People pursuing a personal injury claim in West Virginia may be unfamiliar with the timeline that begins with a lawsuit and ends with compensation. Here is what you can expect after filing a personal injury claim in West Virginia, from the first steps to the last court date.
Medical Care. If you are injured, see a doctor to diagnose the injury, offer treatment, and prevent further injury. Additionally, you need a physician to document your injuries. An insurer may use your failure to get proper medical care as evidence that you weren’t seriously hurt.
Skilled Representation. After an injury, finding an attorney may not seem like the natural next step, but it’s at this phase that legal counsel can guide you through what you need as your case progresses. If you lose work due to an injury, were hurt enough to have broken bones, spent significant time in the hospital, or have medical bills over several thousand dollars, it’s time to discuss your damages with an attorney.
Investigation. Next, your attorneys begin their investigation of your claims and review the medical evidence. Your West Virginia personal injury lawyer will spend time asking you questions about the incident; answer these queries as honestly as possible. Your lawyer is on your side. He or she will also consider the medical records as they relate to your lawsuit. These records will likely be from as far back as the condition that is troubling you, so locating and organizing this information may take months.
At this point, your lawyer will determine whether you have a winnable case. If not, he or she will likely shake hands and wish you well. If you do, they will continue with the next phase.
Demands and Negotiations. Many personal injury claims are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed. If that’s possible, and your attorneys believe there is a possibility for a good settlement, they may make a demand to the other attorney or insurance company. It’s unlikely that a good lawyer will settle claims involving permanent injury or impairment. In that case, your lawyer will file a lawsuit.
However, he or she will probably not make any demands until the plaintiff has reached MMI or maximum medical improvement. This is the point at which medical treatment is over, and the plaintiff is as well as he or she will ever be. Until this point has been reached, an attorney won’t know a case’s worth. If the plaintiff hasn’t reached MMI by the time of the trial, the jury may not see the full scope of the injury and the medical treatment it took for the plaintiff to recover. Obviously, it could be weeks, months, or even years for someone to reach MMI.
Filing the Lawsuit
Once your attorney has filed the lawsuit, it will likely take one to two years for it to come to trial. Your attorney will keep West Virginia’s statute of limitations in mind for your particular personal injury lawsuit during the filing process.
Discovery. During the discovery phase, each party looks at the evidence of the other to determine their legal claims and defenses. Both sides will ask questions of all witnesses – sometimes called taking depositions – and send documentation back and forth. Discovery can take months to complete.
Mediation. After discovery, the two sides will begin discussion of a settlement. If the two attorneys can’t come to an agreement, they may consider mediation. During mediation, the attorneys and the clients all discuss a settlement in front of a mediator, a neutral third party.
Trial. In the event that mediation is unsuccessful, the case will go to trial. This could last a day, a week, or longer. Remember, though, that even though there is a date set for your trial, many things can cause that date to be delayed.
If you have questions regarding your West Virginia personal injury claim, contact Tiano O’Dell, PLLC today.