Process for Filing Personal Injury Claims in Georgia
After sustaining a personal injury, the thought of going through the process of a lawsuit can seem daunting and never ending. However, understanding the steps that occur along the way can help put your mind at ease and help create a realization that filing a lawsuit may be one of the best decisions you make.
The steps within the personal injury claim process include:
- Hiring of an attorney
- Filing of the claim
- Gathering evidence
- Settlement negotiations
- Court proceedings
Prior to filing a personal injury claim, some type of injury must occur. For the claim to have merit, the injury must have been caused by the breach of an owed duty by another person.
The word “duty” refers to someone having had a responsibility to do or not do something.
For the duty to have been breached, the defendant must not only have had a responsibility to do, or not do, something, but they must have additionally either not done what they were supposed to do or must have done something that they were not supposed to do.
Causation needs to be proven in both actual as well as proximate terms.
Actual causation requires that the defendant’s breach of duty be the cause in fact of your injury.
Proximate cause refers to how foreseeable an injury would be as a result of the action or inaction of the defendant.
If you are unable to establish that damages were suffered as a result of the breach of duty, your case will likely fail. Loss of wages, medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, and disfigurement are examples of the type of damages that can be shown occurred as a result of the injury.
Hiring of an Attorney
Outside of deciding to pursue legal remedy for the injury you incurred, the hiring of an attorney may be the single-most important decision you make during the personal injury claims process.
When you first meet with an attorney, you will be asked questions similar to; how the injury happened; the type of medical treatment you received after sustaining your injury; whether insurance was used during your medical treatment; if anyone witnessed you being injured; and how the injury has impacted your life.
Based on your answers to the questions, the attorney will assess whether they are the right counsel for your pursuit of a personal injury claim.
Filing of the Personal Injury Claim
Once you have hired an attorney, legal papers will be filed in court to begin the litigation process.
The first document to be filed will likely be the complaint which outlines your case against the person who was the cause of your injury. The document will identify yourself as well as the defendant, the venue for the proceedings, your legal claims, the facts supporting your legal claims, and the type of damages you are seeking.
After the complaint is filed with the court, a summons will be issued. A summons is an order from the court that notifies the defendant that they have been sued and establishes a designated amount of time for when the defendant must answer the already filed complaint which will also be served upon the defendant.
When the defendant responds to your lawsuit, they will do so in the form of a document called an answer. The answer will address each of the claims made in the complaint as well as asset possible defenses or reasons why the defendant is not liable for the damages you have requested.
Gathering of Evidence
Once your lawsuit has been properly filed with the court, your attorney will begin to gather evidence that is relevant to your claim. During this process, your attorney may take the depositions of people involved in your injury. A deposition is a situation where a person will answer questions posed by your attorney in an informal setting. The given answers will be sworn statements and may be used at trial should your case advance to that stage.
It is possible that your claim will never be heard inside of a courtroom because the defendant will offer you a sum of money to settle the case. In exchange for the sum of money, you would give up your right to pursue further legal action related to the injury and the case would cease once the exchange between yourself and the defendant is made.
Before agreeing to a settlement amount, you and your attorney will discuss both the benefits and disadvantages to settling the case, how strong of a case you have and how it would likely fare if it proceeded to the litigation stage, and how the settlement funds would be portioned out between your attorney’s fees as well as your expenses.
It is important to note that your attorney is not authorized to approve of any settlement offer from the defendant without your approval.
If a settlement is not able to be reached, your case will move to the litigation stage. Once in court, both sides will make opening statements.
An opening statement is often detailed in nature and is the first opportunity for the court to hear your side of the story. Your attorney will cover the facts of the injury and how the defendant is liable while discussing the process for which your case will be proven.
During the trial, evidence will be presented by both sides usually in the form of documents, pictures, medical documentation and witness testimony.
Finally, after closing arguments, your claims will be evaluated and ultimately the court will need to decide if by the preponderance of the evidence presented whether or not the defendant should be held liable for your injuries.
If the court finds the defendant liable for your injuries, a judgment for damages will be awarded on your behalf. In some situations, the defendant may either refuse to honor the judgment or simply cannot afford to pay the amount ordered by the court. In this type of situation, it is likely that your attorney will discuss potential collection strategies that may prove to be effective.
If you think you may have a personal injury claim, contact us today. You need an experienced attorney who can fight for you. At the Law Offices of B. Clarke Nash, P.C. we can help you get the compensation you deserve.