Before making the decision to take legal action by filing a personal injury claim against someone who caused you injury, you’d probably like to know how exactly the process works. In today’s blog post, our Louisville personal injury attorneys explain the basics of the personal injury lawsuit process in Kentucky.
What You Can Expect from a Kentucky Personal Injury Claim
When someone has been injured by another person’s negligent actions, the injured individual (the “plaintiff”) may elect to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party (the “defendant”). In Kentucky, this must be done within one year of the injury.
However, the sooner the better. The less time has passed since the injury occurred, the easier it will be for you and/or your attorney to gather evidence and build your claim by following the steps below.
Seek Medical Treatment
The most important thing to do after a car, work, or other accident is to seek medical treatment right away. The adrenaline and cortisol that flood your body after an accident may mask the pain of serious internal injuries, such as whiplash or a brain injury, so a trip to your doctor or even the emergency room can protect you from your injuries getting worse.
Another reason it is important to receive treatment is that medical records are a crucial piece of evidence for a personal injury claim. Without evidence showing that you were treated for injuries, the defendant—backed by their lawyer and insurance company—will claim you are exaggerating your injuries or were never hurt in the first place.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
Once you are assured of your health and safety, contact a personal injury lawyer. An attorney will listen to what happened and provide you with legal advice based on the specific facts of your case. Your attorney will also inform you of your rights and protect you from the defendant’s legal team and insurance company. Even if you ultimately choose not to work with a lawyer, we recommended at least taking advantage of a free consultation with one so you can better understand your case from a legal perspective.
Investigate the Claim & Gather Evidence
Your lawyer will then start to gather evidence in order to piece your claim together. This process can take several weeks or months depending on how complicated your case is. During this time, your lawyer will conduct interviews, collect your medical records, calculate how much the accident will cost you, and more.
Make Demands & Negotiate
Once your attorney has all the information they need to back up your claim—including ensuring that you have reached the point of recovery, or your “maximum medical improvement” (MMI)—they will move on to the settlement phase. If your lawyer thinks that the case can be settled without trial, then they will make a demand to the defendant’s attorney or insurance company. There may then be a negotiation phase before a settlement agreement is reached.
Most personal injury claims actually end here. However, if the defendant does not agree to your demands, the claim moves on to the next phase.
File the Personal Injury Lawsuit
Filing a personal injury lawsuit in court will kickstart the litigation phase. A document called a “summons” will be sent to the defendant to notify them that they are being sued along with a “complaint” detailing the reasons and demands.
Enter the Discovery Phase
“Discovery” describes the process during which each side investigates the other’s legal claims and defenses. Both sides will question the other and take depositions of all relevant parties and witnesses. The process may take several months to a year.
Try Mediation & Negotiation
Once the discovery period is over, the lawyers will again discuss the possibility of a settlement. Typically, an agreement can eventually be reached either through mediation, a process in which the plaintiff, defendant, and their lawyers get help from a neutral mediator, or negation between only the two attorneys.
Go to Trial
Very few personal injury claims make it this far. When they do, your lawyer will argue your case in front of a judge and jury who will make the final decision. If either the defendant or the plaintiff doesn’t agree with the result of the trial, however, they can appeal the decision.
The personal injury claim process can be long and complicated, but with an experienced lawyer and the right amount of evidence, you should be able to receive the fair and just compensation you deserve.