What Happens In a Personal Injury Case?
What happens in a typical personal injury case in New Hampshire?
Like all of the other states, New Hampshire has its own laws that apply to personal injury cases. These laws govern how and when your claim for injuries might be heard.
The Statute of Limitations
Each state has its own time period within which a lawsuit for personal injuries must be filed. The New Hampshire deadline expires three years from the date of the accident. There are times when people don’t learn they were injured in an accident until sometime after it occurred. In those cases, the statute of limitations begins to run when the person knew or should have known that they were injured. If a person injured in an accident fails to resolve their claim or file a lawsuit within the period prescribed by the applicable statute of limitations, they’ll be forever barred from proceeding further. Different deadlines might apply to different entities though, so it’s strongly recommended that you consult with an injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
The Insurance Claim
There are many accidents that never see a courthouse. Settlements in these cases are often negotiated directly between the injured party’s attorney and the insurer of the liable party. If an offer of settlement is accepted, the injured party’s rights against the party responsible for the accident are terminated upon signing a release of claims and payment of the agreed amount of compensation.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
Nobody who was injured in an accident is required to negotiate with an insurer before filing a lawsuit. The injured party can retain a personal injury lawyer and file their lawsuit right away. This is far and away the best course of action for purposes of protecting the statute of limitations. In nearly all personal injury lawsuits, negligence is alleged in that the party allegedly responsible for the injuries did or failed to do a certain act. Damages sought in the lawsuit usually include but aren’t limited to:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disabiliity
- Permanent disfigurement
The Appearance and Answer
After a summons and the lawsuit are served on the person and/or entity alleged to be responsible for the accident, they’re required to file their appearance and answer with the court within 30 days. Once they’re filed and served on the plaintiff, the discovery phase of the case begins.
Other than their work product, the sides disclose all information they have regarding the case to each other. These include but aren’t limited to reports, medical information and names and addresses of witnesses. Written questions are served on each side to be answered under oath. When those are answered, oral questions are asked in depositions while a court reporter takes down all of the questions and answers. Deponents would include the parties and possibly treating physicians and independent witnesses to the accident.
Settlements in personal injury cases are usually lump sum payments in return for a dismissal of the case and termination of all litigation. They might also involve structured settlements that are paid over time. When a plaintiff settles a case, he or she will sign off on a release of claims that forever discharges the defendant(s) from any further liability as a result of the accident. An order is entered in court dismissing the case, and the defendant’s attorneys forward a settlement check to the plaintiff’s attorneys.
If the parties aren’t able to reach a settlement, the decision on liability and damages will be made in a trial. Witnesses are heard, evidence is received, and a verdict is entered for one of the parties and against the other. If the verdict is entered in favor of the injured person, money damages are awarded. If the plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for the accident, the percentage of negligence attributable to them is deducted from the gross award. If they’re deemed to be 50 percent or more at fault, their case fails.
Personal injury cases are highly technical and get complicated quickly. Don’t give up any of your rights to the other side. To assure that your rights are protected, contact Gottesman & Hollis as soon as possible after an accident.