What Does a Personal Injury Case Look Like? By on July 23, 2015

A personal injury lawsuit looks like a debate between two people. Each person has a point of view that he or his legal representative makes before a decision is reached, commonly in one of the following ways:

  • a verdict decided by a jury;
  • an order entered by a judge;
  • a settlement or an arbitration.
Once a lawsuit is filed, each party's lawyer(s) will use the methods prescribed by the applicable court's rules of procedure. These rules state the proper ways for the parties to acquire information from each other so they may learn the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. The rules also dictate how lawyers must interact with their clients, the other parties' lawyers, and the court officials, including the judge.

One of the key activities as the lawsuit progresses is discovery. This is the period during which each side gets to find out what information the other side is relying on to argue his case, as well as which witnesses he intends to call to testify. The lawyers pursue discovery through several methods, including requests for admission, requests for production, interrogatories, depositions, and independent medical examinations.

A request for admission is a request for the other party to admit or deny a statement. A request for production of documents is a request for documents such as medical reports, employment records, or bills. Interrogatories are questions posed by each side to be answered, usually in writing under oath. Depositions are face-to-face sessions in which the opposing lawyer asks questions directly of witnesses under oath. Once completed, each side will have a pretty good idea of how he thinks his case will likely appear to a jury.

After the discovery period is over and the sides have assessed their strengths and weakness, serious settlement negotiations will often begin. This is normally achieved through mediation, an informal process in which a disinterested mediator meets with both sides and helps explore potential settlements that each might find acceptable. Indeed, most courts encourage or require mediation of cases (sometimes called a “Settlement Conference” in Montana) to make the disposition of lawsuits more expedient and less costly to taxpayers and litigants.

A case may be finally settled at a Settlement Conference if the parties can agree on a settlement amount; however, any settlement of a claim where the injured party is a minor (less than 18 years old) must be presented to the court for approval. If a settlement is not reached, or the settlement of a minor’s claim is not approved by the presiding judge, the case will go to trial before a jury that will ultimately decide the outcome.

Personal injury lawsuits can be complex for those who have been injured, lost wages, incurred medical or other costs, and experienced disruptions to their lives. If you've been injured and believe someone else is at fault, consult with the attorneys at Tipp & Buley. We have extensive experience in personal injury litigation and can help evaluate your options. For more information, please call our office at 406-549-5186 or visit our website..

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