Filing a personal injury lawsuit is the beginning of a process that usually takes months to complete. Most non-lawyers are unfamiliar with this process and might not know what steps come next and what they can expect between the time they file and the time their damages get paid.
The beginning of a lawsuit is a lot of back and forth with legal filings. After that, both sides exchange evidence and take depositions to build out the facts of the case. From there, negotiations often take place to potentially settle the case. If negotiations do not result in a settlement, the case moves to trial – but it’s not too late to settle until the jury decides the case.
Contact our South Carolina personal injury lawyers for help filing your case and getting the compensation you need. Call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today for a free case review at (803) 451-4000.
Initial Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in South Carolina
After filing, both sides will submit briefs to the court stating their case and their defenses. The initial paperwork you file is called a “complaint,” and it lays out the facts of the case, how each element of your case is met, and why the defendant is at fault. It also lays out the initial claim for damages.
The defense will submit responses that try to put holes in the claim and get the case dropped. If the case survives this initial back and forth, your case can move on.
At this initial stage, the core issue is whether you’ve made out a “prima facie case.” The court essentially looks at whether – assuming everything you said is true – you would have met the elements for your case to succeed. The court does not dive into the facts and determine whether they are true or not – that truth-determinative process comes later at trial.
Your Lexington personal injury lawyer might also file some other preliminary motions at this stage. Some types of personal injury cases, such as medical malpractice lawsuits, require other steps to be taken before filing or in the early stages of the case.
Discovery, Evidence Exchange, and Depositions
In order to get all of the relevant information related to your case, you often need evidence that the other side has in their possession. In South Carolina and throughout the United States, the goal is to give both sides access to all of the facts and evidence so that the trial can bring out the truth, rather than leaving either side in the dark and surprising them with evidence. To accomplish this, both sides are allowed to use the court’s subpoena power to demand evidence, have “interrogatories” (written questions) answered by the other side, and get witnesses in to make on-the-record statements called depositions.
When all of the evidence is assembled, both sides get a better look at the facts and the strength of each side’s case. Once your Sumter personal injury lawyer has all of the evidence, they might be able to convince the other side to settle.
Settlement Negotiations in South Carolina Personal Injury Cases
In reality, settlement negotiations can begin even before the case is filed. From the first time you or your South Carolina personal injury lawyer contacts the defendant to tell them you were injured, you’ve effectively begun negotiations with the defendant.
Depending on the type of injury case you filed, there may be an insurance claim that you file early on – before filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is common in car accident cases, injuries at a business or home, or medical malpractice injury cases. When you file with insurance, they will often respond with a settlement offer if they believe the facts of your case – but it might be a low initial offer meant to end the case quickly.
Whenever you are negotiating with the other side for damages, you should have your South Carolina personal injury lawyer represent you. They often have a clearer idea of what your case is worth and what arguments will help push the defendant to settle.
After discovery, both sides have all of the evidence and can judge for themselves how strong their case is. It is at this stage that many cases ultimately settle since the defendant can see how weak their defense is and how strong your injury claim is. However, it is hard to predict what a jury will do, and many defendants are willing to take their chances at trial.
Ultimately, the vast majority of personal injury cases do settle before trial. It is cheaper and faster for everyone to settle out of court than it is to put on a trial. But if you are not being given a fair settlement offer, our Columbia personal injury lawyers can fight the case all the way to trial to try to get you the compensation you deserve.
What to Expect at a Personal Injury Trial in South Carolina
If your case goes to trial, you may have some idea of what to expect. By this stage in the case, your attorney will have been able to help you prepare and explain the stages of trial to you. For those unfamiliar, trials usually go something like this:
- Juries are selected through a process called voir dire, then they are sworn in.
- Both sides present opening statements to the jury.
- The plaintiff (victim) presents their case by calling witnesses and presenting evidence.
- The defendant presents their case by calling witnesses and presenting evidence.
- During each side’s case, the other side is permitted to cross-examine the witnesses by asking questions.
- Both sides present closing arguments to the jury, summing up their case and arguing as to how the facts support their claim.
- The jury deliberates and decides the case.
There are many potential things that can come up to lengthen the case, especially when it comes to technical or legal issues. For example, many cases dealing with defective product injuries or medical malpractice require expert witnesses to come in and explain difficult scientific concepts to the jury. Many complex evidence questions take additional time out of the presence of the jury to resolve. Some cases may even be tainted by improper processes and end in a mistrial – causing the process to restart with a new jury.
At the end of the day, your South Carolina car injury lawyer will fight for the damages you need, but the judge and jury make the final decision. However, cases can even be settled after the trial starts, potentially getting you the damages you need before the trial comes to a close.
Call Our South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you were hurt in an accident and need help filing a personal injury lawsuit, call the South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers. Our phone number is (803) 451-4000.