While it is true that most personal injury cases settle without going to trial, there are many claims where filing a lawsuit becomes necessary. This may be because the other party or their insurance company refuses to settle for a reasonable amount or because you need to protect your rights. Unfortunately, the prospect of going to court can be intimidating for many injured people. An experienced personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process and handle all of the heavy lifting required to get the compensation you deserve.
Going to Court May Be Your Best Option
As mentioned above, the other party or their insurance carrier may be unwilling to pay what your claim may be worth. The other party may simply be refusing to accept responsibility for the accident, or their insurance company may be acting in bad faith.
That said, you may need to file a lawsuit for reasons other than the other party or their insurance company being unreasonable. There may be valid disagreements over important facts or complex legal issues that make it difficult for the case to be settled.
Whatever the case may be, your only option for getting the compensation you need to recover your losses may be to go to trial. While this can seem daunting, a personal injury lawyer with extensive litigation experience can help you reach a satisfactory result.
Timing Is Important
One of the most common questions people have concerns about is when they will need to file a lawsuit. The timing of filing the lawsuit will depend on numerous factors and some strategic considerations.
The most important element you should be aware of is the statute of limitations - the deadline by which you must file your lawsuit, or you will lose all of your rights. Florida has recently changed the statute of limitations for personal injury claims as part of the recent tort reform legislation. Whereas accident victims previously had up to four years to file a lawsuit, that time period has been cut in half to two years.
The statute of limitations is an important deadline, even if you do not plan or want to file a lawsuit. The insurance company will not even consider your claim if the statute of limitations has already passed. In addition, they may engage in delay tactics if the deadline is about to expire. As a result, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations, even if you are willing to settle for less in order to avoid going to court.
Setting aside the statute of limitations, when you file your lawsuit will be determined by how aggressive you want to be or whether the other party is seemingly making a good faith effort to settle your claim. Keep in mind that you can always settle your case right up to the moment your trial is concluded. As a result, some lawyers will recommend filing a lawsuit just to keep the case moving forward, to bring some urgency to settlement discussions, and to communicate that you are serious about your claim. A personal injury lawyer can provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about when is the right time to file a lawsuit.
What Happens After You File a Lawsuit?
Simply filing the lawsuit with the court is not enough. You must also deliver a copy to the party you are suing. The court will not notify them for you, and there are strict legal rules about how you go about this. The method of delivering a copy of the lawsuit is referred to as “service of process.” In shorthand, you must “serve” the other party with a copy of the lawsuit.
Generally speaking, Florida law requires personal service. This means that the other party must receive a copy of the lawsuit in person. This can be done by the sheriff, a person appointed by the sheriff known as a special process server, or a certified process server. A copy of the lawsuit must be served on all defendants in the case (if you sued more than one person) and must be served by someone who is not a party to a lawsuit.
Once that person is served, the process server will complete a form that indicates the date, time, and location that they were served and by whom. This form is then filed with the court. This form must be on file with the court before you can proceed with your lawsuit.
Failure to properly serve the other party is one of the most common reasons why lawsuits filed by non-lawyers get dismissed. The process is much more complicated than it sounds here. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know precisely what steps to take to have your lawsuit properly served so that you can proceed as quickly as possible.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
Filing the lawsuit and having it served on the other party is the beginning of what may be a somewhat lengthy process. As mentioned above, you may be able to settle your lawsuit right up until the moment before the judge or jury returns a verdict. In fact, the pending lawsuit and the developments leading up to the trial often encourage the parties to reach a settlement.
One of the most important things that happens leading up to the trial is known as discovery. Discovery is a process by which both sides gather the evidence they will need and get an opportunity to review the evidence that the other side has. This allows the parties to assess the strength of the other side’s position. This is one of the reasons why the litigation process encourages settlement.
Of course, not all cases settle. A personal injury lawyer can not only help you navigate the pretrial process, but they will be fully prepared to aggressively represent you at trial.
Injured and Need Legal Representation? Call Powell, Powell & Powell Today
We have decades of experience in helping injured people in Crestview, Defuniak Springs, Destin, Fort Walton, and Niceville get the compensation they need to put their accidents behind them. Call us today at 850-682-2757 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation, and let’s talk about what we can do to help you get better.