How Do Personal Injury Claimants Get a Judgment in Their Favor?
Many personal injury claims do not advance to trial. The party at fault or that party’s insurer may opt to settle a claim in order to avoid litigation. In the event that parties cannot agree to a resolution, a claimant can proceed to seek a judgment. In order to prevail, plaintiffs in personal injury actions must meet several key criteria in accordance with applicable law and procedure.
Table of Contents
File a Claim Within the Statute of Limitations
People who are hurt in an accident do not have an indefinite amount of time to make a claim. In personal injury actions, the statute starts tolling when a person sustains an injury. In some situations, however, the applicable period begins when people learn of their injuries. People may not necessarily be aware of the extent of the physical harm that they have experienced until long after the event that caused it.
The exact length of time that an injury victim has to bring a claim in court depends on state law, so it can vary based on location. Typically personal injury actions have a statute of limitations between one and three years. Medical malpractice claims, however, may expire sooner than other types of negligence claims.
Collect and Present Evidence
Before a hearing date, the plaintiff and defendant in a civil case have the opportunity to request information from one another during discovery. They can request all of the materials that each party has in their possession which are relevant to the plaintiff’s allegations in his or her complaint. This may consist of documents such as complete medical records or police reports. Relevant evidence could also include photographic and video records showing an event or documentation of a person’s injuries.
Statements from witnesses with knowledge that supports or negates a claim can have determinative evidentiary significance. Not all witness accounts must take place in court at the time of a hearing. Depositions and affidavits that witnesses make under the pains and penalties of perjury may be admissible in court and available to both parties in advance of trial.
The process of sharing evidence in pretrial discovery may result in a settlement. Identifying all of the evidence that supports a claim or defense can help parties make better informed decisions about whether it is in their best interests to move ahead to trial.
Prove Claims by a Preponderance of the Evidence
In civil trials, plaintiffs don’t need to prove their case by the same standard that prosecutors need to meet in criminal trials. Instead, the evidence that they present must convince the trier of fact that their claim is more likely than not to be true. In effect, this means that claimants must show that there is a probability of fifty percent or greater that the defendant is responsible for the harm alleged.
Ultimately, going to trial may be the best way for a personal injury victim to get an acceptable remedy. Taking the right steps to prepare can play a key role in the outcome.