If you are injured in an accident that was not your fault – a traffic crash, a slip-and-fall incident, or an accident caused by a dangerous or defective consumer item – after you’ve been seen by a medical provider, discuss your right to compensation with an Indiana personal injury attorney.
To obtain the compensation that an injured victim of negligence is entitled to by Indiana law, what other steps will you need to take? How does the personal injury process work? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions and more about injury victims’ rights.
However, if your injury was work-related, what you read below may not apply. Compensation for work-related injuries is provided through the workers’ compensation system. Most personal injury lawyers can offer you advice and help you with your workers’ compensation claim.
What Is Your Top Priority After an Accident?
Every year in the U.S., more than 31 million personal injuries require a doctor’s attention. Traffic accidents are the reason for about half of all personal injuries, and a traffic accident happens about once every ten seconds in the United States.
Of course, if you have been injured, seeking and obtaining medical treatment will be your first and paramount priority. If you have been in an accident and you don’t feel injured immediately, you still should have a medical examination within the first 24 hours.
Why do you need a medical exam if you do not feel so bad? To protect yourself both medically and legally. You may have sustained a latent or hard-to-detect injury that could emerge in a few days or several weeks later as a serious medical condition.
And if you have in fact been injured, an immediate medical exam creates the paperwork that helps link your injury to a specific accident and gives you the standing to initiate legal action. The longer you wait to have a medical exam, the harder it is to link your injury to a specific accident.
When Should You Speak to an Injury Attorney?
After you’ve been examined, treated, and released by your medical provider, contact an Indiana personal injury lawyer at once. Your lawyer will explain your rights and how the law applies to your own case. A first meeting with a personal injury lawyer will be offered at no cost.
Take advantage of this free first consultation. You will receive the personalized legal advice that you’ll need, and if both of you agree that a legal claim is the best way to move forward, your lawyer will conduct a preliminary investigation of your case.
Who May Be Held Liable for Your Injuries?
In cases arising from traffic accidents, an injury victim usually makes a claim against the negligent driver’s auto insurance company, but if you were injured by a commercial driver, that driver’s employer – or whoever maintains the company’s vehicles – could also have liability.
If a defective vehicle or part caused the accident that injured you, the vehicle or part manufacturer may be liable. If the road or highway where the crash happened was negligently designed or maintained, a government agency might be liable.
During the preliminary investigation, a good Indiana personal injury attorney will uncover potential sources of your compensation by determining which party or parties are responsible and liable for your accident and injury.
How Does the Personal Injury Legal Process Begin?
If those parties have applicable insurance coverage or enough assets to cover an out-of-court settlement or jury verdict, your attorney may file a personal injury complaint in the appropriate civil court if settlement cannot be reached.
The defendant – that is, the negligent party – will be served with your complaint. When the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company hires an opposing attorney, both sides will ask each other for evidence and witness information in a process called “discovery.”
Out-of-court negotiations that are aimed at settling your case may begin and continue throughout the process. As discovery proceeds, both sides may conduct depositions – question-and-answer sessions under oath – of the opposing party and any witnesses.
What Else May Happen Before a Trial?
During the discovery period, if there is any dispute regarding your injuries or the extent of your injuries, the defendant generally has the right to have you examined by a physician of his or her choice.
As the case moves closer to trial, both sides can make motions regarding what evidence may be introduced at the trial, and a defendant may ask the court for a summary judgment, which is a dismissal of the case. In most Indiana personal injury cases, summary judgments are not granted.
If no acceptable settlement offer has been forthcoming from the defendant during negotiations, or if the defendant has continued to deny having any liability for your accident and injury, your case may proceed to trial.
What Happens During a Personal Injury Trial?
At trial, your attorney will explain what happened and ask the jury to order the defendant to compensate you. The defendant’s attorney will explain why that side believes your compensation amount should be reduced or why you should not be compensated at all.
Witnesses are called and cross-examined, evidence is presented, and finally, a verdict will be rendered. When reaching a verdict, jurors will decide if the defendant is liable for the accident and for your losses, and if so, how much the defendant will be required to pay you.
After the trial, either side may launch an appeals process that could last from several months to several years. After the appeals have been exhausted, if your claim has prevailed, the defendant will be required to pay you the compensation that you are awarded.
However, appeals are rare, and in fact, so are personal injury trials. Most personal injury cases are settled out-of-court before trial.
Your Case Should Receive Your Attorney’s Undivided Attention
After a serious accident and injury, you should be able to focus on regaining your health and not on legal matters. A good personal injury lawyer will ensure that you have taken the right steps and that you’ve made no mistakes that might jeopardize your personal injury claim.
It is imperative for your personal injury case to receive the undivided attention of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Indiana personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, so you pay no attorney’s fee unless and until you receive the compensation you are seeking.