Many personal injury cases reach a settlement prior to going to trial. If your case is now at the trial stage, your attorney has likely already attempted settlement negotiations with the defendant or defendants in your case. Sometimes, there will not be an offer made on your case, and your only recourse will be to proceed to trial over the matter. In other situations, you may have been given a settlement offer that you did not feel fairly compensated you for your injuries, and you chose to decline the offer and proceed to trial.
If your case is going to go to trial, it is important that you hire an experienced litigation attorney who has successfully taken cases like yours to trial. Contact California attorney Johann Hall today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. Having successfully handled many personal injury trials, Johann Hall is an aggressive attorney that will fight for your right to compensation.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
Under California law, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is two years. This means that your case must be filed within two years from the date of the accident. It is extremely important that your case is filed within this time frame in order to preserve your rights to compensation, so having an experienced attorney handle your case can help ensure that all procedural requirements such as this one are timely followed. Additionally, there are exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations (for example, if your case is against a governmental agency) so it is vital to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Serving the Defendant
Once your case is to be filed, your attorney will prepare a complaint which will then need to be formally served on the proper defendant or defendants. The defendant will have an opportunity to respond to the complaint, which will allow them to deny or admit to any of the allegations set forth in your complaint. After the defendant has had a chance to respond, the judge will likely order that the parties begin the discovery process.
The Discovery Process
Once discovery has formally begun, both you and your attorney and the defendant and their attorney have the opportunity to issue written interrogatories and requests for production. Interrogatories are a set of written questions drafted by the other side that you will need to respond to under oath. Requests for production are typically requests for certain documents that may be relevant to the case. For example, complete copies of any insurance policies involved may be requested by either side. Your attorney will review the interrogatories and requests to produce sent by the other side and may object to some of them, so you may not need to answer everything.
After written discovery has been issued and completed by both sides, discovery depositions may be taken of the parties. There may also be depositions taken of any witnesses to the accident. As the plaintiff, you will likely sit for a deposition. At your deposition, the attorney for the defendant will ask you several questions about your background and the facts of the case, as well as details regarding medical treatment you received and your current condition. Your attorney will be there as well and may ask you questions too on the record. A court reporter will be present to type up your testimony and the attorneys’ questions. As with the interrogatories and requests to produce, your answers at the deposition will be under oath, so it is important to answer them truthfully.
The Personal Injury Trial Process
After discovery has been completed, your attorney may attempt to resolve the case by settlement, or you may proceed directly to the next step of setting the case for trial. Depending on the nature of the case, your attorney may recommend a jury trial or a bench trial. If you have a bench trial, the “trier of fact” is the judge. The judge will decide whether you have proven your case and if so, what damages you may be entitled to as an award. If you have a jury trial, that will be determined by the jury.
You, as the plaintiff, will first have the opportunity to put on your case. You and any additional witnesses that you have may testify at the trial, and any evidence your attorney has to support your case (such as medical records) may be introduced into evidence. Once your side has rested, the defendant will have an opportunity to testify or introduce any evidence they may have. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury will make a decision as to whether you have proven your case and what award of compensation you are entitled to.