If you have been hurt by another’s negligence and think you have a personal injury claim, you must follow the right steps to give yourself the best chance of receiving fair compensation. That’s where we come in.
For many accident victims hiring a lawyer is their first experience with the legal system. As they soon find out, the Virginia legal system is complicated and the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit in Virginia can be long and emotionally draining.
Corey Pollard knows how important your case is to you. We communicate with our clients every step of the way so that they understand their options and the personal injury case process. Every accident lawsuit is different, and sometimes different strategies and steps are necessary to ensure full recovery.
Below is a general guide to the steps taken in Virginia personal injury cases.
The Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
First Step: The Accident or Negligent Act Happens and Causes Injury
To have a valid personal injury lawsuit in Virginia, you must have suffered bodily harm in an accident or because of someone else’s action or omission. There is no case unless you suffered a physical injury.
Second Step: Seek Medical Care
Seeking medical attention is important not only for your health but also for your lawsuit. When you seek immediate medical treatment you create a record that helps prove that you suffered injuries in the accident. Your medical records and reports will play a key role in trying to negotiate an insurance settlement for your accident or to persuade a judge or jury that you should receive compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering. If you do not seek medical care soon after the accident, or if you stop receiving treatment within a few days or months, you’ll have a difficult time receiving a settlement offer or favorable jury verdict.
Third Step: Research Attorneys
Hiring the right personal injury lawyer or accident attorney in Virginia is one of the most important decisions you can make. Research online and interview several attorneys before making your choice.
Fourth Step: Attorney Investigation
After you hire an attorney he will start to investigate your claim. This includes obtaining and reviewing your medical records, reviewing the police report, and interviewing witnesses.
Fifth Step: Settlement Negotiations
Most personal injury cases in Virginia involve insurance companies. Your attorney will file a claim with the insurance company for the at-fault party, as well as a claim with your own insurer if you’re injured in a car accident or truck accident. Your attorney will file an insurance claim before filing a lawsuit.
After the insurance claim is filed your attorney will start negotiations with the claims adjuster in charge of your case. The negotiation process begins when your attorney sends the claims adjuster a settlement demand letter.
Sixth Step: Prepare and File a Lawsuit in Civil Court
If settlement negotiations break down, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court before the statute of limitations runs. A lawsuit is also referred to as a complaint. The lawsuit will state the facts surrounding your injury, the specific claims against the defendants, and the amount of compensation you are seeking.
Seventh Step: Serve the Defendants
Filing a lawsuit in civil court tolls the statute of limitations. But your attorney must serve the defendants with the court documents before a trial date will be set. Usually the sheriff will serve the lawsuit on the defendants for a fee.
In Virginia you have one year from the date of filing the lawsuit to serve the lawsuit on the defendants.
Eighth Step: Wait for the Defendants to Respond
The defendants must file a response to your lawsuit within thirty to sixty days of being served. Their response is called an answer. In the answer the defendants must state any affirmative defenses, such as contributory negligence or expiration of the statute of limitations.
Though it is uncommon in personal injury lawsuits, the defendants may also file a demurrer – which is a specific type of pleading. They may also file a plea in bar if they believe that Virginia workers compensation is your exclusive remedy.
Ninth Step: Civil Litigation Discovery
Civil discovery begins after you file a complaint and all answers, counterclaims, and other responses have been filed. Each party to the lawsuit may have to answer interrogatories and respond to requests for production of documents and request for admissions.
Interrogatories are written questions sent from one party to another. The party receiving the interrogatories must answer under oath.
Requests for production of documents are written requests asking a party to turn over documents that may be relevant to the lawsuit.
Requests for admissions are statements that you must either admit are true or deny. If you fail to answer or answer improperly, then the requests may be deemed true. This can hurt your case.
The parties may depose each other and relevant witnesses. At deposition an attorney is able to ask the deponent questions under oath. Attorneys use depositions to avoid surprises at trial. If a person’s deposition testimony does not match their testimony at trial, the attorney can use the inconsistencies to impeach the person and damage their credibility. Read our article on car accident deposition tips for more information.
Tenth Step: Mandatory Defense Medical Examination
In Virginia personal injury cases, the insurance company is able to force you to undergo a defense medical examination (DME). The insurance company will select a doctor to conduct a one-time evaluation. Usually the defense medical examination leads to a report that is not helpful to your claim. This is not a surprise; it’s what the defense medical examination physician was paid to do.
Eleventh Step: Hiring an Expert Witness and Investigating the Other Party’s Expert Witnesses
During discovery your attorney will try to get favorable reports and opinions from your treating physicians. He may also try to get favorable reports from vocational experts, who will testify on your inability to work or find a job based on your restrictions, economic experts, who will testify on your lost earning capacity, and accident reconstruction experts if necessary.
In addition to the physician who performed the defense medical examination, the insurance company may try to get other expert witnesses to help them fight the case.
Once experts have been disclosed, the attorneys may depose expert witnesses or issue interrogatories.
Twelfth Step: Try to Settle Again
A Virginia personal injury case can settle at any time. Usually settlement discussions continue through discovery. As the parties investigate and find out more information, the attorneys will get a better idea of who has the stronger case.
Your attorney may also suggest arbitration or mediation. I prefer mediation. These are alternative dispute resolution methods.
Thirteenth Step: Personal Injury Trial
If the parties do not settle, then they go to trial. Personal injury trials range from a few hours to several weeks or longer. If you’re able to prove that the other party’s negligence caused your injuries and damages, then the judge or jury may find in your favor and award damages.
Fourteenth Step: Disburse Funds
If your case settles or the judge or jury awards you damages at trial, the final step is for you to receive your personal injury funds. Attorney fees and litigation costs will be deducted from this amount.
If you have been hurt and have a personal injury claim in Virginia, you must start strong and make the right moves from the beginning. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you protect your interests.
To speak with attorney Corey Pollard about your case and legal options, call 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614 or send us an e-mail. We look forward to helping you win your case and obtain a favorable resolution.