If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you might be wondering what to expect in a personal injury case, including how long it will take and what you will need to do. This blog will take you through the typical timeline of a personal injury claim, step by step. As you read, keep in mind that most personal injury cases settle without going to trial, and sometimes without a lawsuit being filed in court. The litigation process can follow many different paths, and we can’t always determine what path it will take at the beginning. So your case may not reach or require every step we’ve listed here, and it could settle at any point on the timeline.
Step 1: Contact a personal injury lawyer
After seeking medical help, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the possibility of filing a claim. Fidelis Law offers a free initial consultation to assess and discuss your case. It’s easy to request a consultation with us. Simply call us at 506-801-1126 or fill out this form:
When choosing a law firm for your case, it’s best to seek a firm with lawyers who have specific experience in personal injury law. These cases are often complicated, and lawyers who have dealt with them before will be able to handle all of the details for you while you recover from your injuries. Fidelis Law works on a contingent fee basis, which means you won’t have to pay us until you receive compensation for your injuries. Learn more about hiring a lawyer on a contingent fee basis. You should also seek a firm that has experience with your specific injury. Fidelis lawyers have experience with every injury that could result from a motor vehicle accident, including whiplash, concussions and traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, fatal accidents, and more. We can also help with your long-term disability claims.
Step 2: Building your case
Once you’ve hired a lawyer, one of the first things they will do is collect as much information as possible about your case. Your lawyer will want to know everything about the accident, your injuries, and your medical treatment. Make sure to answer all their questions as completely as you can. Your lawyer will get all of your medical records and treatment bills relating to the injury, including any treatment you’ve had relating to your injuries. At Fidelis Law, we will obtain all the necessary information for your case directly, so that you don’t have to. We’ll also advise the other driver’s insurance company of our involvement so they know to no longer contact you, since we’ll take care of all the details. And we’ll make sure you are receiving all the medical and loss of income benefits you’re entitled to under your Section B policy. This step is continuous throughout the litigation process, since there is usually a lot of information to request, obtain, and then review.
Step 3: Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI, is reached when you have ended all of your medical treatments and you are as recovered as possible. This could mean you are completely recovered, or that you have been determined to have life-long repercussions from your injuries. If this is the case, Fidelis Law may hire medical experts to assess and determine any future treatments you will need and what your lifelong prognosis is. Your lawyer will not be able to determine how much your case is worth until you reach MMI. It’s important not to rush this step and to not settle your claim until there is a clear vision of what the impacts of your injuries will be for the rest of your life. If your lawyer believes your case can be settled when you reach MMI, they may initiate negotiations at this point. If settlement talks fail, the case moves to the next step of the process.
Step 4: Notice of Action and Starting the Legal Process
The litigation phase starts when your lawyer files a Notice of Action with a Statement of Claim Attached (NOA) with the court. The NOA is a document filed to start proceedings against the other driver (referred to as the defendant) in the case, and preserves your right of recovery beyond the limitation period.
Once the NOA is filed, the clock starts running on when the case might get to trial. Every case is different, but it could take years for a personal injury case to get to trial, and in most cases, an out-of-court settlement is reached before it gets there. During this step the defendant is also served. They receive a copy of the filed court document and their insurance company will appoint them a lawyer and file a statement of defence.
Step 5: Exchange of Information
In this step, your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer will give each other every piece of information they have that is relevant to the action. This includes all medical, financial, and employment information, and photos and videos related to the accident, your injuries, and your treatment. This also includes information that predates the accident. Lawyers will send questions and document requests to each other. This process can take several months, depending on the complexity of the case.
Step 6: Discovery
The discovery phase is when your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer participate in an Examination for Discovery with both you and the defendant. Before your Examination for Discovery, your lawyer will meet with you to prepare and go over the types of questions you will be asked. It is important to always be truthful and be thorough in explaining your injuries and how they are impacting your life. At the Examination, you will sit down with your lawyer, the defending lawyer, and a stenographer, usually in a boardroom or conference room. The defendant has a right to be at your Examination, but not all choose to be there. The conversation is recorded and under oath. The defending lawyer will ask you questions related to the accident and your injuries, as well as your life before and after the accident. Your lawyer will be by your side throughout this questioning, but you must be the one to answer the questions. Your lawyer may be asked to go obtain further information after the Discovery. The Examination for Discovery typically lasts one to three days. Your lawyer will also have the opportunity to question the defendant during this phase of the process. Typically after a Discovery takes place, more requests for information are made from both sides. At this point, Fidelis Law may also hire medical experts and occupational therapists to assess your current capacity and your ability to perform certain tasks like your job and household chores. The experts will also assess any future treatments and medication you will need for the rest of your life. A good lawyer will know which experts are needed to assess your file as accurately as possible. At Fidelis Law, we have a strong network of experts who are highly regarded in their field and have experience in court.
Step 7: Negotiation
After the discovery phase and further disclosure of information, a personal injury case will typically move to the negotiation phase in order to start talking about a settlement. This often takes place via an exchange of written offers and letters, but sometimes involves a mediation meeting. Mediation is optional, and neither party can be forced to enter this phase. If one or both choose to not do a mediation, the process moves to the next step: preparing for trial. If mediation is agreed to by both parties, the process will involve both clients, both lawyers, and a third party mediator who helps to try and resolve the case. The mediator is an unbiased third party, who is usually a personal injury lawyer with extensive experience with these kinds of cases. Each party sits in their own room, and the mediator travels between the rooms. The goal of the mediator is to get the two parties to agree to settle their case for a certain amount of money arrived at through mediation. This process can last a whole day, and often results in a settlement.
Step 8: Preparing for Trial
Negotiations and mediation often work, but if they don’t the case will be prepared for trial. To start this process, the parties will ask the court for trial dates. Your lawyer will identify all the experts they would possibly want to call to testify on your behalf, which entails reviewing your entire medical file in detail as well as quantifying your case. Once this is prepared, your lawyer will send it to the court, and ask that the matter be placed on the trial list. It’s important to note that courts are busy, and trial dates might not be scheduled for some time after the request is made. Before heading to trial, the parties will attend a Pre-Trial Settlement Conference (PTSC), which is mandatory if a trial is expected to last more than three days. During this meeting, a judge will listen to the parties’ positions and attempt to find a resolution in order to avoid a full trial.
Step 9: Trial
If all else fails, your case will head to trial. A personal injury trial can last a few days, a week, or even six weeks. At trial, both parties will present evidence and expert opinions. When both sides have stated their case, a decision will be delivered. It’s important to note that a settlement can be reached at any point during the trial, but once the judge makes their decision, it is final and there is no longer an opportunity for settlement. If the judge determines that you do not have a case, you may be responsible to pay costs to the other party. Going to trial for a personal injury case is very rare. Most cases reach a settlement before a trial is deemed necessary. However at Fidelis Law, we have a team of experienced trial lawyers so you can rest assured that you are in good hands in the unlikely event that your case goes to trial.
As you can see, the personal injury process can be lengthy and complex. If you’ve been injured in an accident, the Fidelis team is here to guide you through these steps and handle all the details so that you can focus on your health.
Contact us today for your free consultation so we can start the journey toward your recovery and full compensation together.