Personal injury cases come in all shapes and sizes. Some settle quickly. Some take years to conclude. Some involve clients with a few cuts and bruises. Some center around life-threatening or fatal injuries.
Every accident is different, with a unique set of facts. And there’s no one-size-fits-all way to handle them.
However, most personal injury cases in Utah have common threads. While the exact circumstances may vary, a few of the primary aspects remain the same.
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and are considering filing for damages, you must know what to expect from Utah’s personal injury settlement process.
What Goes On During a Personal Injury Settlement in Utah
Filing a personal injury claim can feel overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re getting into. That’s why we’re going to outline critical components of the claims process that can ultimately determine the outcome of your case.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
1. Contacting a Personal Injury Lawyer
The obvious first step to initiate an accident claim in Utah is to consult a personal injury attorney and see whether you have grounds for a valid case. An experienced Utah personal injury lawyer will know the ins and outs of the law and enable you to get the compensation you deserve.
Generally, your lawyer will go over things like:
- Who’s at fault for the accident
- The severity of your injuries
- Your overall medical costs
- Your expected recovery time
- If there are any legal options available to you
Most personal injury lawyers in Utah offer free consultations, so you don’t have to worry about paying for their advice. Be sure to bring any supporting documentation, notes, and medical records to make the most of the meeting.
2. Investigating Your Case
Once you hire a personal injury attorney, they will investigate your case independently (separate from the police). Usually, this includes studying the accident scene, securing witness testimonies, and collecting photographs/related documents.
Your attorney may also hire an accident reconstruction specialist and other experts to determine the facts of your case. Doing this early on can prevent unsavory surprises and help develop a strong defense strategy.
3. Sending a Demand Letter
Many small personal injury cases in Utah end before a lawsuit. If your attorney thinks the case can be settled out of court, they will make a demand to the other lawyer or the insurance company.
A good lawyer will only make a demand after you have reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). Basically, MMI is when you’ve ended all medical treatment and are mostly recovered. This is because as long as you’re in the hospital, your medical bills will keep adding up, meaning there’s a fair chance your lawyer might accidentally undervalue your case.
After the initial demand, the other side’s lawyer or insurance company will typically respond with a counteroffer. Or, they may reject your demand outright. When this happens, your case will move to the litigation phase.
4. Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In case the initial negotiations fall through, you and your lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit in court. Note that any lawsuits must be filed within the statute of limitations, a strict time limit set by law. For example, Utah’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases is four years.
It’s worth mentioning that a personal injury case in Utah can settle at any point, including shortly after the lawsuit is filed in court. In fact, filing a lawsuit and initiating a trial may push the insurance company to return to the negotiation table with a fair offer.
5. Preparing for the Discovery Phase
Before the formal trial begins, attorneys on both sides will kickstart the discovery phase. They will collect information and gather evidence, testimonies, and documents concerning the case to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The parties will also send interrogatories/document requests to each other. All parties of the lawsuit have the right to see almost any document related to the case. Depending on the case type, some courts may allow computer files to be used as part of document discovery.
This is usually followed by a deposition, where you answer questions posed by an attorney under oath. Lawyers typically use a deposition to lock individuals into their testimony, test the strength of their opponent’s case, and gauge how a person might respond before a judge and jury.
6. Gunning for Mediation
In the final stages of the discovery phase, the attorneys will engage in serious talks about a settlement. Sometimes, the lawyers can settle by talking amongst themselves. But in other cases, the case will enter mediation.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process where both parties sit down with a neutral mediator and try to resolve the case. It’s often seen as a quicker, cheaper, and less stressful way to end a personal injury settlement. Plus, mediation allows you to be in the same room as the adjuster, putting a human face to what’s otherwise just a file on their desk.
7. Starting the Trial
Finally, the trial will begin. For most personal injury lawsuits, the trial can last several days. During the trial, the judge or jury will determine if the defendant is at fault for the accident and the plaintiff’s losses, and if so, how much they’re required to pay out.
In this regard, Utah has a modified comparative fault rule, under which the plaintiff can only recover damages if they are 50% or less at fault. Also, the final settlement amount will depend on the degree of liability they bore.
After the trial, either party can file an appeal to overturn the outcome. However, the losing defendant will be required to pay the damages ordered on trial once they have exhausted all their appeals.
The Bottom Line
There you have it, a step-by-step guide to Utah’s personal injury settlement process. Make no mistake, you can settle and end the case at any point. There’s no compulsion for you to take your case to court.
However, if you and the at-fault driver have reached an impasse during your discussions and see no way to break the deadlock, a court trial can be a last resort to get you the justice you deserve.
Personal injury trials are complex, to say the least. You need a skilled lawyer in your corner who’s not afraid to take your case to trial if need be. At Carlson Injury, our personal injury lawyers in Utah will never hesitate to go the distance for you. We’ll defend your rights in court and do our best to secure a favorable settlement. Call us today to know more!