Every year, nearly one million people receive medical care at an emergency department due to accidental injuries. Whether the injuries are due to a car accident, dog bite, workplace injury, or negligent business owner, they come at a high cost to the injured person.
If you have experienced a personal injury, you may consider pursuing civil litigation to get your medical bills and other expenses paid for by the responsible party. If you’re not familiar with the civil litigation process, though, it can seem overwhelming.
This article is here to help. Read on to learn more about civil litigation in Wisconsin and what you can expect if you file a personal injury suit.
1. Civil Litigation Is Different from a Criminal Case
A civil case is not the same thing as a criminal case. In a criminal case, the state or the United States government charges an individual with a crime. The potential outcomes could include jail time, prison time, or a community sentence.
In a civil case, however, injured or wronged parties (the plaintiff) may file a lawsuit against people, entities, or organizations (the defendants). Sanctions in civil cases are typically monetary.
If a civil case goes to trial, the standard of proof is also different. In a criminal case, a jury has to be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person is guilty.
In a civil case, the jury must only find that the preponderance of the evidence indicates that the defendant is responsible. This lower standard of proof typically means that civil cases are easier to win than criminal cases.
2. A Civil Case Begins With You
If you have experienced personal injury and are facing medical bills, damaged property, or other expenses, you can make the decision to pursue a civil case. You can file on your own, but a civil litigation attorney can often get you a much higher award amount and make the process much smoother for you.
If you hire a personal injury attorney to handle your case, they will guide you through every step of the process. Once they gather information from you, review medical records, and determine that you have a case, they will typically begin by sending what is called a complaint to the responsible party or parties, laying out your claims against the defendant.
The defendant will then have to answer this letter and respond to your claims of wrongdoing. In some cases. the defendant may offer you a quick settlement. The settlement amount is often less than what you are requesting, though. You can choose to accept this or move forward with your case.
Once you have filed your case, you will need to exchange evidence with the defendant and/or their attorney. This process is called discovery and it is often the longest part of the litigation process.
During discovery, each side will gather information and exchange what is relevant to the case. There may be depositions, where you and others involved in the case will be interviewed by attorneys. Certain records may be subpoenaed, such as medical records, video recordings, cell phone records, or even social media accounts.
The goal of the discovery process is to provide each attorney with the necessary information to fight on behalf of their client.
4. Settlement or Trial
Many insurance companies will try to settle with you to save themselves money spent on litigation. Once discovery is completed, they may offer you a settlement again, typically higher than their original offer. You and your lawyer will need to decide if their settlement offer is sufficient to meet your expenses.
You may also engage in arbitration or mediation to try to reach an agreement without going to trial. If you do go to trial, you may request a jury trial or a bench trial, with only the judge present.
During the trial, attorneys for each side will present the information obtained in the discovery process and the judge or jury will make a decision on whether the defendant is responsible for the damages that you claim as the plaintiff.
If the defendants are found to be responsible, the judge or the jury will then decide the amount of damages you should be awarded. They can choose to give you less than what you believe your claim is worth or more than what you ask for, through punitive damages.
5. Building a Strong Case
A civil litigation lawyer is the best choice to build a strong case, but there are things that you can do as well to help your case. Keep records of everything, including medical care, any expenses you incur, and any accident reports. Follow the treatment plan set by your doctor and don’t do anything that could make the defendant question if you are really injured as seriously as you claim.
You should also avoid posting anything about your case on social media, as the defendant’s attorney will often try to find evidence to demonstrate your injuries are not serious. Follow your attorney’s advice as they want your case to be successful so that you can receive the compensation you deserve. P
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
If you want to improve your chances of successful civil litigation, hire a personal injury attorney. They specialize in representing plaintiffs who have experienced accidental injuries, can negotiate with insurance companies for you, and can represent you if you take the case to trial.
Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet & Froehlet has been representing clients for nearly 100 years. Our attorneys specialize in personal injury claims in Watertown and Lake Mills. Our attorneys will meet with you to discuss strategy for your case and you don’t pay unless we recover damages.
Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.