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Steps to an Injury Claim in Indiana
Most Americans have never been in court, let alone sued someone. It is not uncommon to speak with injured people who tell me they did not believe in suing others before they were injured. But now, after being injured by another persons negligence or wrongdoing, they have changed their mind.
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If you or a loved one has been injured you are probably feeling a lot of stress, pressure, and worried about filing a personal injury claim. But remember, most lawsuits do not end up going to trial and if your case is strong, you will likely reach a settlement. Below is a list of steps involved in a personal injury case.
Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment
If you are reading this you or your injured loved one has already left the area where the injury occurred and hopefully have already sought medical assistance. But as a general rule of thumb, your first step after being injured due to someone else's negligence is to seek medical treatment. If you fail to see a doctor, later the insurance company will say that you really were not injured or that your injury really wasn't that bad. So, step one is....go see a doctor.
Step 2: Research Attorneys Online
Take your time, search for, review and make a list of personal injury attorneys you think may be a good fit for you and your case.
Step 3: Interview the Attorneys Over the Phone
Now that you have a list of candidates, call and speak with each attorney. You will get a lot of information and a good feel of each attorney just by talking to them. Mark out the names of the one's you don't feel so comfortable with and get ready to meet those remaining.
Step 4: Meet With Each Personal Injury Lawyers
During your meeting explain how you or your loved one was injured. The personal injury attorney will be able to give you an option as to whether or not you have a valid claim. You will want to bring along all of your documentation, such as medical records notes, police reports.... If any of the attorneys request a fee to meet you, just say no and move on to the next lawyer on your list. Most personal injury attorneys will meet with you for no charge during an initial consultation.
Step 5: How to Evaluate the Attorney
Your choice of attorney is an important one. It can make the difference between winning and losing your case. During your meetings ask each attorney about his or her experience, how he or she communicates with clients, and any other questions you may have. During your meeting the attorneys will ask you many questions about your case to get a better understanding of the likelihood of success. If one of the attorneys makes promises about how much money you should expect to receive, I suggest you leave. A good attorney will take time to investigate your case.
Step 6: How Are Personal Injury Lawyers Paid
Most personal injury attorneys are paid only if they win money for you. This is called a "contingency" basis, which means the attorney is paid contingent on winning your case. Usually the lawyer's fee is between 25% and 40% of your recovery. So the lawyer is not paid until the end of your case. If you have any questions about the attorney's fee you need to ask BEFORE you sign a contract to retain the attorney.
Step 7: The Investigation
Investigating your case is a vital for your personal injury attorney to fully comprehend how your injury occurred and to learn the scope of your injuries, damages, and costs you have incurred. Once your personal injury attorney comprehends your case he or she will typically contact the insurance company and/or the insurance company’s attorney.
The best personal injury attorneys will his/her clients informed of any significant developments, including negotiations, while your case is pending. During this time as well, you should concentrate on your rehabilitation and getting back to a normal life.
Step 8: Do We have to go to Court? Negotiating a Settlement
It is not uncommon for a personal injury claim, like car accidents, to be settled before even filing a lawsuit. During the negotiation phase your attorney may be presented with an offer of settlement from the insurance company. Your attorney will discuss the offer with you and provide you with an opinion on whether or not you should accept the offer. While your attorney will give his or her opinion on the offer, it is ultimately your decision to accept or reject the settlement offer.
Step 9: Filing Your Lawsuit
If you have reached this phase then you and the insurance company have not reached an agreement....yet.....and you and your attorney have decided to file a lawsuit in court. The judge will set several deadlines for each of the phases that will occur before going to trial. The process of moving through these phases can take months or even several years. There are three primary phases.
Phase 1: Complaint and Answer
A civil lawsuit is initiated by filing a pleading called a complaint. The plaintiff, the person initiating the action, submits a complaint stating the issue(s), how you were injured, the extent of your injuries, and specifies what remedy you are seeking. It generally must be filed in the county where your injury occurred or where the person who injured you lives (resides).
