How to File and What to Expect from a Personal Injury Lawsuit: A Guide

personal injury lawsuit

In the United States, personal injuries are the 4th leading cause of death overall after cancer and heart disease, and 62 million people need medical assistance for their injuries each year. Car accidents, work-related injuries, slips, and falls are among the most common types of injuries.

Experiencing a personal injury can change your life, and the process afterward can be very overwhelming. Filing a personal injury lawsuit can give you the compensation you need to move forward with your life. But it can be a long and confusing process if you don’t know what to expect.

Learning more about the lawsuit process will allow for a much smoother experience overall.

Keep reading this guide to learn how to file a personal injury lawsuit and what to expect.

Overview of Personal Injury Lawsuits

A personal injury lawsuit involves civil action against an entity or person responsible for your injuries. 

The primary purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is to recover losses you suffered due to the accident. These losses typically include lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

To win a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove the other person (defendant) is liable for your injuries. To do this, you need to be able to show they’re negligent for the accident. 

Once you establish liability, a court will determine how much money you’re entitled to if you don’t settle earlier.

Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits You Can File

There are different types of personal injury lawsuits you can file. The most common lawsuits include:

  • Workplace injuries
  • Car accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective product injuries
  • Slip and fall injuries

Remember, the type of personal injury lawsuit you must file will depend on your case. For example, people with car accident injuries file personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver.

At the same time, people who have injuries caused by defective products would file a claim against the product manufacturer.

What to Do After an Accident

Before you file a lawsuit, you must ensure you take specific steps after your accident or injury. Taking these steps ensures your safety and gives you the evidence you need for a lawsuit.

Get Medical Attention

One of the first things you must do is get medical attention. You should get medical attention even if it seems your injuries aren’t severe at first. If medical personnel at the accident scene want to take you to the hospital for an evaluation, it’s best not to refuse their help.

If you don’t need an ambulance, you should see a doctor immediately after the accident. Many injuries like whiplash, sprains, and strains don’t show symptoms right away. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and sore days later, and this can lead to chronic complications.

You may need further therapy and treatment, so it’s essential to ensure you get all the medical treatment you need.

Get Contact Information

One of the next essential steps in a personal injury lawsuit is gathering contact information for the person at fault and any witnesses. You must get information like:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance policy number
  • Models and makes of any vehicles involved

If you’re having trouble getting all the information from the other person, don’t be afraid to take pictures of their vehicle, etc.

Get Pictures and Videos

Getting as much evidence as possible after an accident is critical. Taking pictures and videos is one of the best ways to do this. You’ll want to get photos of the entire accident area. Take pictures of both vehicles at multiple angles if it was a car accident.

Make sure to get multiple views of the damage. You should also take pictures of the road, including any skid marks. The position of both vehicles after the accident can play an important role in proving fault.

If you have a slip and fall, take pictures of the scene around the accident. Take note of any specific hazards, like a wet floor. 

Taking videos of the scene is also helpful and allows you to catch weather conditions and other essential details.

Keep a Journal and Save All Records

Keep a journal of how you’re feeling after the accident. A daily journal documenting how the accident affects your everyday life is powerful evidence. Be sure to go into detail about your pain levels and what physical activities are challenging to do.

Address how you’re feeling mentally, describing your emotional state since the accident.

Keep all medical records and any documents immediately after the accident in a safe place. You’ll need to provide these to your attorney during your initial consultation.

Find a Reputable Attorney

Once you’ve gathered all the evidence you can, it’s time to find a reputable attorney in your area. Be sure to do thorough research and read Google reviews to understand how past clients feel about the law firm.

Check the websites of the attorneys you’re considering to get a better idea of their specific areas of experience. A website will also give you a feel for the practice overall.

Check that the lawyer is licensed to practice law in your state.

Here’s a helpful resource that gives you an idea of what you should look for in a potential accident attorney.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

During the initial consultation, your personal injury attorney will review the details of your case. An experienced attorney will be able to determine if the case can move forward.

This first consultation is basically a screening process. You may need to sign a medical records release and give the attorney information about your insurance company.

Once they determine you have a case, you’ll start taking steps immediately that include:

Discuss Fees and Payments

Next, you’ll need to understand how your attorney will charge for legal services. In most cases, attorneys charge an hourly rate for their services. You may need to pay a retainer fee for these cases.

