Personal Injury Steps:  
What Happens Next?

Now that you have hired your lawyer, you want to know the personal injury steps in your legal matter. 

We have all heard the nightmare stories of legal cases taking many years to resolve. In personal injury matters, the only time this should happen is if your injuries do not resolve themselves within a reasonable period of time. The thing is, you do not want your case to settle if you do not yet know the extent to which your injuries will impact your life. 

At the same time, we want to take steps to move your matter forward. At Hemminger Law Group Westshore, we use a step-by-step process, a checklist that we follow to ensure that our clients’ matters move forward in both a time efficient and thorough manner. This helps us to avoid unnecessary delays in your personal injury matter. 

One thing to remember is that even with the most efficient legal team on your side, a personal injury lawsuit can take up to two years or longer to settle or go to trial. We do not want settle your case prematurely. 

Although each case is different, here are the main steps in your lawsuit. Some of these steps are carried out concurrently with others. They are not necessarily carried out in this order. Some steps are repeatedly done.

Step One - We Tell the Defendant's Insurance Company We Are Your Lawyers:

This is the first of the personal injury steps. We want to take care of your personal injury lawsuit, while you focus on getting better. So, as soon as you hire us, we let the insurance company know, whether that is the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia or another insurer, that we are your lawyers. That way the insurance company stops dealing with you and starts dealing with us. 

Step Two - We Start Gathering the Facts - One of the Earliest Personal Injury Steps

With our client’s help, we gather all the available facts concerning the claim. We start with our client by getting a detailed statement from them as to what happened. We also interview other witnesses and take their respective statements. Sometimes we take photos of injuries and the scene of where your injuries occurred.

When we think it will help, we hire an expert to assist us at this stage. 

Step Three - Gathering Medical Evidence

One of the biggest things we need to learn relatively early on in a personal injury matter is what the medical professionals are saying about your injuries. Getting some knowledge of what your doctors are saying within six months of your injuries occurring is very important. It is one of the personal injury steps that we want to do early on in the process. This way we can see whether or not an expert medical professional is involved and whether or not we need their evidence also. 

Sometimes, when our clients are struggling to get better, we are able to direct our clients to other forms of treatment that they have not yet tried.

Step Four - The Settlement Proposal 

If liability is not in dispute (for example, you were rear-ended by a vehicle while sitting at a red light), we might decide to prepare a settlement proposal next. This is one of the personal injury steps that can happen even before we formally start your lawsuit.

We will prepare a settlement proposal anywhere from 9 months post-injury to just before trial. It is dependent on the significance of your injuries.

We like to prepare a settlement proposal for two reasons. First of all, it helps us to both develop your case and to decide what information we require before settling or going to trial.

Secondly, the proposal is often the first step in negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement with the insurer. 

Step Five - Starting the Lawsuit

We begin the lawsuit by preparing the necessary court documents and filing them in court. The court date-stamps all copies of the documents, keeping one copy of each for their official record. We then deliver filed copies to the Defendant’s lawyers. This is the personal injury step that legally formalizes your claim.

Step Six - Interim Court Applications

After we start a lawsuit, but before trial, lawyers sometimes go to court to get an interim order. We call this an interim application.

For example, we might ask the court to order that the Defendant show us a particular letter or document that the Defendant would rather not let us see.

Step Seven - Examination for Discovery

After the lawsuit has been commenced and served on the opposing party, there is an examination for discovery. Each side of the case has an opportunity to ask the other party almost anything relating to the lawsuit. Often further requests are made for documents. All of this happens under oath and is transcribed on an official transcript. 

At the examination for discovery, we may question the defendant about their safety protocols (if a slip and fall matter). We will find out whether or not they can demonstrate they followed their safety protocols at the time your injuries occurred. 

The Defendant's lawyer will ask our client about their injuries in a detailed fashion. They will ask about their life and how the injuries have made an impact.

Step Eight - Review of the Law 

Once we have a good idea of all the facts and medical evidence, we review the law. We review other cases where someone has had similar injuries to your own. This information is then put in our settlement proposal or used for trial preparation.

Step Nine - Preparation for Trial

We prepare the case for trial, which includes getting all the necessary documents together, arranging witnesses to attend, reviewing witness evidence and finalizing our legal research.

To prepare for trial is one of the most important personal injury steps. We prepare for trial even if we are still hopeful that we are going to settle. The expression that matters "settle on the courthouse steps" is a very true situation in many personal injury matters. 

Step Ten - The Trial

Despite our best efforts, we are sometimes unable to settle prior to going to trial. We go to court when we cannot agree as to whether or not the injuries are a result of the Defendant's actions. Sometimes it happens that we cannot reach a settlement as to the amount of damages payable by the insurance company to our client. 

In this case, we leave it to a judge or jury to decide the case. 

This article by Val Hemminger, personal injury lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore