Why do Personal Injury Lawsuits Take Years?
There are a number of reasons a civil lawsuit can take years to complete; however, the two factors that have the biggest effect on personal injury lawsuits taking years in Oklahoma are the following:
- The Insurance company drags out litigation to delay the process and delay your recovery. Civil defense firms know that time is the enemy of victims of personal injury claims. Time between an injury and compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses are a powerful motivator to accept; and
- Oklahoma civil court dockets are overrun with too many cases and not enough judges to hear every case for trial. The result is long delays in having your personal injury case scheduled for trial. In many Oklahoma District Courts, you may request a trial date (after completing all the steps necessary before trial) and receive a year that is many months down that road, that could be rescheduled.
Can I do anything to advance my Case?
Yes, you can file your lawsuit as soon as you retain a personal injury lawyer and a determination of merit has been made by your personal injury attorney. The personal injury attorney you choose should use Fierce Advocacy to ensure the Court imposes deadlines throughout the lawsuit, i.e. a pretrial order or scheduling order with deadlines for all aspects of litigation.
Your personal injury attorney cannot prevent all delays by an insurance defense firm; however, obtaining medical records and releases as soon as possible with put the ball in the insurance defense company’s hands to try to delay the process. The last thing you want is a delay based on your attorney’s failure to stay on top of records or deadlines set by the Court.
Won’t the Insurance Defense Firm Settle quickly?
Insurance defense firms and insurance adjusters are glad to settle your claim quickly without fair compensation; however, if you and your personal injury attorney are to hold the insurance company or negligent party responsible for all your out of pocket expenses, medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering; you will likely have to take your case all the way! This is exactly why it is so important to ensure your personal injury lawyer keeps your case moving towards trial, until or unless you receive a fair settlement offer.
What is the Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Oklahoma is a Fault state when it comes to personal injury, which means a determination that another party was negligent in causing your injury is a prerequisite to filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you have been injured “due to the negligence of another party” you may be entitled to recover compensation for your damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
As explained above, the personal injury lawsuit process can take a long time and is a complex process. However, by examining and understanding the following steps in the process, you should have a better grasp on what is ahead in your personal injury lawsuit. Keep in mind, an attorney at our firm will explain this all in more detail and answer all of your questions during your free confidential case evaluation, which you can sign-up for on this page!
9 Steps to Personal Injury Jury Trial
1. You’re Injured
Accident or Injury Happens: No one anticipates being the victim of a car accident or personal injury; however, it is a fact of life that people are hurt everyday as a result of the negligence of other parties. Despite the shock and/or fear that comes over a person after being the victim of an accident or injury; it is important to pause and think about your next steps. You should follow these steps, which include calling the police; taking photos; getting copies of everything (ID, insurance cards, license plates, etc.); and take notes of everything you can remember, before the next step receiving medical treatment.
2. Receive Medical Treatment
Seek Medical Attention: it is very important to seek medical attention after being involved in a car accident or injury. Your body may react to extreme trauma with adrenaline to mask your pain/injury to allow you to get out of the situation; however, the pain and/or injury is real and may take hours or days to present. Document your injuries with photographs. Even, if you do not think you are hurt, you should still get an evaluation by a medical professional. First, you may have injuries that you cannot feel. Second, documenting your injury and attempts to seek treatment immediately. Insurance companies will try anything to avoid liability, even claim you were not injured by saying you didn’t get treatment immediately.
Once all necessary steps are taken at the scene of your accident, you should go to a medical treatment facility or hospital that same day or as soon as possible to document your symptoms and be screened by medical professionals.
3. Retain: Personal Injury Lawyer
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney: It may seem strange that this step is so early in the process; however, consulting with a personal injury attorney early in the process is the best way to protect your interests and compensation. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will advise you, if you do not need an attorney and help you understand the process to handle your case without an attorney, i.e. working with an insurance adjuster. Research suggests parties that hire a personal injury attorney receive over 3 times higher compensation that those that handle their case without a lawyer and work directly with the insurance adjuster.
You lose nothing in meeting with an attorney and may protect your claims. Our firm works handles all personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means we receive nothing, unless you accept a settlement or a judgment is entered against a defendant.
4. Investigate: Personal Injury Claim
Investigate claim and medical records: Your chosen personal injury attorney should immediately begin investigating your claim and reviewing evidence. The first step in this process is interviewing you and learning everything relevant to your accident or personal injury, including: your medical background, all medical treatment for your injury, and everything you can remember from the events and what took place after your accident or injury.
