Category: Understanding Personal Injury

Understanding The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process In Atlanta, GA

People injured by another person or party may be entitled to compensation for losses and damages. Filing an injury claim is the first step in receiving compensation. Most personal injury claims actually settle without filing a lawsuit.

If a party refuses to negotiate a fair settlement, it may be necessary to work with a personal injury lawyer to discuss filing a lawsuit. Understanding the personal injury lawsuit process in Atlanta, GA can be helpful, especially if you are nervous or worried about how lawsuits work.

The personal injury lawsuit process in Atlanta, GA varies slightly, depending on the type of case and the facts of the case. However, there are common steps that are the same in all lawsuits.

1. Locate a Personal Injury Attorney

It is usually a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. An attorney investigates the accident to gather and preserve evidence proving fault and liability. These are two essential legal requirements to receive compensation for an injury claim.

Choose an attorney who handles personal injury claims. You want someone with experience handling cases like your case. You also want someone who understands the local court system and who is familiar with the judges and court staff.

You may need to interview several attorneys to find an attorney who meets your needs. Look for an attorney who communicates effectively, including answering your questions and listening to you. Make sure that you understand the fee agreement before retaining the law firm.

2. Accident Investigations 

After you hire a law firm, the lawyer begins an accident investigation. An accident investigation may involve several steps. Some steps your attorney may take while investigating your injury claim include, but are not limited to:

  • Interviewing eyewitnesses
  • Obtaining copies of police reports and accident reports
  • Searching for videos of the accident, such as traffic cameras, eyewitness videos, etc.
  • Requesting and reviewing your medical records
  • Visiting the accident scene and gathering physical evidence
  • Working with your medical providers to obtain detailed diagnosis and prognosis
  • Retain professionals such as accident reconstructionists, medical experts, and investigators, if necessary
  • Researching and analyzing application statutes and case law

3. Preparing and Filing a Lawsuit

After conducting a thorough investigation, your lawyer prepares the required court documents to begin the personal injury lawsuit. Attorneys attempt to settle claims without filing lawsuits whenever possible to save time and money.

A lawsuit begins by filing a complaint. Generally, complaints are filed in the county in which the person being sued resides. The complaint details the nature of the legal dispute. It contains details of the accident and the legal basis for holding the party responsible for the accident responsible for your damages.

The complaint is served on all defendants (the parties being sued) with a summons. The summons directs the parties to file a response or answer within a specified period. 

If a party fails to respond to the lawsuit, your attorney files a motion with the court asking for a default judgment. The court sets a hearing date. In most cases, the court grants a judgment if you present facts proving that the defendant is responsible for your injuries and damages.

If the party responds to the complaint, the lawsuit proceeds to the discovery phase.

4. Discovery Phase

The discovery phase is used to gain additional evidence and information you can use to prove your case. Each party has the opportunity to use several discovery tools to gather evidence.

Common discovery tools used by parties to a lawsuit include:

  • Depositions — Interviews conducted under oath.
  • Request to Produce — Written questions asking for documents and information related to the case.
  • Interrogatories — Written questions that a party must answer under oath.
  • Request for Admissions — Written statements that a party must admit or deny.

The exchange of evidence is a way to gain additional information to build a case against the other party. Your attorney may continue to consult with various experts during the discovery phase. The discovery phase can take several months or a year to complete, depending on the complexity of the case. 

5. Pre-Trial Motions

Attorneys may file one or more pre-trial motions to resolve issues before trial. An attorney may file a motion to dismiss if he believes that you do not have sufficient evidence to prove your case. Your attorney may file a motion for summary judgment asking for an immediate ruling based on the evidence already presented.

Both attorneys may file motions to keep certain evidence out of the trial or prevent witnesses from providing particular testimony. The motions filed depend on the circumstances of the case.

6. Negotiations

The parties continue to negotiate during the preparation for trial. After the other party reviews the evidence your attorney has gathered, the party may be more willing to settle the matter before trial. 

A settlement of the personal injury lawsuit may be reached at any point before the jury decides the case.

