What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York?
Each personal injury case begins with a person being injured because of another party’s intentional acts, negligence, or other wrongdoing. The personal injury claim process generally involves filing an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
If the insurance company refuses to settle the claim for a fair amount, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. The statute of limitations in New York State sets deadlines to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Failing to file your lawsuit before the filing deadline means you forfeit your right to hold the at-fault party legally liable for your injuries and damages. Therefore, it is always in your best interest to seek legal advice about a car accident, medical malpractice, slip and fall, or other personal injuries as quickly as possible after your injury.
Steps to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York
You go through several steps before you are ready to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Some steps involved in the personal injury process include:
Seeking Medical Care
It is crucial that you seek prompt medical care after an injury. You have the burden of proving that the accident or other incident caused your physical injuries. Detailed medical records are necessary evidence in a personal injury case.
Delays in seeking medical care could result in allegations of failure to mitigate damages. Mitigation of damages means that you took reasonable steps to avoid causing your damages to increase, such as seeking immediate medical attention. If the other side proves that your delay in care caused your injuries to worsen, you might not receive compensation for all damages.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Generally, it is best to talk with a personal injury attorney early in your case. You will learn about your legal options and the steps to take to protect your right to compensation for damages. Your attorney will handle many of the vital steps involved in the personal injury process.
File an Insurance Claim
You should notify the other party’s insurance company of your injury and claim as soon as possible. The company will assign a claims adjuster or insurance investigator to your claim. They’ll investigate your claim to determine whether the insurance company is liable and how much your damages are worth.
Remember, insurance companies always try to deny claims and undervalue damages. Therefore, an initial settlement offer from the insurance company is generally much lower than your claim is worth.
It is best to allow your attorney to handle the insurance claim and all communications with the insurance company. You might want to avoid talking to the insurance company without a lawyer to avoid saying something that could hurt your claim.
Investigation and Gathering Evidence
Your attorney will investigate the cause of your injury to gather evidence proving causation, fault, liability, and damages. A lawyer identifies each party who could be liable for your damages.
A lawyer may work with expert witnesses, including accident reconstructionists, medical experts, and other professionals, to gather evidence proving your case.
Documenting and Valuing Damages
Throughout the investigation, your lawyer will work with you and your physicians to document the severity of your injuries. Then, when you complete your medical treatment, your lawyer will assess your damages and calculate their value.
In a personal injury case, damages include economic damages, such as medical bills, travel expenses, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses. They also include non-economic damages or “pain and suffering” damages. Your attorney will also evaluate your case to determine whether punitive damages might be justified.
Property damage claims are separate from personal injury claims. Generally, individuals settle property damage claims early in the case.
Demand Letters and the Negotiation Process
Your injury attorney will prepare and send a settlement demand letter to the insurance company. This step begins the negotiation process to settle your injury claim.
The demand letter includes:
- A description of how the other party caused your injury
- A discussion of the law that holds the party liable for your damages
- Details of your injuries and damages
- A demand for a specific amount to settle your claim
The insurance company may accept the demand or issue a counteroffer. It may also deny liability. In many cases, both sides make counteroffers and discuss potential settlements for several weeks. If the insurance company refuses to settle your claim for a fair amount, your attorney may advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Preparing and Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
A personal injury lawsuit begins with a summons and complaint. The complaint filed by the injured party (the plaintiff) contains the allegations against the at-fault party (the defendant). The attorney will file the complaint with the court in New York and serve a copy on the defendant.
The defendant has a specific deadline for filing an answer or other response to the complaint. Most insurance companies hire a defense lawyer to respond to the lawsuit.
Discovery Phase and Pre-Trial Motions
The case then enters the discovery phase. Your lawyer may use various discovery tools to obtain information and evidence from the other party during discovery.
Examples of discovery include:
- Requests to Produce Documents
- Requests for Admissions
The discovery phase is often the longest part of a personal injury lawsuit. Both parties work to build their case.
At the end of discovery, the parties may negotiate to settle the case before going to trial. Discovery helps identify the weaknesses and strengths of your case and the other party’s case. One or both parties may decide it is best to settle instead of spending more time and money going to trial for a case they might not win.
If the parties do not settle the lawsuit, they’ll begin the pre-trial motions. Both sides may file one or more pre-trial motions. Motions generally deal with matters of law and evidence.
Trial, Verdict, and Appeals
The final phase of a personal injury lawsuit is the trial, verdict, and appeals. At trial, both parties present their evidence to the jury. The jury will deliberate and render a verdict.
If either party disagrees with the verdict, they may file an appeal. However, there must be legal grounds to win the appeal for a court to overturn the jury’s verdict.
If the other party does not appeal the verdict, it could take several months for you to receive the money awarded to you for damages. The insurance company will issue the check to your attorney. Still, your lawyer must wait until the check clears and pay outstanding medical liens and subrogation claims before disbursing funds to you.
Contact an Experienced NY Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss the Steps to Filing Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit in New York or going to trial may not be necessary to recover money for a personal injury. An experienced New York personal injury attorney will diligently work to get you the money you deserve as quickly as possible. Reach out for help today to discuss your claim and determine the best course of action.