Stages of a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury claims can be lengthy and complex. It is a good idea to understand the multiple stages of a claim are before you meet with a lawyer so that you are well informed about what to expect.
Initial Meeting with your Personal Injury Lawyer
At your initial meeting, the lawyer will listen to your story and gather as much information as possible about your situation. Some of the information your lawyer will need includes details about when and how the accident happened, whether there were any witnesses or bystanders, what injuries you sustained, what medical and other treatments you are receiving, whether you have been able to continue working, and how much time you may have missed from work. Based on this information, if there is a case to pursue, the claim process will then begin.
Notifying the defendant
Once you decide to proceed with a claim, your personal injury lawyer will first notify the parties you are intending to sue (i.e- the person or company against whom you are making a claim, as well as their insurance company). This puts the parties on notice and lets them know that you are intending to pursue a claim and compensation for your injuries.
Filing the statement of claim
Your personal injury lawyer will then begin the claim process by filing the statement of claim with the Court, and serving it on the defendant. At this stage, the defendant will typically hire their own personal injury lawyer, and will file a Statement of Defense.
In some instances, filing a statement of claim is all that it takes to motivate the other side to meet and discuss a fair settlement. In other cases, the matter must proceed further, to trial.
The “discovery” phase is an essential preparatory stage of a personal injury lawsuit. During the discovery process, each side has the opportunity to gather important factual information from one another. The discovery process is also a way in which to eliminate any surprises which, if otherwise sprung on the parties, could prolong the case.
During examinations for discovery (of which there can be multiple) each side is given the chance to present their version of events, and is then questioned. Some questions are standard and are asked in most cases, other questions are specific to your particular case and personal circumstances. Each party will also receive requests for admission, in which each party is asked to either confirm or deny specific facts related to the matter. Your lawyer will accompany you to the discovery to assist you through this process.
In addition to answering questions, both parties must present documents that are relevant and important to the matter. Your personal injury lawyer will help you to gather all police reports, insurance forms, medical records, and other documents relevant to your claim. These will be given to the defendant’s lawyer, who will, in turn, provide your lawyer with documents relevant to their defense.
Settlement discussions are possible at any stage of the discovery process, and sometimes matters settle at this stage, reaching a compromise that is satisfactory to all parties, without proceeding further.
If a matter does not settle, the next stage of a personal injury claim is the mediation stage. This is a very important stage of the process, and is mandatory for parties in certain jurisdictions in Ontario to participate in prior to their matter proceeding to trial. Mediation is an informal settlement meeting between the parties involved in the lawsuit. A mediator is chosen and agreed to by lawyers for both/all parties, and helps the parties explore the possibilities of settlement. Your personal injury lawyer will accompany you to the mediation, and represent you throughout. Many personal injury claims are settled at mediation.
Where the mediation is not successful, the next stage of a personal injury claim is the pre-trial conference. The pre-trial conference occurs before a judge, usually several months before your scheduled trial. the judge will meet with the lawyers for both sides and provide input about the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
Following the pre-trial meeting your personal injury lawyer will make recommendations as to whether to proceed with the matter or settle. Generally, many cases reach a resolution at this stage. However, if no agreement is made at this point, your matter will proceed to trial, in court.
How Long Does this Process Take?
Unfortunately, personal injury cases can take a long time, depending on the severity of the injuries, the number of parties involved, how cooperative parties are, the availability of mediators and court dates, potential difficulties in gathering documents and other relevant evidence, and several other factors.
The experienced personal injury lawyers at Derfel Law will help provide clarity about your matter, help you anticipate what lies ahead, and will estimate how long a resolution may feasibly take. Call us at 416-847-3580 to schedule a visit or contact us here.