Personal injury lawsuits vary as the different subtypes, like car accidents and slip and falls, are different types of accidents. However, the main outcome is the same, finding the negligent party at fault and reaching a settlement suitable for the victim’s damages and injuries. The steps for a personal injury claim are pretty consistent across the board for all types of accidents.
1. Consult with an Attorney
After your personal injury accident, you are injured and are probably being pestered by insurance adjusters. When you have a free consultation with one of our Arizona personal injury lawyers, you will realize we take away all of those interactions so you can focus on getting better. Arizona has a statute of limitations of two years which means accident victims have two years to file a claim for a personal injury accident.
During this consultation, you will discuss your accident and the injuries you sustained. Your attorney will advise you on the steps needed to take to pursue this claim and advise you on what to say to the insurance company. The legal advice they provide to you will help for later steps in the process. Arizona is an at-fault state which means the injured person has the right to collect compensation from the at-fault party.
Sometimes there is confusion on who can file for a personal injury victim. If a minor is involved in a school bus accident, the legal guardians are able to file the claim on their behalf. In cases of wrongful death, surviving loved ones either parents, legal guardians, spouses, or adult children are able to file on behalf of the deceased. The loved ones that file can request compensation to pay for funeral costs, any medical bills, and the pain and suffering that come with losing a loved one.
Your Phoenix personal injury attorney will be requesting all evidence you gathered from your accident. At the time of your accident, it is important to document the accident scene.
If you were involved in a slip and fall accident you want to document the cause of the slip, if there was a lack of warning signs and photos of the surrounding area. The injuries you sustain from the accident should also be documented with photos but also medical records by a physician.
The attorney will request the police report on your behalf if you haven’t obtained it yourself. Together you will review the details of the police report, look at videos and photos to assess the scene, and reach out to witnesses for statements.
Arizona has a comparative negligence rule that applies to personal injury cases. Arizona law AZ 12-2505 states that compensation will directly correlate with the percentage of fault between all parties involved in the accident. In order for the plaintiff to receive any compensation at all, they have to be less than 50% at fault for the accident.
3. Case Building
After the free case evaluation process with our Arizona personal injury attorneys, the case-building process starts. The goal is to prove the negligent party at fault for the incident and use the evidence provided to back up the claims. During this time, you will also be aware of the amount of compensation your attorney is looking to get for you.
Compensation will include payment for medical bills, property damage, funeral costs (if needed), lost wages, and pain and suffering. The settlement will include economic and non-economic damages. Arizona uses a multiplier to figure out the amount of money to request for non-economic damages. It is important to note that workers’ compensation claims are not able to claim pain and suffering damages.
After you agree with your attorney about a proposed settlement amount, your attorney will send it to the defendant. The opposing party will do one of three things; they will accept, decline, or reply with a counteroffer. If both parties cannot agree on a settlement amount, a lawsuit will be the next step.
4. Filing a Lawsuit
Filing a personal injury lawsuit after not agreeing on a settlement amount is a pretty simple step in this process. The demand letter is filed with a summons and complaint and then it needs to be served to the defendant.
5. Discovery Process
During this process, there are four basic tools to assess the claim:
- Depositions – Face-to-face questioning of the opposing party or a witness
- Requests for production – Where one party asks the other to produce specific physical evidence to prove claims being made
- Interrogatories – Written questions sent from one party to the other party
- Requests for admission – Where one party asks the other party to admit certain facts are true
With negotiations, your attorney will go back and forth with the other party on your behalf to get an agreeable settlement. Sometimes a mediator is involved in the process of negotiating. A mediator is a current or former judge whose job is to help the parties reach an agreement.
In Arizona, there is a damage cap law. The damage cap law limits the amount of compensation certain lawsuits can obtain for their clients. However, this law does not affect personal injury cases! Article 2 Section 31 states that no law can be enacted limiting the amount of damages that can be recovered for causing the death or injury of any person.
7. Pre-Trial Procedures
For pre-trial procedures there are four motions that can take place:
- Motion in Limine – motion to ask the court to rule on the admissibility of certain evidence
- Change of Venue – a motion filed by the defendant requesting that the court location be changed
- Motion to Compel – motion asking the court to order the other party to take some type of action
- Motion for Summary Judgement – motion asking the judge to issue a ruling on the case based on undisputed facts
- This happens when one party believes the other party has no evidence to support their claims and must lose the case as a matter of law
It is important to keep in mind that many personal injury cases settle before reaching the trial stage. However, if no settlement can be agreed upon then the case will be moved to trial. This is where litigation takes place and the jury or the judge will determine fault and the settlement amount.
9. Trial Collecting a Judgement or Appealing a Ruling
The last step in the process and typically the best part, collecting compensation! If the case went to trial, your attorney will be in charge of collecting and distributing the settlement funds to you. However, if your ruling wasn’t in your favor, you do have the option to appeal the ruling by filing with the court of appeals.