Accidental injuries are a serious problem in North Carolina. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports that injury-related deaths spiked 23 percent over a recent five-year period. Hospitalizations increased 10 percent during that time, with more than 746,500 emergency room visits in a single year alone.
That data doesn’t account for the number of incidents involving EMS responses, outpatient medical visits, and unintentional injuries that went untreated. The sad truth is that the number of accident-related injuries and deaths is underreported in the Tar Heel State.
In North Carolina, an individual injured due to another party’s negligence can file a personal injury claim seeking compensation for their losses. Common types of personal injury claims include auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and falls, defective products, medical malpractice, and wrongful death.
If you suffered injuries in an accident caused by someone else, knowing the typical steps for a personal injury claim can alleviate the anxiety you might feel right now and help you decide what to do next. For personalized advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer, contact Hardison & Cochran today for a free consultation.
Step 1: Consulting an Attorney
Every personal injury claim should start with consulting a lawyer. A personal injury attorney can help you prepare the strongest possible claim and avoid common mistakes that could jeopardize your right to financial compensation.
Many accident victims worry about the costs of legal representation, especially if they experience hardships due to sky-high medical bills and income loss. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. With this arrangement, clients only pay legal fees if their lawyers obtain a settlement or verdict for them. Your lawyer receives an agreed-upon percentage of any money they win for you.
Most personal injury attorneys also offer free, no-obligation consultations. This allows you to get legal advice from multiple lawyers before choosing one to hire. You can get referrals for prospective injury attorneys through family and friends, other lawyers, local and state bar directories, or Internet searches.
You can also contact the personal injury lawyers of Hardison & Cochran for a free consultation. Our attorneys and staff truly care about our community and have a proven track record of success handling all types of personal injury cases.
Step 2: Investigating Your Claim
Once you’ve hired a personal injury lawyer, your attorney will conduct an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident. This process allows your legal team to gather strong evidence supporting your right to recover compensation. Examples of evidence include:
- Police reports
- Business incident reports
- Accident scene photographs
- Surveillance videos
- Staffing records
- Witness statements
- Computer or data recorder logs
- Medical records and provider notes
- Documentation of your losses, including medical bills, prescription receipts, invoices, and pay stubs
Step 3: Sending the Demand Package
After your personal injury lawyer has gathered substantial evidence, they organize the information into a demand package. The demand letter puts liable parties on notice of your personal injury claim by describing the available evidence to show what happened, the harm you suffered, and your ongoing and future anticipated losses.
Essentially, your demand package is your first settlement offer to the opposing party(s). It kicks off the pre-suit settlement negotiation process. Your personal injury lawyer and the other party’s counsel might trade settlement offers and present additional facts or evidence to reach an amount both parties agree is fair.
Step 4: Filing a Civil Complaint
If you cannot settle your claim out of court, your attorney will discuss the pros and cons of filing a personal injury lawsuit with you.
A lawsuit begins when you submit a civil complaint to the trial court. In the complaint, you state your dispute, describe how the at-fault party caused your injuries, and show that they bear liability for your losses under the law. Your complaint must also request relief, which usually takes the form of financial compensation.
Once the opposing party receives service of the complaint, they can file an answer contesting your claims and asserting any counterclaims they have against you.
Step 5: Discovery
After both parties file their paperwork, they proceed to the discovery process. In discovery, each side exchanges evidence and information with the other to learn what they’re up against. The discovery process commonly includes the following elements:
- Interrogatories – An interrogatory is a questionnaire that parties send to one another to obtain relevant information about a case or information that could lead to the discovery of more evidence.
- Requests for production of documents – These requests ask parties to produce copies of case-related documentation, such as accident reports, computer files, or medical records.
- Requests for admissions – Requests for admissions contain factual statements that the sending party wants the other side to admit or deny. Failure to respond to a request for admission automatically counts as an admission of the given fact.
- Depositions – A deposition is an out-of-court statement taken from witnesses under oath before trial. The purpose is to refine the scope of the testimony they will present at trial.
Step 6: Mediation
Before or after filing a lawsuit, you and the opposing party could agree to settle your claim through mediation. Mediation is a formal settlement negotiation process facilitated by a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator helps both sides understand the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and proposes solutions for a potential compromise. With mediation, both parties aim to settle the personal injury case and avoid the expense and risk of going to trial.
Step 7: Trial
You may take your case to trial if you cannot settle your personal injury claim through independent or mediated negotiations. At trial, both parties present arguments, evidence, and witness testimony to a judge or jury, who weighs the facts and issues a legally-binding verdict. If the court determines you deserve money for your losses, it will also decide how much you should get.
We Are Here to Assist You
At Hardison & Cochran, we know how an accident can disrupt your life in an instant. One person’s carelessness could leave you with physical pain, heartache, and more expenses than you can afford. You should not have to pay for someone else’s lapse in judgment or wrongful conduct.
The personal injury attorneys at Hardison & Cochran want to help you get your life back on track. You can count on us to pursue maximum compensation for your losses.
Whether you were hurt in a fall, motor vehicle crash, or other accident, our team has what it takes to build a solid personal injury claim. Call 252) 333-3333 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a North Carolina personal injury lawyer.