The real legal world is definitely not like a reality show. It moves much slower and is not nearly as exciting or dramatic as we might see on TV. But just like the filming your favorite legal TV show, it can help to understand what goes on “behind the scenes”.
Here are some steps of what goes on behind the scenes of a personal injury case
1. Engage in investigations
Lawyers are great at gathering facts. They must know have all the pieces of the personal injury case pie to determine if a claim is valid. They will not only interview you, but they will also gather facts from other sources including:
- Insurance companies
- Hospitals (to gather medical records)
- The vehicle repair shop
- Other witnesses
It is possible that the lawyer determines that there is no legal claim after conducting a through investigation. However, if the case should continue, then the attorney will move on to the next step.
2. Begin negotiations
Attorneys are also skilled negotiators. They will contact the opposing side (or insurance company) to make a demand for settlement based on what they think the case is worth (developed using all of the facts of the case and the attorney’s prior experience and knowledge about the related law).
They may be able to work out a deal that will satisfy everyone at this point. This is generally favorable because it usually saves everyone a great deal of time and money. However, if a settlement is not an option at this stage, then the attorney will continue to the next step.
3. Filing the lawsuit
Most people do not realize that the lawsuit is not filed immediately. In fact, it is only filed if the parties cannot work out an agreement beforehand.
There are certain legal time limits that a experienced personal injury attorney must adhere to, so it is important that you tell a lawyer about your case as soon as possible after an accident. Keep in mind that investigation and negotiations can take a great deal of time.
4. Engaging in discovery
During “discovery” both parties will seek further information from each other. They will interview the other parties in what is called a “deposition”, and they will gather expert witnesses, if necessary.
Discovery can be extremely time consuming, especially in a complicated case. Some cases can be completely finished with discovery in as little as a month, but more complex cases require as much as a year just for this portion of the case.
5. Continuing negotiations
Throughout the process, your attorney will continue to try to settle the case. Even after the case has started, it will still sometimes save parties the expense of going to trial if they can work out a deal. If, however, a settlement cannot be reached, then the case will continue to trial.
6. Participating in a trial
A personal injury trial can last from a day to several weeks. Trials are often scheduled a year or more in advance, partially with the hope that the parties will settle.
However, much like the writing and filming of your favorite legal drama, the duration of an entire personal injury case can take several months and even up to several years—depending on the nature and complexities of the case, of course.