If you have recently been injured in a Washington State car accident, you likely have a number of questions about the legal process involved in a personal injury case and how your case will be handled in particular. Unless you have been through a personal injury accident case, you probably do not know much about the process. While each case is unique, there are a number of common steps that your case will typically pass through before conclusion.
- Meeting Your Attorney: Your initial meeting with your car accident attorney may be brief, with a longer follow-up meeting, or you may spend a good deal of time with your attorney at your first appointment. Your attorney will ultimately need to gather a considerable amount of information from you in order to advise you about your chances of recovering compensation, as well as to plan your strategy. You may be sent home with a list of documents and/or information that your attorney needs in order to prepare and litigate your case.
- Investigation: Your attorney will then begin the investigation phase of your case. This often includes studying the police report, interviewing witnesses and consulting with healthcare providers. Expert witnesses may also need to be brought on board to prove negligence on the part of the other driver or to provide opinions regarding your medical condition. In some cases, the investigation phase is rather short, while in others it can take months, even years. As a general rule, the more serious the accident and/or the more complicated your injuries are, the longer it will take to properly investigate the case.
- Treatment: While your attorney is investigating and preparing your case, your job is to followup with any and all treatment ordered by your doctors. The ultimate value of your case will depend, to some extent, on the cost of your treatment to date and the estimated cost of any future treatment. You have only one shot at compensation, so you want to make sure that all of your injuries are accounted for and that you have a very clear idea of how those injuries may impact your future health.
- Valuating Your Case: Once you near the end of your treatment for physical and/or mental injuries suffered in the accident, you and your attorney will sit down and determine what your case is worth. Washington State allows you to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are things like medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages are more subjective in nature and represent the emotional impact the accident had on you. You and your attorney will collaborate to come up with a figure that you believe adequately represents both your economic and non-economic damages.
- Negotiation: Most car accident cases are settled out of court. Your attorney will submit a demand package to the defendant’s attorney in most cases once you have decided on a value for your case. At this point, both sides will try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both parties. If a settlement is reached, the appropriate documents will be drawn up and you will receive the agreed-upon compensation.
- Trial: If a settlement is not reached, then your case will proceed to trial. A trial may take months, or even years, to actually come to fruition. At trial, your attorney will present your side of the case and the defendant’s attorney will present his side. A jury (in most cases) will then decide if the defendant was negligent. If the jury finds that the defendant was negligent, it will then decide how much compensation you deserve for the injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence.
Need help with your car accident or personal injury claim in Washington State? Contact the car accident lawyers at Mariano Morales Law at (509) 853-2222 for a detailed evaluation of your potential case.