Your documentation is in order, and you think your personal injury claim will go through without a hitch. Unfortunately, the insurer doesn’t budge – they fail to honor your claim on grounds you can’t understand.
You can’t hide your frustration. If only you heeded your friend’s recommendation to hire one of the best personal injury attorneys Syracuse NY has to offer, you wouldn’t be in this position.
Not to worry; you can still make amends. Now that the insurer has opted not to play ball, you might wonder what will happen if your claim goes to court.
First off, you don’t need to panic if this happens. The court process is relatively straightforward, and with the help of a competent personal injury lawyer, you can get a favorable outcome. That said, let’s examine what you can expect should you step into a
courtroom to settle your injury claim.
If your injury claim goes to court, your attorney will first need to file a summons and complaint. A summons is a document notifying the defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against them and that they must appear in court. On the other hand, the complaint outlines your allegations against the defendant – the insurer or at-fault party.
Your attorney will also need to submit documentation related to your case. This may include:
■ Medical and police reports.
■ Insurance documents.
■ A statement outlining the evidence you or other witnesses plan to give.
■ Receipts showing your incurred expenses.
■ A statement from your employer showing lost wages.
■ Any additional documentation is relevant to your claim.
For a hearing to commence, your lawyer must file all this documentation with the court. Failure to provide the relevant paperwork means your claim may not move forward.
After filing the summons and complaint, the court will set a date for the first hearing. This is typically a scheduling conference, during which both parties appear before a judge to discuss the case’s progress. The meeting typically covers the following topics:
■ Deadlines for exchanging information and evidence.
■ The possibility of mediation or arbitration.
■ Scheduling deposed testimony.
■ A trial date.
Then, both parties will better understand what to expect moving forward. The case will then go to trial if you can’t agree during the scheduling conference.
If your claim goes to trial, both sides will have the opportunity to present their case before a judge or jury – depending on the court’s rules. First, your attorney will give an opening statement outlining the facts of the case and what you hope to achieve with the lawsuit.
The onus is upon you (the plaintiff) to prove that the defendant is liable for the injuries and damages you’ve sustained. To do this, your attorney will:
■ Question witnesses.
■ Present evidence.
■ Object to questions or evidence presented by the other side.
This also implies you’ll be required to take the witness stand and testify about the events leading up to your accident, including your injuries or damages. After the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant gets an opportunity to present their defense. And once both sides present their case, the jury deliberates and renders a verdict.
The judge’s ruling concludes the court proceedings. If the jury finds it in your favor, the judge will order the defendant to pay you damages – once they arrive at a figure. Conversely, they’ll dismiss the case. To determine the amount you’ll get paid for the damages (should you win), the court looks at various factors, including:
■ The severity of your injuries.
■ The extent of your financial losses, including lost wages.
■ The pain and suffering you’ve endured.
■ Past and future medical expenses related to the injury.
If the at-fault party is unwilling or unable to pay up, the court may place a lien on their assets. The judge may also order them to sell a particular property to raise the necessary funds.
If the outcome of the trial is not in your favor, you may have the right to file an appeal. An appeals court will only consider questions of law – not questions of fact. As such, they won’t re-examine the evidence presented at trial. Instead, they’ll only examine whether the judge made errors when instructing the jury or ruling on specific issues.
Ultimately, working with a seasoned personal injury lawyer is the surest way to build a strong case and increase your odds of a favorable outcome. And hopefully, by understanding what to expect if your claim goes to court, you can confidently approach the process.