The Defendant is the person being sued and must be notified of the lawsuit. Typically the defendant is provided notice of the lawsuit (receives a copy of the complaint and a summons) by Certified Mail or in person from Deputy Sheriff or process server (like you see on TV). After receiving a copy of the complaint the defendant must respond with an Answer within a set period of time. In the Answer the defendant admits or denies the allegations in the Complaint.
Phase 2: Discovery
During the discovery phase each party can obtain evidence from the opposing party. This is done by asking the other party for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions. Discovery can be obtained from non-parties using subpoenas. Oral discovery is known as depositions. During depositions, witnesses, experts, and each party answer questions asked by lawyers.
Phase 3: Pretrial Motions
Either party can file a motion with the Court before or after the discovery phase asking the Court to take action on their behalf. For instance, the Defendant can file a motion with the Court asking for the entire case to be dismissed. Your personal injury attorney has a limited period of time to file a written response opposing the motion. The Court may require a hearing requiring both parties to present their side in during an oral argument.
Step 9: Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. The mediator acts like a referee between the parties. During mediation, the parties engage in settlement negotiations through the mediator. Each Court has its own rules and some Courts require your case to go to mediation before proceeding to trial. Either side can request mediation at any time during the case. Mediations are non-binding so the parties can accept or reject the other parties offer. If the parties are unable to negotiate settlement at mediation the case will likely move to trial.
Step 10: Trial
A personal injury trial has several different segments. During the trial your attorney will present you side to the judge or jury, then the defendant will present their evidence. After both parties have presented their evidence, the judge or jury will decide: (1) if the defendant is legally responsible (liable) for your injuries, and (2) if so, how much the defendant must pay you for your damages. The segments of a personal injury trial include:
- Jury selection,
- Opening statements,
- Witness testimony and cross-examination,
- Closing arguments,
- Jury instruction,
- Jury deliberation and verdict,
Step 11: After the Trial
Even if you win (or lose) at trial your case may not be over. The party losing at trial has the right to appeal the decision to a higher court to reconsider the verdict.
If you win at trial and neither party appeals you may not receive your monetary award right away. It may takes months to get paid. On top of that your lawyer will get paid first, then, if others who have a lien (a legal claim) to your money will be paid next, then you will be paid. At this point your you personal injury lawsuit is over.
The process of progressing through a personal injury case is multifaceted and requires your attorney to make complex decisions. You need to trust that your attorney has your best interest in place and the expertise to move forward with your case. You only have one shot at your case and finding the right attorney can make the difference between success and failure with your claim. Good luck.
Whether you are contemplating divorce, or been arrested or injured you are probably scared, unsure what will come next and what to do. Give me a call. We will sit down, go over your options and work to find a way to move forward. Call me or another attorney. But call someone and get the help you deserve.
- JR Emerson, Attorney
I am here to help. I am not here to judge. For nearly 20 years I have been helping people in difficult situations and I would be happy to speak with you to see how I might be able to help you too.
- Jill Bracken-Emerson, Attorney
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Our office is located on the north side of Indianapolis at 98th Street and Keystone Avenue.
3091 E. 98th Street, Suite 180
Indianapolis, IN 46280
Our attorneys represent people in need of assistance with personal injuries, car accidents, divorce, family law and DUI/OVWI matters. Our clients typically live in counties throughout central Indiana including, Hamilton County, Boone County, Marion County, Hendricks County and Johnson County. Please contact our office to learn how we can help.
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JR Emerson is an attorney who represents men and women in family law matters including divorce, child custody modification, and child support modification in Marion County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Hamilton County, Hancock County, Madison County, Johnson County. Cities in which he practices include: Zionsville, Lebanon, Whitestown, Carmel, West Clay, Westfield, Noblesville, Fishers, Lawrence, Beech Grove, Speedway, Greenwood, Southport, Franklin, Plainfield, Avon and Danville, Indiana.