Personal Injury Law
Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney
Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyer Kaitlin S. Verdura explains the stages of a civil personal injury case in Phoenix Arizona
What you need to know if you or a loved one has been involved in an injury-related accident, is that often times you are entitled to just compensation. Many people don’t realize that just compensation may include all costs for past and future medical treatment, pain and suffering, lost wages both past and future, damage to personal property, loss of consortium to your spouse, diminished value to your car even after it has been repaired, and much more.
In any personal injury case, the time to file to file a claim may be limited by the statute of limitations, which begins to run on the date of injury. If you have a personal injury claim, it’s important to contact somebody who can help. A personal injury can have an ongoing impact in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Regardless of the nature and extent of your injuries, we all know the effect an injury can have on your life. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t delay. You’ve suffered long enough.
If you or someone you love has been involved in an injury related accident in Phoenix,
Scottsdale, Glendale or Tempe, contact Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney Kaitlin S.
Verdura today for a free consultation.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, the first step in your case is to meet with a qualified attorney. At this meeting, your attorney will gather information about the facts and surrounding circumstances in your case. This may include asking questions about your medical treatment, statements made by other parties involved in the accident, potential witnesses or other relevant information that may strengthen your case. Your attorney will also likely discuss practical aspects of your case such as a representation agreement, different types of legal fees, and the kinds of costs you can expect in your case. There is no set rule as to how long your initial meeting will last; however, an hour or two is usually sufficient.
If you decide to proceed with litigation, your attorney will file legal papers called pleadings to initiate the lawsuit. Pleadings identify the parties involved, outline the plaintiff’s case against the defendant and identify the plaintiff’s prayer for relief. Once served with notice, the defendant will respond in an answer which identifies his or her defenses and prayer for relief. Defendant may file a counterclaim against the plaintiff or a 3rd party claim against another party believed to be liable. In multiple party suits, one or more parties may also file a cross-claim against another party in the same side of the lawsuit. Below are the types of pleadings that may be filed in your case. Your attorney will describe the relevant pleadings and what they mean in more detail during your Attorney Meeting.
• Summons and Service of Process
• Reply to Counterclaim
• Reply to Cross-claim
• 3rd Party Claim
• Reply to 3rd Party Claim
Once the lawsuit has been initiated, the parties engage in the discovery process.
This process involves investigating and gathering information surrounding the facts
of the case. Discovery may include written discovery, document production and depositions.
Written discovery includes interrogatories and requests for admissions by either
party regarding the nature of their claim or defense. Document production includes
the production of relevant documents or the production of documents that may reasonably
lead to the discovery of relevant facts. Medical records fall under this type of
discovery. A deposition is sworn testimony provided by a witness under oath to an
attorney. It is transcribed by a court reporter who is present during the deposition.
• Uniform Interrogatories
• Non-Uniform Interrogatories
• Request for Admissions
• Request for Production of Documents and Things
Many civil suits are resolved prior to going to trial through negotiated settlements by the parties. In fact, some cases settle even before a lawsuit is filed. A settlement generally involves an agreed upon sum of money to be paid to the Plaintiff for his or her claimed losses. Once the plaintiff has accepted the agreed upon settlement sum, the lawsuit is dismissed. There are many factors to consider before settling a case. Common factors include:
• Strength of the evidence in your case
• Dollar value of case
• Cost associated with hiring an expert and proceeding with trial
• Strength of your opponent’s evidence
• Verdicts and settlements for similar accidents in your jurisdiction
If a case cannot be settled, the parties proceed to trial. The state of Arizona has instituted Alternative Dispute Resolution. Alternative Dispute Resolution allows parties to implement a full range of dispute resolution methods, both private and with court involvement, to resolve the case without the need for trial. Under the newly amended Rule 16(g), Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, parties to civil disputes have a duty to consider ADR, confer with one another about using an ADR process, and report the outcome of their conference to the court.
Arizona has also instituted Mandatory Compulsory Arbitration for disputes less than $50,000. This is one method of Alternative Dispute Resolution and is intended to free up the court docket. Compulsory Arbitration is much like an informal mini-trial. The parties involved appear before a court appointed attorney (arbitrator) to present the facts and evidence in their case. The arbitrator considers the facts and evidence in the case and determines the issue of liability, if in dispute, the dollar amount, it any, and to whom the dollar amount should be awarded.
If a case involves more than $50,000 and cannot be resolved by Alternative Dispute Resolution, it will be certified for jury trial. A jury trial consists of a members of the community selected at random who sit through the trial, hear the facts and evidence and render a verdict. A jury trial is held in courtroom before a judge and jury, and is more formal than Arbitration. The Rules of Evidence are also more stringent in jury trials and therefore the introduction of certain evidence is more difficult. Once the arbitrator has rendered a judgment, or the jury has rendered a verdict, the decision is final absent an appeal.
If a judgment is rendered and one or more parties disputes the decision, an appeal may be filed. In the case of Arbitration, the appeal goes back to the trial judge who will either hear the case or send it to Alternative Dispute Resolution for a short trial. Charges may be assessed on the party who appeals if they don’t prevail at trial.
In the case of a jury trial, the Court of Appeals will review the case for errors in law. The Court may reverse the decision if it finds an error that contributed to the trial court’s decision or it may decline the request for a new jury trial. Once a decision regarding appeal has been rendered, opportunity for further appeal is often times limited. It is important to talk to your attorney in more detail about the appeals process if you find yourself in this situation.