The Stages of a Personal Injury Claim
Personal injury claims can be lengthy and complex. Coping with the impact of an accident or other incident in which you have been hurt or otherwise affected can be emotional and very stressful. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, it is helpful to understand the various stages of a personal injury lawsuit before you meet with a lawyer so that you know what to expect going forward.
Consultation with Your Personal Injury Lawyer
At your initial meeting with a personal injury lawyer (i.e. the “intake meeting”), the lawyer will listen to your version of events and collect as much information as possible about what happened. Critical information that your lawyer will need to know includes:
- Details of what occurred;
- Injuries you sustained;
- When you first noticed that something was wrong;
- Whether you saw a doctor, and if so, when and who;
- Your medical history and information about your health.
Based on this initial information, your lawyer will determine whether you might have a case that should be pursued. If so, the process of documenting your injuries and making sure that you receive appropriate care and all of the benefits you are entitled to will begin. When the long-term impact of your injuries can be determined, it will be time to issue a claim.
Filing a Statement of Claim
Once your personal injury lawyer determines that you have grounds for a lawsuit, he or she will prepare a Statement of Claim. This is the formal document that notifies the defendant(s) (i.e. the party or parties you are suing, such as another driver, a municipality, etc.) that you are suing them, will outline the facts you are relying on to support your claim, and will set out any compensation that you are seeking.
The Statement of Claim will be issued by the court and will be served on the defendant(s). It must be served within six months of being issued.
Once they are served with your Claim, the defendant(s) will likely hire their own lawyer and will file a Statement of Defence. A defendant may challenge the claim on any number of grounds, including challenging your version of events, their involvement in or liability for what happened, the limitation period, or the ability of the action to proceed.
In some cases, simply filing a Statement of Claim may be sufficient enough to motivate the defendant(s) to meet and discuss a potential settlement. In other cases, your claim must proceed further.
If a claim is proceeding further, discovery is an essential step and is critical to preparing your case.
During the discovery process, each party has the chance to gather critical information and facts from the other(s). Discovery is also a means through which to eliminate potential surprises which could otherwise prolong or completely derail a case.
During discovery, the parties must disclose the existence of all relevant documents in an affidavit of documents, and must produce these documents if requested. Your personal injury lawyer will help you gather all medical records, insurance forms, and other documents which are relevant to your claim.
During the discovery process, the parties must also submit to questioning during what is known as “examinations for discovery”. This typically lasts four or five hours. Your personal injury lawyer will meet with you beforehand to prepare you and make sure you are comfortable and ready for the process. Your lawyer will accompany you to the discovery and ensure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly.
Settlement discussions often take place after the discovery process and can be initiated by any party.
If a matter does not settle during discovery, it can proceed to mediation. This is an important stage of the litigation process and is mandatory in certain jurisdictions in Ontario.
Mediation is essentially an informal settlement meeting between the parties. A mediator is chosen and agreed to by lawyers for both sides. The mediator will assist the parties in exploring the potential for settlement. Your personal injury lawyer will accompany you to the mediation and will represent you throughout. Your matter may settle during mediation.
Scheduling a Trial and Pre-Trial Conference
If your claim does not settle at mediation, the claim will be “set down” for trial. A trial date will be scheduled and a pre-trial conference date will be set. Expert reports will be exchanged by the parties.
The pre-trial conference is held in front of a judge, generally a few months before a scheduled trial. The judge will meet with the lawyers for both parties to discuss the trial and any outstanding issues.
Some cases may reach resolution at this stage. If your case does not, the matter will proceed to trial.
If you have been injured in an accident or other incident and would like to file a claim against the individual or organization you feel is responsible for your injuries, contact the Waterloo personal injury lawyers at Petker Campbell Postnikoff. When you meet with us we will give you an honest and up-front assessment of your case. As your lawyers, we will be committed to your case, seeing you through all phases of the legal process. We will not pursue unreasonable or outlandish strategies. Our advice will direct you to take a reasonable approach that will improve your chances of success. To book a consultation with a member at our firm, call us at 519-886-1204 or contact us online.