If you are injured in an accident, you may think that the natural next step is to file a lawsuit (or hopefully, to hire a good personal injury attorney, and then file a lawsuit). But in fact, there are many steps that must be taken before a case is ripe to be filed in court. Some of them are procedural or legal, but many of them depend on how you recover from your injuries.
Your Medical Improvement
Imagine that you are injured in a car accident. You receive therapy. You sue, and you win or settle for $10,000. Six months after you settle, you are not recovering and your doctor recommends surgery. You can't reopen your case or sue again; thus the $10,000 is your only resource.
This illustration shows why it's important to wait until your medical treatment runs its course before just filing a lawsuit. Filing too early can deprive you of needed payments for your injuries. Even your doctors may not be able to testify at an early stage what your chances of recovery are or what your prognosis may be.
In many cases, a plaintiff may wish to wait until he or she reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI. Your doctor will at some point declare that no more medical improvement can be expected, thus putting you at MMI status.
Experts and Demands
In more complex liability cases, your lawyer may want to employ an expert and have him or her render an opinion as to liability to make sure that there will be a basis for the lawsuit if it's filed.
Before you file suit, your lawyer may want to send a pre-suit demand to the other side. In many cases, the other side may settle for an agreeable amount, thus avoiding the time and expense of a full-blown lawsuit. The negotiation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
This pre-suit negotiation is especially useful where the other side may have limited insurance, or insurance that is far below what your injuries may actually be worth. In these cases, a quick settlement for the maximum of the insurance policy may be able to be reached.
When You Don't Need to Wait to File a Lawsuit
Of course, there are some instances where there is no need to wait an inordinate amount of time before filing a lawsuit. For example, in a wrongful death case, or a case where immediate catastrophic injury has occurred, there is no need to wait for MMI.
In some cases, a lawsuit may need to be filed immediately to preserve testimony. Your lawyer may want to take depositions of witnesses who may be older, or transient, before they disappear or pass away.
If you're in an accident, it's understandable to be a bit impatient--you're injured, have bills mounting, and want justice. But it's important to remember the different factors that go into deciding when to file an injury lawsuit or not. Understanding the process will make it easier to wait the time needed to obtain a good settlement or verdict.
If you're injured, make sure you have lawyers that can explain to you the process of obtaining recovery, from start to finish. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.