
disputes the plaintiff's claims. Finally, each attorney delivers a closing
argument to the jury panel in a last attempt to influence the jurors
in favor of his or her client. After deliberating and reaching a decision
in secrecy, the jury presents its verdict to the court. If the verdict
is in favor of the plaintiff, the jury also specifies a dollar amount
to be paid by the defendant.
The jury may award compensatory damages to restore or "compensate
for" the plaintiff's losses, as well as separate punitive damages
which are intended to punish the defendant.
Perry & Haas does not offer any guarantee of
Past success in litigation does not guarantee success in any new or future
Our web site describes some of the cases that the attorneys of Perry & Haas have worked on in the past.
Our description of those cases is summary in nature.
You should be aware that the results obtained in each of the cases we have
worked on was dependent on the particular facts of each case. The results of
other cases will differ based on the different facts involved.