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What to expect during your personal injury claim

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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.