Litigating Personal Injury Cases–The Process
Justice involves holding negligent parties liable for negligence and recovering damages for accident victims, in personal injury claims. A common question among plaintiffs is, “How long do injury claims take to conclude or resolve?” A Fairfax personal injury attorney can help you estimate how long your claim can take if you’re an accident victim.
A recent study– Court Statistics Project, showed that 50% of personal injury claims were processed within 1 year, and 75% of the total claims were resolved within 2 years. The study concluded that the median for resolving cases was slightly over 13.5 months. The Fairfax personal injury attorney guides clients on what happens in every step or stage of a personal injury case and ensures the clients understand the judicial process.
One thing is clear: hiring an experienced personal injury attorney early in the process increases the chances of a speedy case resolution. Personal injury attorney Jeffrey Downey started his career defending insurance companies. Now he uses that information to be benefit of his clients. With over 30 years of experience, Mr. Downey’s successful results speak to the level of commitment to his clients. Link: (https://www.jeffdowney.com/case-results/)
The Litigation Process
Personal injury claims can be complicated and time consuming. The litigation process involves going through the following stages:
- Seeking Legal Representation
The statute of limitation for personal injury lawsuits in most states, including Virginia is two years. In Marland and D.C. it is three years. Note that the timeline begins when the injuries were first sustained. Here is an article on factors to consider when selecting your attorney. Link (https://www.jeffdowney.com/selecting-the-right-attorney/)
It’s important to contact an attorney to ensure your case is filed within the time limits of the applicable statutes of limitations. But equally important, contacting an attorney early in the process can result in an early claims submission, which may avoid the need for filing a lawsuit altogether. This will save significant litigation expenses that will increase your net recovery.
- Filing Court Actions
Where an insurance company does not make a fair offer, your attorney will initiate legal action by filing a formal complaint in court. The defendant is then summoned and is required to respond within 21 to 30 days, depending on the Court. The response can either be an admission of liability, or, as in most cases, an initial answer is typically a broad denial of both liability and damages. A defense attorney is then assigned to the case and he will reevaluate the matter to see if it can be settled before trial.
- Fact-Finding and Discovery
This stage involves interrogatories (written questions) provision of evidence, and depositions. Your lawyer will gather necessary facts and evidence from various sources to build a strong case. The insurance company can also insist that you undergoe a defense medical examination under Rule 4:10 Link (https://www.vacourts.gov/courts/scv/amendments_tracked/rule_4_10_amend.pdf)
However, there are limits on such examinations, which are required to be done in Virginia unless a Court orders an examination outside the state.
- Motions for Dismissal
Some lawsuits are dismissed before they go to trial for various reasons, such as:
- Lack of jurisdiction;
- Wrong venue;
- Failure to follow the right process or cooperate in dsicovery;
- Filing a time-barred case;
- Suing the wrong party
If the insurance company does not put a fair offer on the case after discovery is completed, your case will go to trial. Its very important to have an experienced trial lawyer at this stage of the case. The case begins with opening statements and then evidence, including witness testimony and documents are presented. After Plaintiff’s case the defendant presents their case and the Court instructs the jury on the applicable law. After closing arguments the jury deliberates and arrives at a verdict that is announced in open court.
- Award Collection
After a successful trial, a Plaintiff will receive a monetary award. Unless there is an appeal, the insurance company will pay the award up to the defendants’s available insurance limits. If the defendant does not have adequate insurance to cover the full verdict, the Plaintiff can pursue collections of the defendant’s personal assets. However, a defendant can discharge such claims in bankruptcy if he wants to commit financial suicide and surrender all his assets and income. A judgment in Virginia is valid for 10 years and a plaintiff can also garnish a defendant’s pay check.
The losing party can appeal the court’s verdict if they find it unfair or unjust–meaning the process will start all over again. Most appeals are uphill battles and will only result in reversal where the trial court committed a significant error of law.
A CALL TO ACTION
If you have additional questions about this process or are looking for an attorney to take your case, call the Law Office of Jeffrey Downey for a free consultation. We handle cases in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. If you can’t come to our office, we can come to you or arrange a video conference call to begin the claims process.
The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, PC
8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810
McLean, VA 22102