A retainer fee is an upfront fee to secure the services of professionals like a lawyer. This fee guarantees that the lawyer will commit to your case. The retainer fee usually equals around five hours of work, and you’ll get a refund if the work gets done sooner.

Many personal injury attorneys don’t charge a fixed hourly rate upfront. Instead, they work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee is based on a percentage of the total settlement you get for your injury.

Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement

Before filing a lawsuit, your attorney will contact the other party and their insurance provider. The purpose of this is to determine if you can reach a fair settlement without going to court.

If your attorney can’t reach a fair settlement during the initial negotiations, they’ll proceed to the next steps.

File Your Claim (Complaint)

Next, your lawyer will begin the process of filing your claim. They’ll send a demand letter to the defendant or their lawyer to do this. Your lawyer will also file a court claim and serve the defendant with court papers.

This letter outlines your version of all the events and why the other person is negligent in this case. 

The defendant receives the complaint via mail or in person and has to respond.

Answer the Complaint

You’ll have an official answer once the defendant responds to your complaint. The answer should address every aspect of the complaint.

The answer will either admit fault, deny fault, or state there isn’t enough knowledge and evidence to admit or deny responsibility.

The answer may also include possible defenses and other reasons why the defendant shouldn’t be responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. Sometimes the defense gives enough reason for a motion to dismiss the case entirely.

Discovery Phase

This phase allows both parties in the lawsuit to gather and exchange evidence. During this phase, your attorney will look closely at the evidence you have. They’ll also take steps to obtain more evidence. 

For example, your attorney will look for other accident witnesses if the injury was from a car accident. They may also look at nearby businesses and other video cameras to obtain footage of the accident.

Your attorney will also look for experts in different fields, like car accidents and slips and falls. If you have serious injuries, your attorney will gather more medical documents and consult an expert physician.

In addition, your attorney will request documents from the defendant and ask questions to understand their viewpoint better.

The discovery phase is essentially an opportunity for both parties to fully understand the accident and the events before and afterward.

Production of Documents

All parties to the lawsuit have the right to view any documents related to the case. Depending on the case, this phase can become complex.

For example, medical malpractice cases often have a large number of medical documents. Numerous medical experts on both sides may need to review these documents.

It’s important to realize that this phase includes any documents slightly related to the case. As such, many courts allow things like computer files to be a part of this process.

Hire Expert Witnesses

Your attorney may need to hire expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are individuals that are verified experts in their field. They can significantly help you with your case since they can back up your claims.

However, expert witnesses come at a cost. Your attorney will need to include these expenses in your fees. Therefore, it will impact your total settlement amount. Make sure to discuss these costs with your attorney beforehand.


Depositions allow you to answer questions asked by an attorney under oath. These questions are asked in front of a court reporter, who then makes a transcript.

Attorneys often use the deposition to lock people into their testimony and get an idea of how strong their opponent’s case is before officially going to trial.

Pre-Trial Motions and Negotiations

Pre-trial motions are motions that attorneys request to ask the court for a ruling before trial. Defendants in personal injury cases can file a motion to dismiss after the discovery phase.

They’ll do this to convince the court that your case isn’t valid. Usually, they’ll be able to dismiss some parts of your case but not the entire case. Once the other party files a motion, you have up to 14 days to respond.

You’ll also have settlement negotiations taking place before the trial. Your attorney will attempt to reach a fair settlement agreement with the other party during this time. 

Reaching a settlement at this point will allow you to get fair compensation for your injuries without taking the risk that the court won’t rule in your favor. Both lawyers will make offers and counter-offers, attempting to reach an agreement.

You may even need to meet with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral party that will help both sides work through their differences fairly. Your attorney will talk to you about your settlement options, so you fully understand the pros and cons.


If you don’t reach a settlement during the pre-trial motions, your cause will eventually end up in court. It may take months after you initially filed your case for the trial to take place.

During the trial, both parties will argue about the facts and details surrounding the accident. A jury or judge will then determine whether or not the defendant was liable for your injury and should pay damages.

If the defendant is liable, the judge or jury will determine how much compensation you should receive for your injuries. The defendant will attempt to reduce their payout, so you must prepare.

Once you reach an agreement, your attorney will work out the details of collecting the settlement.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Knowing the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit ahead of time will make you much more comfortable overall.

Remember, lawsuits can take time, and it’s normal to have doubts throughout the process. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney questions to understand each step of the lawsuit better.

To learn more tips and tricks, be sure to read the rest of our blog articles today!