Personal injury lawsuits or civil lawsuits are distinct legal proceedings separate from criminal cases. While a criminal case is brought by a prosecutor and a defendant faces jail time or penalties for crimes against the state, civil lawsuits are brought by victims of negligence or wrongdoing. The purpose of a civil lawsuit for personal injury is for the victim to recover compensation from a person, a company or a government agency who was responsible for causing harm.
If you have been injured and want to obtain compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, there are specific steps that you need to take. An experienced attorney can guide you through the stages of your injury claim and help you to make informed choices throughout so you have the best chance of recovering full compensation for damages.
Personal Injury Claim Sequence of Events
A personal injury lawsuit starts by filing a complaint. Clark County, Nevada provides information on how to initiate a lawsuit. You will need to set out the facts of your case and explain the legal grounds for your claim. The complaint must be filed with the right court and name all of the different defendants who you are taking legal action against.
Your case will then proceed through several stages, including:
- Summons and service of process: The defendant is given notice of the complaint and is given time to respond by filing court paperwork. The defendant can simply answer the complaint or can make counterclaims against the plaintiff.
- Discovery: When a claim is filed, the discovery process officially begins. Plaintiffs and defendants can obtain information from each other during discovery that is necessary to build a case or defend against accusations. For example, if you claim that a drug company made a defective product, you can request emails from the CEO and R&D team about the product development. The goal is to make your case as strong as possible by finding witnesses and obtaining other evidence.
- Pre-trial motions: Before trial, both the plaintiff and defendant will file initial motions with the court. These are designed to set ground rules for how the case will proceed. For example, a motion could be filed to suppress evidence or prevent it from being presented. In some cases, a defendant will file a motion to dismiss the complaint. This would be granted by a judge if there is no sound legal basis to continue the case.
- Trial: Both plaintiff and defendant will present evidence if a case proceeds to trial. A judge or a jury may be asked to hear the evidence and decide on whether a defendant is liable for losses and how much the defendant needs to pay. In an injury case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the defendant was to blame for losses.
- Appeal: After a verdict is reached, it can be appealed by a plaintiff or defendant. An appeals court will determine if court rules were followed and if the law was applied correctly.
Throughout this process, the plaintiff and defendant can also engage in settlement negotiations to try to resolve the claim. If a settlement is reached, then the case will not proceed any further through the trial process. An attorney who represents injured victims can assist with both settlement talks and with making a case during trial.