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Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

I’m Ed Smith, a Fair Oaks personal injury lawyer. Unless an individual has been involved in a personal injury case in the past, the process may seem complicated. While the timeline is complex, there is an order to it. These different steps are taken to provide what is needed to achieve a just outcome. Let’s review the personal injury timeline.

First Things First

After an accident happens there are immediate steps that must be taken. If you are seriously injured, get medical attention right away. If not, it is important to be evaluated the same day by either your personal physician or in an emergency room. Call the police or highway patrol to report the crash. If it is possible, get contact information from others involved in the crash and witnesses. Take pictures of the vehicles with a focus on their placement and damage. Make notes of what happened since later on memory might be hampered by the passage of time.

Hiring an Attorney

While each case is different, injured individuals who seek attorney assistance early may do so to relieve the stress surrounding an accident, particularly when they are recovering from serious injuries. A free evaluation of the accident is offered, so seeking the advice of an attorney does not add to the cost of an accident. During the evaluation process, an attorney can offer the injured party an idea of the options they have available to them and what sort of compensation they can expect. Since the final outcome of any claim/lawsuit is not predetermined, this estimate might vary to some degree. If the plaintiff (the injured party) decides to hire an attorney, the law firm is not paid until the claimant wins their case or a settlement is made. This is called contingency. 

Investigating the Accident

This involves several phases. One of the most immediate is understanding what happened during an accident. An attorney may send specialists to the scene of an accident if they are hired early on. The accident reconstruction experts will use advanced methods to evaluate how an accident happened and who was at fault. An attorney will also collect and review medical records after treatment has been completed as well as police reports and witness accounts.

Insurance Claims

Your attorney will file a claim with the insurance company. This usually happens after your treatment is completed. The reason it is important to wait is that once the insurer settles your claim, you are no longer able to ask for additional funds even if you require more treatment. There will most likely be back and forth negotiation over the amount the insurer will pay during this period. Any questions the insurer may have of you can be referred to your attorney. This is true of the adjuster the insurance company assigns to a case also.


Mediation is a process where both sides meet with a neutral third party to reach an agreement in a case, either before a lawsuit begins or before it goes to trial. Usually, the mediator meets with both the plaintiff and defendant and their lawyers. An insurance adjuster is usually present also. Since 95 percent of all cases in the state settle before trial, reaching an agreement is often amenable to both sides. In addition, discussions made during mediation are not revealed during a trial if mediation fails. However, it does allow both sides to have a better understanding of the stance either side will take during the trial as well as defenses that will be used. By the end of this mediation phase, either the parties will agree to a settlement or acknowledge that a settlement will not be reached.

Filing a Lawsuit

If negotiations with an insurance company are not fruitful, your attorney will file a lawsuit. He or she will also ask that a summons be served on the defendant in the case. A defendant has 30 days to answer the summons in California. Both weekends and court holidays are included in the 30 days. However, if the 30th day falls on a date when the court is closed, it is possible to file a response on the following day. Usually, both sides have legal counsel by this point.

The Discovery Process

The discovery phase is one in which parties on either side get pertinent information from each other. This includes:

  • Written Interrogatories: This is a written form of interrogatory that may ask whether you were wearing a seat belt or if you needed and wore glasses when the accident happened. Requests for all medical care you received in a period of time, usually 10 years, may be included.
  • Request for Production: This involves each side asking that relevant documents or other articles be provided.
  • Depositions: In this, an individual is asked questions by the defendant’s attorneys and replies under oath while the proceeding is recorded by a stenographer. Usually, the plaintiff is prepared by their own attorney, who is also present during the deposition. It can take place in the person’s home or the lawyer’s office.


In this phase, both sides, including the defense lawyer and the injury lawyer for the plaintiff, present their case to a jury before a judge. The information gained during discovery is presented. Usually, both the defendant and the plaintiff testify as do witnesses, police officers and experts in a variety of fields such as accident reconstruction and engineering. Medical doctors and psychologists may also take the stand. Once testimony is over, the case will be up to the jury to decide.

Fair Oaks Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Fair Oaks personal injury lawyer. If you need legal representation due to injuries incurred by the negligence of another in a car, truck or pedestrian accident, call me at (916) 921-6400 in the Fair Oaks area or (800) 404-5400 nationwide. You can also reach me online using our contact page.

I’ve helped Fair Oaks residents for 36 years to reach just compensations for bicycle, truck, pedestrian and wrongful death accidents.

If you would like to learn about my practice go to the following pages:

I am a member of the Million Dollar Advocates, a forum for trial attorneys across the country who have won million dollar verdicts and settlements for clients.

Stay on my website,, to learn about car accidents throughout the region.

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