Part of the reason the legal process makes so many people anxious is that it’s something they rarely experience, and even when they do, they have a hard time understanding it. This is true in both civil and criminal matters and is one of the key reasons people fear lawyers the way they do.
Being detail-oriented enough to navigate a personal injury claim is one of the most important prerequisites for the legal profession. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of fiery personalities, and five pages of paperwork required every time someone advances their case a few inches. It stands to reason that the average “not-so-detail-oriented person” can find the whole ordeal rather hard to follow.
Problem is if you’re involved in a personal injury claim – either as a plaintiff or defendant, or even a witness – you really have no choice about your participation. The only question is whether you will be successful or not, and that comes down to preparation and knowledge.
Preparation is Everything in Personal Injury Cases
Like the ancient military strategist says, all battles are won or lost long before the armies take the field. In no endeavor is this truer than in a personal injury case. The first step in the process is evidence gathering and putting your case together. These first steps, believe it or not, are the most critical and exactly where you’ll need your attorney most.
First, you need to know if you even have a case. Was there negligence? Did it rise to the legal standard necessary to obtain a judgment? Were you injured? Did the defendant have a duty of care? Do you even have standing? What about the insurance company? Did you violate the law? Did the defendant? Depending on the circumstances these can be mind-bogglingly complex questions. Some may not be answered until trial, while others may never be answered to your satisfaction.
Without a qualified personal injury attorney, you won’t get the answers or the compensation that you deserve. You’ll also never have grounds to successfully prosecute or defend your case. Only an attorney can take the evidence and facts and relate them to the law in such a way as to produce a positive outcome for you and your family. This step is the most vital.
Pre-Trial Preparation for Personal Injury
The very first thing a defendant will likely do if presented with a case is to file a motion to dismiss. In civil court, this hearing is where you, as a plaintiff, must prove to the court you have the elements of a successful case. In a criminal case, the minimum standard to proceed against a defendant is a successful preliminary hearing or an indictment handed up by a Grand Jury. In a personal injury case, the process isn’t quite as rigorous, but you still have to persuade the court you actually have a case.
Answering a motion to dismiss means taking everything from the previous preparation step and putting it into a proper and conventional legal format so the court can evaluate it. Unless you’ve made a huge misjudgment, chances are your attorney-prepared answer will succeed and the motion to dismiss will be denied. That clears the way for your case to go to trial. If you don’t survive the motion to dismiss, then your case is over because essentially the court has ruled you don’t have sufficient evidence or legal grounds to proceed.
As the plaintiff, you will have the opportunity to decide if your personal injury case will be ruled on by a judge or by a jury. You have the right to a jury trial, so this isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. If you choose a jury trial, you will have to work your way through jury selection and possibly some challenges from the defendant. There will also be a series of pre-trial motions, discovery and various decisions that have to be made about what evidence you are going to present and in what form.
In a civil case, there is also a high likelihood there will be pre-trial depositions which will become part of the evidentiary record and subject to discovery.
All these steps are necessary, and they must be performed by a qualified attorney, preferably with capable support staff. Last-minute surprise motions and discovery disputes can be both costly and damaging to your case, and you want to make sure you don’t inadvertently hurt yourself by letting something slip by.
Personal Injury Trial
Anyone who has watched television or seen a film in the last 40 years will have no trouble recognizing the common events in a courtroom. Granted, real-life trials are rarely as dramatic or abbreviated as the fictional version, but by and large, the process is roughly the same. The key thing to remember is the trial is where you make the fewest decisions and benefit the least from them. All the most important steps have been taken by now. If you didn’t prepare well, then your chances of prevailing will be diminished and possibly wiped out altogether.
No two trials are alike, so it isn’t really possible to describe exactly how any particular case will proceed. It is, however, something that should be handled by a qualified attorney, and preferably one with considerable trial experience. Good trial attorneys are hard to come by, but they are extraordinarily powerful allies.
If you are facing a personal injury case, it is a wise move to prepare ahead of time. Take the opportunity to sit down with an experienced personal injury attorney and let them walk you through the process. Consulting with someone before you start pursuing your case is the best way to prepare yourself and your evidence. It is also the best way to determine if you have a path forward or not. There is no point in investing the time and funds if you have no chance to prevail, and there certainly isn’t any point in inviting a counter-suit either.
Knowledge is the key to success in almost any endeavor. The best source of knowledge is a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney in Austin, TX with the skills to deliver a successful outcome for your specific situation.