In our firm, a intake specialist will collect all this information, which may seem very personal; however, it is very important for our firm to analyze your case, including avoiding any factual surprises that the injury company will try to bring up during litigation. One of the most common insurance company defenses is your injury is pre-existing or degenerative, i.e. not based on the accident or personal injury that is the subject of litigation. Knowledge is power, your personal injury attorney must know all, in order to be prepared to fight back against insurance company defenses.
The next part of investigating your personal injury claim is time consuming and requires precise application of detailed steps, collection of medical records and bills. Your personal injury attorney will collect all medical records and bills associated with any treatment, cost, or injury sustained as a result of the negligence of another party in your case. This process takes time, however, early and aggressive research by your personal injury attorney can lead to collection of all necessary records in a little time as possible.
It is crucial that you communicate with your injury lawyer during this process regarding treatment received, bills sent, and doctors visited. Anytime you see a new physician/doctor or treatment specialist; you must notify your lawyer. Once the notice is received, your personal injury attorney will request the medical records associated with the newest appointment.
5. Insurance Claim
File an Insurance Claim or Demand Letter: Many people are surprised to learn a large majority of personal injury claims are settled without a personal injury lawsuit ever being filed. In some cases it is wise to settle without filing a lawsuit; however, in other cases you can only receive fair compensation by filing a lawsuit. An experienced personal injury attorney will carefully analyze your case and advise you on the pros and cons of settling out of court versus filing a personal injury lawsuit. Some high-volume firms require the majority of their cases settle in order to continue moving cases along; we are not that firm.
We will review all the available evidence in your accident or personal injury, review your medical records, and compile all the information to support your case prior to making an insurance claim.
In a case without insurance, a demand letter will be sent that explains your theory of liability, i.e. why the other party is the at-fault driver and how they were negligent, what injuries you suffered, and the damages demanded to compensate for your injuries.
Auto Accident Claim:
First, a claim will be filed with the Fault driver’s insurance company prior to a personal injury lawsuit. In Oklahoma, underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist insurance “UIM” is a factor to consider as well for compensation.
Second, after your claim is filed the at-fault party’s insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to investigate and make a settlement offer. In a case that does not involve an insurance company a demand letter will be sent out.
Third, the insurance claims adjuster will make an offer for settlement and your attorney will discuss the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting the insurance company’s offer. One of many considerations is the fact your attorney’s contingency fee will increase after a personal injury lawsuit is filed. Therefore, if the insurance company’s offer will only increase slightly during litigation, you may be faced with accepting less compensation after filing a lawsuit, if you do not go to trial. Every case has unique factors to consider in determining fair compensation, including your injuries, liability, at-fault parties, the insurance policy limits, and your insurance; however, you should speak with your attorney in detail before accepting or declining a settlement.
6. File Lawsuit
File your Personal Injury Lawsuit: When the insurance company will not provide you the compensation that your personal injury case is worth, you should file your personal injury lawsuit. Under Oklahoma law, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two (2) years of your accident or personal injury. Lawsuits are not always the best option; however, sometimes you must bring the at-fault party and their insurance company to court in order to be fairly compensated.
In Oklahoma, a personal injury lawsuit is initiated by filing a Petition in the County Court where your injury or accident occurred. Additionally, a Summons will be issued by the Court Clerk, which will be served on the defendant to your lawsuit. Oklahoma Rules of Civil Procedure dictate a Defendant to a civil lawsuit must file an Answer within 20 days.
At this point, the insurance adjuster will take a step back and the insurance company’s attorneys will step in to represent the defendant and communicate directly with your personal injury attorney. Once an answer is filed by the defendant or all defendants, the litigation phase of your personal injury claim will commence.
Parties study Personal Injury Case: Discovery is the process in a civil lawsuit in which each party investigates the claims, medical treatment, expenses, and defenses of the other party. The Oklahoma Rules of Civil Procedure allow each party to serve 30 Interrogatories, 30 Requests for Production, and 30 Admissions on the other party.
Interrogatories: questions to the other party about their case and background information.
Request for Production: gives the other party access to a physical record or document related to the case, i.e. medical records, policy statements, or medical bills
Requests for Admission: request from one party to the other to admit a relevant fact in the case.
After any discovery request is served, the other side will have 30 days to respond in writing and in the case of Requests for Production, to provide copies of the requested documents. Unfortunately, in many instances the other party will avoid fully answering discovery or refuse to provide documents. A good faith attempt to resolve the issue must be taken by your attorney prior to filing a Motion to Compel Discovery, in which your attorney asks the Court to interject into the process and order the other side to fully respond.