7. Trial

The case proceeds to trial if the parties do not reach a settlement. During a trial, both parties present witnesses and evidence that supports the parties’ allegations. 

After the presentation of all evidence, the judge instructs the jurors regarding the applicable law and provides instructions for deliberations. The jury considers the evidence presented during the trial and returns a verdict.

Either party can file an appeal if the party disagrees with the outcome of the case. An appeal can take months to years to complete.

When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you suffered an accident or injury, you are probably wondering if you should hire a personal injury lawyer. Personal injury lawyers deal with a variety of different practice areas including car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and slip and falls. They know the laws and can accurately represent you to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. It can be difficult to know when in the process you need to hire an attorney.

Here are some tips to make sure you get the representation you need; at the time you need it.

Do You Have a Case?

This is the most important step in making a claim, but it is often the most overlooked. Before you can even file a personal injury claim, you must be able to show that there was an actual injury that was caused by someone else. You must also be able to prove that because of the injury you are entitled to some sort of compensation.

There must also be a way to get compensation. For example, if the person who caused the injury is uninsured, it may be difficult to obtain any sort of monetary payment from them. A personal injury lawyer is trained to look at a set of facts and make sure all of these elements are met. They can also consult with you and determine what type of case you should file and when you should file it.

What Are the Time Limits?

There is a statute of limitations for many injuries in California. This is a time limit that dictates how long you have to file certain personal injury claims. For example, in California, most bodily harm injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years after the injury. This means that you have two years to file a personal injury claim from the date of your injury. You will not be able to file a claim after two years.

Medical malpractice personal injury claims must be filed within three years of the injury. However, you may not discover your injury until years after you had surgery. If this is the case, you are allowed to file a claim up to one year after you discover your injury. Meaning, even if you discover your injury several years after the statute of limitations has passed, you still have one year to make a claim.

Consulting a lawyer to find out what the statute of limitations is for your case is an important step. If you wait too long, you may be barred from any recovery. Lawyers also know of ways to possibly extend the time frame. For example, California allows for tolling. This is a delay or pause of the clock that is running on your time limit. Tolling may be an option if there are circumstances out of your control that make it impossible for you to file your claim before your time runs out.

Do You Have to Deal With Insurance Companies?

If you were injured, you more than likely have to deal with an insurance company. The company will request all records that are related to the accident or injury. This can be a drawn-out process.

For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you may be seriously hurt and in a lot of pain. While you want to recover, the insurance company wants to quickly close your claim. If you miss one document or don’t fill something out completely, your claim may be denied or may take longer than usual. This can be detrimental if you are depending on insurance money to pay medical or car repair bills.

It is important to remember that insurance companies are not lawyers working on your behalf. Their bottom line is to save the company money and to provide you with as little compensation as possible. They may raise your rates even though you are not to blame for the accident. This is where a personal injury lawyer can help you. They can act as your advocate with the company and make sure you are heard and that you get maximum compensation.  

What Other Factors are There to Consider?

In California, legally any person can file a personal injury claim without a lawyer. This may be a good option if the injury is minor or insurance is not involved. Be warned though, there will still be a lot of documentation needed and you will still need to provide evidence. If you choose to go this route, a judge will not give you sympathy because you are not an attorney. They will expect you to be as prepared as if you had representation.  

 It is important to meet with an attorney early in your claim. Usually, a personal injury lawyer will provide a low cost or free consult to hear all of the facts of the case and decide if they can help you. If they take your case, they can help you figure out what type of claim to bring and what the time limits are. They can also help you deal with insurance companies and get the compensation you need to recover. 

What Should I Wear to Court?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, the truth is that first impressions matter and can give the wrong impression if care isn’t taken. There are places that simply require a higher level of care regarding how you present yourself. One of those places is a court of law. 

Established as a core value of the foundation of our country, our freedoms, and our democracy, the courtrooms in America deserve respect. Dressing appropriately sends the message that you take the matter seriously and that you have respect for the courtroom, the judge, and the legal system. 

