In the aftermath of an injury, it is possible to file a personal injury claim; your insurance company can pay you a settlement you can use for medical treatments and lost wages. If you do have to go through a personal injury case, there are some stages to expect. An accident lawyer in St. Catharines will help you through the process, but it’s best to know what the stages are ahead of time. This information can make your case easier to understand.
● Medical Care
Immediately after the accident, seek appropriate medical care. Other than treatment, this is a chance for you to get documents and testimony to back up the claim later. Document every part of your care (e.g. diagnoses, prescriptions, and treatment). Failing to get treatment immediately can also be used against you when pursuing your claim; the adjustor may claim your injuries were not serious or unrelated to the accident.
● Initial Consultation
During your initial meeting with your lawyer, you may tell them your story, or they may explain how the litigation process works. Whatever happens, give your personal injury lawyer as much information as possible (e.g. your injuries, whether you can continue working, and how much time you’ve missed). Use this time to establish a rapport with your lawyer; it’s important to feel comfortable with them if you intend to pursue the case for a long period of time.
● Notifying the Defendant
If you decide to proceed with the claim, your lawyer will inform the parties you intend to sue (as well as their insurance company) via a demand letter. This informs the defendant of your intent to claim compensation for your injuries.
● Filling Statement of Claim
The actual case begins with filing the statement of claim with the court and serving it to the defendant. This document officially spells out what you want, and why you want it. The defendant then has a set amount of time to respond with a statement of defence setting out their defence to your claim. In some cases, however, the statement of claim is enough to motivate the other side to meet and negotiate.
The discovery phase of a personal injury suit is an opportunity for both sides to gather important factual information from one another. Sharing information this way also prevents surprises from being sprung that could prolong the case.
During an examination for discovery (there may be more than one), each side is given the chance to present their own side of events. Your lawyer can accompany you to assist you with this process. They will gather all documents relevant to your claim and give them to the defendant’s lawyer. In turn, the defendant’s lawyer will provide your lawyer with all the documents relevant to their defence.
In many cases, both sides can reach a settlement acceptable to both parties at this point.
In case the matter is not settled earlier, mediation can occur. This is an informal settlement meeting between both parties, in which a mediator helps both explore a settlement. Your lawyer will accompany you to the meeting and represent you throughout. If it hasn’t happened earlier, many cases are settled at the mediation stage.
● Pre-Trial Conference
If mediation is unsuccessful, the next stage is the pre-trial conference. The lawyers of both sides will meet with a judge, who provides input concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the case. After the meeting, your lawyer will make recommendations as to whether you should proceed with a trial or accept a settlement. If no agreement can be reached, the case goes to trial.
It’s always important to move immediately. Many provinces, including St. Catharines, have their own Limitation Acts, which impose time limits to begin a lawsuit. Though there are factors that can determine your case’s time limit, it’s best to consult a lawyer immediately.