Although most personal injury cases settle before trial, if you are involved in a car accident or any other kind of mishap that causes you to pursue a personal injury claim, there is a chance that your case goes to court. This can happen if the insurance company denies your claim, or if you and the insurance company are unable to reach a settlement agreement. In this situation, you may need to file a lawsuit and have your case heard in front of a judge.
Going to court when it comes to personal injury cases can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with an understanding of the legal process and what you can expect in the courtroom, you can more adequately prepare for this next phase. In this blog, we will discuss the legal process of a personal injury lawsuit.
The Legal Process of a Personal Injury Case
Here we present the legal process for when a personal injury case between a plaintiff (the injured person seeking compensation) and a defendant (the person or entity being sued) goes to court.
It is worth mentioning that the onus is on the person bringing the lawsuit to establish their claims. However, unlike in criminal trials where the evidence must demonstrate guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” in personal injury trials, the plaintiff’s evidence must only show that it is more likely than not that their claims are true.
Filing a Lawsuit (Statement of Claim)
A Statement of Claim is the first legal document filed in a court case, containing the facts and specifics of the dispute or incident that resulted in the filing of the court case. An effective Statement of Claim should clearly explain the accusations made against the defendant, outlining all relevant details, such as who is involved, when it occurred and what damage has been caused.
The Statement of Claim will then be served to the defendant, who must respond within an allotted time frame. After this stage has been completed, further steps in a court case can begin to take place.
The next step in the process is typically the discovery phase. During this stage, both sides will work to gather evidence that can be used to build their argument and fight their case. This process can include interviews and depositions (called examination for discovery in Ontario) of witnesses under oath, as well as document exchanges between both sides. Preparation is key during this critical stage of litigation as it will serve as the foundation for success later on.
The next step in the process is usually mandatory mediation. Many jurisdictions in Ontario require that both sides hire a mediator and have a private out-of-court mediation to try to settle the case before proceeding to court.
This is a confidential and informal mediation process that can be highly effective at settling cases. Each side will prepare a mediation brief for the mediator that usually includes a summary of the critical issues in the case and key medical records and reports. If the mediation doesn’t result in a settlement then the parties are allowed to proceed to the Pretrial Conference before a judge.
After the discovery process and mandatory mediation have been completed, the case proceeds to the pretrial conference. Here the judge, the parties, and their respective lawyers meet to discuss all the particulars of the case. In such meetings, they evaluate what is going on with the case at hand and determine if there is a possibility for a settlement.
If a settlement cannot be reached between the parties even after diligent negotiation, then both sides are required to prepare for trial. This meeting between judge and counsels serves as an opportunity to negotiate before bringing the case to a more public setting, thereby potentially saving everyone time and money which would otherwise go into the adjudication of the dispute.
During a trial, both the plaintiff and defendant will present their case to the judge and jury. The plaintiff has the opportunity to present evidence in support of their claims first, followed by the defendant who can present counter-arguments and sometimes surveillance evidence
At a certain point during the trial, witnesses are called upon to provide testimony. The exact timing and sequence of witness testimony will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case, as well as the jurisdiction in which the trial is taking place.
In most personal injury trials, the witnesses that are called on include medical experts who can provide testimony about the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, as well as witnesses who can attest to the financial costs of the plaintiff’s medical treatment. Afterwards, the defendant and their attorney will have the chance to present their own witnesses who can dispute the claims made by the plaintiff’s witnesses.
Throughout the trial, both the plaintiff and the defendant will have the opportunity to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses in order to test the credibility and accuracy of their testimony. Cross-examination is a vital element of any legal dispute, as it can often be used to establish facts that have a significant impact on the final ruling.
After both parties have presented their case thoroughly and without bias, the jury will deliberate privately and render a verdict for either party. If the jury finds in your favour, then damages for your injuries, medical expenses, and lost wages may be awarded; on the other hand, should you not find success with the jury then, unfortunately, no such recompense will be granted.
After the judgment is decided, either party could decide to appeal the court’s decision to a higher court. This allows for a review of the original decision and gives an opportunity for any mistakes or errors of law to be discussed further.
An appeal could extend already lengthy personal injury lawsuits by several months, or even years, depending on the complexity of the issues presented. Therefore, when an appeal is filed, it is important to understand that this could add another protracted stage to the legal proceedings.
Contact McNally Gervan for Help with you Personal Injury Claims
With the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands disability claims, as well as the ins and outs of personal injury court proceedings, you can ensure that your case is handled properly and that your rights are protected, which will give you the best chance of receiving fair compensation you deserve. Contact McNally Gervan personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.