Have you been injured in a car accident, due to the fault of another? Slipped and fallen on the wet floor of a local business? Been harmed by another party’s negligence? Then you may be wondering how to go about filing a personal injury lawsuit, to recover damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
A New York personal injury lawyer can be your best resource when you are considering a personal injury lawsuit. While you aren’t strictly required to hire an attorney to represent you in your personal injury case, plaintiffs who represent themselves are generally held to the same technical and procedural standards as an attorney. Your case can easily take a wrong turn if you are inexperienced with the court system in general and personal injury lawsuits specifically.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is not the first step in pursuing compensation. The first thing your attorney will do is assess the facts of your case and conduct any investigation necessary to determine who may be responsible. In some cases, the responsible party is not the person you’d expect. In others, there is more than one possible defendant.
For example, in a car accident case most people would assume that any lawsuit filed would be against the driver. However, an experienced personal injury attorney will know to look further. It’s possible that the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, and that the owner may also be liable. Or, if the driver was working at the time of the accident, the company may also be liable. Suing the wrong party or leaving out a responsible party can have serious consequences. Thorough investigation is critical to identifying the right defendants in a personal injury case.
The amount of time you have to take action on a personal injury claim may vary depending on the specifics of your case. The general time limit for filing a negligence-based personal injury lawsuit in New York–the “statute of limitations”–is three years. However, if you’ve been injured at work and may wish to pursue a worker’s compensation claim, you may be facing a very tight deadline to make a report to your employer. Assault cases have a one-year statute of limitations, and a notice must be filed within 90 days if you plan to sue the city of New York.
In short, it may be difficult for an injury victim who does not have a legal background to reliably determine the applicable deadlines. That’s critical, because missing the filing deadline will typically bar you from ever recovering damages.
Once your case has been filed, a series of new deadlines will apply—deadlines for the filing of witness lists, for making discovery requests, for responding to requests from the defense and more. An experienced personal injury attorney will be familiar with the steps and requirement and take responsibility for managing the timelines.
You’ve probably heard that most personal injury cases settle before trial, and that’s true. However, that information standing alone can be a bit misleading. Often, the path to settlement is rigorous preparation for trial. It is the gathering of evidence and the assembly of a strong case that gives the defense incentive to settle a case before trial. In short, settlement is not a shortcut, but the result of careful planning and thorough investigation.
If the case does not settle and proceeds to trial, preparation is critical. Trying a personal injury case may require evidence such as medical records, medical experts, witness testimony, economic experts, experts in safety standards, accident reconstruction or other fields specifically associated with your case. This preparation is labor-intensive and generally can’t effectively be completed on short notice when it becomes clear that the case is going to trial. Instead, trial preparation will be ongoing, even while your attorney is attempting to negotiate a settlement.
Personal injury lawsuits can be confusing and daunting to the inexperienced. Make a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer your first step. Just call 212-732-2929 or fill out the contact form on this page to get started.