Learning how to dress for court can make a substantial difference in your first impression and how you’re perceived by everyone in the courtroom.

What Not to Wear

Many people have similar questions. Can you wear jeans to court? Can you wear tennis shoes to court? Do you have to wear a three-piece suit to court? First, you need to know what not to wear to court.

Clothing

  • Sleeveless shirts, muscle shirts, sundresses, strapless dresses, crop tops, tops with spaghetti straps, tight tops, anything you would wear out to a club, revealing clothing, shorts.
  • Exercise outfits, yoga pants, t-shirts, yard work or painting clothes, athletic clothes.
  • Clothing that is too tight or too large.
  • Bare legs or bare shoulders.
  • Hats.

Shoes and Accessories

  • Flip flops, athletic shoes, open-toed shoes, beach shoes.
  • Lots of jewelry that makes noise or is flashy.
  • Sunglasses.

 Hair and Hygiene

  •  Hair: Dirty, wet, messy, hairnet, curlers, strange colors.
  • Hygiene: Smelling like you have not bathed, smelling like cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, too much cologne or perfume, a dirty appearance, unshaven, extremely long nails, dirty nails.
  • Hide tattoos if possible.

What To Wear to a Courtroom

Now that you know what not to wear to a courtroom, you should familiarize yourself with how to dress for court appropriately. First, all clothing and appearance should be conservative and modest. Stereotypical church clothes are always an excellent choice: modest, clean, and proper. 

Anything you may wear to a nice, formal social luncheon or dinner would likely be appropriate. All clothing should fit properly and be tidy and neat. Your appearance absolutely does matter, whether you think it should or not. Some options for your courtroom appearance could include the following suggestions.

 Men

  • Suit with a tie.
  • Long-sleeve button-down collared shirt with nice dress or khaki pants.
  • Sports coat.
  • Belt (or suspenders) to keep pants on correctly.
  • Dress shoes.

 Women

  • Women’s business suit.
  • Nice, modest, appropriate dress.
  • Conservative, modest, neutral-colored pant suit.
  • Conservative blouse or top with long dress pants.
  • Conservative jewelry. Remove any piercings.
  • Conservative, closed-toe shoes.

 Hair and Hygiene

  • Men: Shave or trim your facial hair, brush your teeth, deodorant, cover tattoos.
  • Women: Wash hair, hair pulled back, or put up appropriately neat and clean nails, and only neutral nail polish, deodorant, conservative makeup if any, cover tattoos.

Additional Appearance Suggestions

While the above suggestions are important, there are some additional considerations to think about as you prepare for your courtroom appearance.

  • In some areas of the country, certain brands are associated with gangs and gang activity. If you are aware of these brands, avoid wearing them in the courtroom to prevent any appearance of association with illegal gang activity.
  • Although you should dress conservatively and appropriately, you should also dress comfortably. If you wear too constrictive or uncomfortable clothing, you may fidget and sweat more, which could potentially cause the jury or judge to wonder if you are lying or uncomfortable with your testimony.
  • Remove any clothing or other items (such as buttons or keychains) that could indicate any kind of political affiliation. People have strong opinions about politics, and you do not want someone to make judgments against you based on your political beliefs.
  • Leave cell phones in the car or turn them off completely. While a cell phone is not technically “attire” per se, these devices seem inherently part of most people’s lives. Resist the temptation by not bringing a cell phone even into the courtroom.

Choose Your Courtroom Attire Carefully

We have all heard the saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Whether you are in court for personal injury, financial suit, criminal charges, or any other matter, how you appear in court will determine your first impression. 

The people who will be deciding your case, and perhaps your fate, will be judging you on your appearance as well. They have limited information regarding you and your case. As a result, they’ll likely make snap judgments about you based on your appearance. 

Make sure you present yourself in a conservative, appropriate, and clean manner. Always be polite, courteous, and observe all the rules established in proper courtroom decorum. 

By dressing appropriately, and acting responsibly, you have another way to illustrate to the judge and jury that you take your case, the courtroom, and the justice process seriously.