Timeline of an Oklahoma Personal Injury Case
If you’ve been injured through the negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing of another, the Oklahoma civil courts provide a means for you to achieve a form of justice separate from the criminal process with the intention of helping injury victims to gain compensation for the economic and non-economic damages the accident caused them. The plaintiff in a personal injury case can gain compensation for damages for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
If you’ve suffered a preventable injury due to the fault of someone else, whether in a car accident, workplace accident, slip-and-fall incident, dog bite attack, or an accident on someone else’s premises, you may be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit but are unsure about how long and complex the process will be. While every case is unique, by understanding the basic timeline for a personal injury case you can better judge the process, timing, and commitment involved.
Before You File
Before you file a personal injury claim, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Hopefully, you underwent emergency treatment and a complete evaluation after your accident. Before filing your claim, be sure you’ve obtained a copy of the medical report, including your doctor’s treatment recommendations and prognosis. Then obtain a copy of the police report of your accident or an incident report from your workplace or the premises where the accident occurred. Collect all of your medical bills and then call an Oklahoma City personal injury attorney.
Investigating Your Claim
Once you’ve had an initial consultation with your attorney, he or she will go to work investigating your accident claim. This may include the following:
- Reviewing the accident report
- Interviewing eye-witnesses
- Reviewing any video from traffic cameras, surveillance cameras, or other available footage
- Reviewing the medical reports of your injury
- Hiring experts and accident reconstruction specialists if required
Through diligent investigation, an Oklahoma personal injury lawyer can identify the at-fault party in your case and then prove them liable by showing that they owed a dirty of care to keep you and others safe, that they breached that duty through negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing, how it resulted in your injury, and the economic and non-economic damages it caused.
Drafting a Demand Letter and Negotiating With an Insurance Company
Once an attorney has drafted a strong demand letter to the insurance company of the at-fault party, including all of the relevant evidence showing fault and assigning a monetary amount to your economic and non-economic damages, in most cases, the insurance company then enters into negotiations with you and your lawyer to settle the case out of court with a mutually acceptable amount.
The vast majority of cases settle out of court, but if the insurance company undervalues your claim or denies it completely, your lawyer should be more than ready to craft a compelling case to litigate in court.
Filing Your Lawsuit
If unable to reach a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company, the case proceeds to court through the following steps:
- Filing your claim in the proper jurisdiction within the two-year statute of limitations
- Your lawyer requests that a summons is served to the plaintiff
- The defendant responds to the summons
- A discovery period takes place so attorneys for both parties can exchange relevant information
- Mediation occurs in the hopes of both parties negotiating a settlement through a neutral third party
Many times the case ends at this point with an acceptable settlement offer. If not, the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, both sides present evidence and testimony, and the jury and judge decide on the amount of compensation the insurance company must pay out for your damages—if any.
Because trials don’t come with guarantees, it’s preferable to come to a settlement agreement. A strong attorney with a track record of success can help accomplish this, but should also stand ready to fight aggressively in court to secure your compensation if necessary.