Spinal cord injuries, especially severe spinal cord injuries, can be completely debilitating. The spinal cord is an integral part of many of your body’s most basic processes and nearly all of your ordinary activities of daily living. Your whole life will be altered at least temporarily when you injure your spinal cord, and it could be altered permanently. You could be partially or completely paralyzed if your injuries are extensive enough, and even seemingly minor spinal cord injuries can cause lifelong pain and discomfort in multiple body parts. Even if you want to file a claim against the responsible parties and seek compensation, you may not know where to begin. An experienced personal injury attorney will know, though. If you do hire an attorney, here is what will happen throughout the process of your spinal cord injury claim:
What Will Happen After You Are Injured but Before You Hire an Attorney
This is the least pleasant part of the entire process. When your injury is fresh, you may be in quite a bit of pain. You could have quite a bit of difficulty getting around and taking care of yourself. Tasks that used to be simple—walking outside to get the mail, sitting in your car for extended periods of time, carrying in boxes from your porch, walking your dog, going to the grocery store—now require extensive planning if you are even able to do them at all.
During this time, there is a good chance you will be spending no small amount of time at medical facilities—hospitals, imaging centers, physical or occupational therapy offices, doctor’s offices—attending appointments and therapy sessions. Although this treatment is necessary to help you recover from your injuries, it involves lots of waiting around, sitting in uncomfortable chairs and commuting back and forth to and from your appointments. In the short term, it is an inconvenience at best and can feel actively harmful at worst. This is true both physically and financially, given the high costs associated with spinal injuries. As your medical bills continue to pile up and your injury’s side effects linger, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to help you recover compensation against the responsible party.
What Are Getting When You Hire an Attorney and What Role Your Attorney Will Play
When you hire an attorney to represent you, you are handing your claim over to a professional legal counselor who has a duty to make your best interests a top priority in your case. Your attorney must effectively advocate for you and get your authorization in order to accept any settlement offer from a responsible party. Counsel has a vested interest in your case’s success, so you will be given an honest assessment of the case’s strengths, weaknesses and unknowns. In addition to being an advocate, your attorney will also serve as an intermediary between you and each responsible party’s insurance company. If you have questions or concerns about the injury claim process in general or about your case specifically, you should not hesitate to talk to your lawyer about them.
What Will Happen After You Hire an Attorney but Before You File a Lawsuit
Most states require personal injury lawsuits to be filed within a certain amount of time from the date on which the injury allegedly occurred. This filing deadline is called a statute of limitations, and if any, responsible party or its insurance company is unwilling to make you an adequate settlement offer before the statute of limitations expires, your lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf. Prior to the statute of limitations’ expiration, your lawyer will be in communication with each responsible party’s insurance company to prove your case’s strengths to them and, with any luck, get a global settlement offer that would fairly compensate you for your injuries.
What Will Happen After You File a Lawsuit
When waiting any longer would jeopardize your right to file a lawsuit under the applicable statute of limitations, your attorney will file a complaint at law against any responsible parties—who then become defendants—to preserve your claim. The complaint initiates the lawsuit. Each defendant will then have an opportunity to file its own response to the lawsuit. Once all the defendants have responded to your complaint, the case will move into the discovery phase. The first step in this phase, written discovery, allows each party named in the lawsuit to send written questions and requests for documents to all the other parties.
After the parties’ written information gathering is complete, the case will move into oral discovery. At this point, you will likely be required to sit for a deposition. All that means is you will sit in a conference room with all the parties’ attorneys, including your own, and a court reporter so you can answer questions about the case under oath. After your deposition has been taken, the other parties will be deposed too. Depositions will continue on, with fact witnesses, independent expert witnesses, and retained expert witnesses all required to participate in oral discovery as the parties see fit.
If your case has still not been resolved when oral discovery is finished, your lawyer will begin preparing it to go to trial. You will need to make yourself available and attend the trial in its entirety, even after you have given your testimony. Although there will be a judge who presides over the trial, monitors all the parties’ conduct, and makes evidentiary rulings throughout, a jury will likely render the case’s final verdict. After all the evidence has been presented and each party has made its arguments, the jury will come to a decision about whether to award you compensation and, if so, how much to award you. The verdict can potentially be appealed and overturned, but in most cases the verdict and the resulting judgment against any responsible party is the end of the road. Without an appeal, all you and your attorney need to do is collect the full amount of the judgment from each responsible party.