How Does a Personal Injury Claim Work?
There are many steps involved in a personal injury claim. This is a basic outline of the way a claim might unfold.
- Initial Meeting
At this stage, we meet with you to discuss your accident, your injuries, and their impact on your life. At this point or shortly thereafter, we will give our opinion on your case. If everyone agrees to proceed, a retainer agreement is signed and we become your lawyers.
We review the facts surrounding the accident and your injuries. We interview witnesses. We collect and review relevant documents, including police reports and medical records.
To get the lawsuit started, we deliver a statement of claim, which is a written statement of your case. It includes the facts upon which you intend to rely, and the relief you are seeking. In most cases, the statement of claim must be issued with the court within two years of your accident. The statement of claim is then served on the defendants.
The defendants then retain a lawyer, who will file and serve their statements of defence.
All parties in a lawsuit must provide a list, and copies of all documents that are relevant to the lawsuit, in a sworn affidavit. This is called an affidavit of documents.
Once we have collected all relevant documents, we exchange affidavits of documents with the defendants.
Examinations for Discovery
Examinations for discovery allow both sides to discover the facts of the case. At this stage, the defendants’ lawyers will question you under oath about the accident and your injuries. We also question the defendants about what happened. There is no judge present at an examination for discovery, but there is a court reporter who transcribes what is said. You are with your lawyer at your discovery.
In a personal injury case, “mediation” generally refers to an assisted settlement negotiation. This is a commonly utilized format for settlement negotiations. Generally at a mediation, we will be in a room with you for the majority of the day, and representatives from the defendants’ insurance companies and their lawyers will be in another room. A professional mediator will travel between the rooms and attempt to facilitate a settlement between the parties.
Informal settlement discussions can also occur at any stage of a case, either in person or in writing.
- Pre-Trial Conference
This could occur before or after a mediation or settlement discussion. The parties and their lawyers must attend. At a pre-trial conference, we will present your case to a judge, as will the defendants’ lawyers. Usually, the presiding judge will then communicate his or her thoughts on the case. Administrative and procedural issues can also be dealt with at this time.
While the majority of cases settle out of court, if a settlement has not been reached, then we proceed to a trial. Witnesses are called on behalf of all parties. The outcome of a trial rests in the hands of a judge and/or jury.