Depositions: In a civil case, both sides are entitled to schedule depositions of the parties and relevant witnesses to obtain testimony under oath about the case. A Court Reporter will be present and that person will audio and potentially video record the deposition.
Prior to your deposition, your personal injury attorney will meet with you to prepare you for your deposition. The defense attorney or in cases with multiple parties the defense attorneys will ask you questions that you will be required to answer under oath, generally without time to discuss your answer with your attorney.
Expert Depositions, such as accident reconstructionist or physicians are often deposed before trial and asked more scientific questions than will be asked in your deposition.
Compulsory Medical Exam: Oklahoma Rules of Civil Procedure, Section 3235, provide the Defendant the ability to hire a physician to perform a Compulsory Medical Exam (“CME”). The CME physician will conduct an evaluation and assess your injuries and draft an opinion for the Defendant regarding your injuries, their cause, and whether they are related to the accident or injury at issue in your case. Additionally, the CME will reach an opinion as to what medical treatment was necessary, reasonable, and whether any of your injuries are permanent.
You do not have a doctor-patient relationship with the CME doctor. There are not a treating physician. The only purpose in a CME is for the doctor to evaluate you for the benefit of the Defendant and to render an opinion as to your injuries and necessary care. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held in 2007, in Boswell v. Schultz, 175 P.3d 390 (Okla. 2007) that you have the right to videotape the CME. Additionally, in 2014, in Fisch v. Stuart, 362 P.3d 648 (Okla. 2014), the Oklahoma Supreme Court held a representative of the plaintiff may be present during the examination. Your chosen personal injury attorney can and should discuss this in more detail with you.
8. Negotiation & Mediation
Parties often attempt Settlement: Once both parties have conducted discovery, the lawyers on each side will attempt to reach a settlement. Your personal injury should never accept a settlement of any claim without your express consent, after a full opportunity to discuss your options. At the point discovery is completed, experienced personal injury attorneys can typically make a fair assessment on the value of your case, if possible and your are interested in the settlement offer, negotiation can take place to resolve your personal injury lawsuit.
Mediation: this is the process where the clients and lawyers meet with both parties before an agreed third-party mediator to help reach an agreed settlement. Oklahoma District Courts typically require good faith mediation be attempted by the parties prior to allowing a case to proceed to trial.
It serves the greater good to require parties to make a formal attempt in a controlled setting to resolve a dispute prior to requiring multiple jurors and the Court to give up days or even weeks to hear a dispute that could have been settled at mediation. The mediator is not a final decision maker; however, often experienced mediators are able to find a resolution for the parties to avoid the risks and expenses associated with a personal injury jury trial.
Mediation in some respects is like a mini-trial. Both sides present opening statements and present evidence to the mediator. The parties move into two separate rooms and present their best arguments and defenses to the mediator and the mediator goes between the parties negotiating and presented their opinion. At the conclusion of mediation, a settlement will be reached or the parties know they are heading to trial.
Arbitration: this is an alternative dispute resolution process than can be binding against the parties. A final decision by an arbitrator is final. Some District Judges will require a case go to arbitration instead of jury trial, this is the case when the judge believes a reasonable settlement is very close; however, the parties are at an impasse on one or a couple issues. Sometimes arbitration is voluntary to avoid the expense of a personal injury trial.
Personal Injury Jury Trial: When the parties are unable to reach a settlement after all the above listed steps/options are exhausted, the case will go to trial. The length of a personal injury trial is determined by the complexity of the case and the number of parties or injuries involved. Some cases can be tried in one day; some will last more than a month.
At trial, both parties will present the best evidence to support their claims or defenses and to dispute or contest the evidence presented by the other side. When you hire the Fierce Advocates at Cannon & Associates, no stone will be left unturned in evaluating your case and advising you on every potential positive or negative outcome on taking your case to jury trial.
You are entitled to financial compensation, if you have been injured as a result of another party’s negligence. It is your right to have an at-fault party held responsible for your injury and the costs you have suffered as a result of their negligence. The Fierce Advocates at Cannon & Associates have fought for many clients in jury trial and will do the same for you, if necessary to obtain fair compensation for your injury.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Fierce Advocates for Personal Injury
Experience matters when you or a loved one has been injured or died as a result of the negligence of another party. It is important to know the Oklahoma personal injury lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of personal injury and car accident law and damages in Oklahoma. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy for accident victims and will fight for you. Founder John Cannon has been recognized as a Super Lawyer and Top 40 under 40. Contact Cannon & Associates to protect your rights and fight for compensation. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 1(405) 906-4051 for a free confidential case evaluation.