How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can be intimidating. In theory, filing suit seems easy. You file documents that inform the court and the person you are suing of the basis for bringing your case. However, in practice, most non-lawyers do not know how to navigate this process or what to expect.
Working with a qualified personal injury lawyer is the best option to ensure that your case is handled with the utmost care and precision. Your lawyer can ensure that you are fulfilling all procedural requirements. Not following the correct process could endanger an otherwise strong case, so legal counsel is particularly important if you are not familiar with personal injury law.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit, there are several important things to keep in mind:
Understanding the Statute of Limitations
All jurisdictions have a statute of limitations or a time in which you are allowed to file a lawsuit. While every state in the United States has its own statute of limitations, in Texas, the personal injury statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. That means your lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of your injury. If you miss that deadline, your case could be dismissed regardless of its merit.
Filing a Complaint
After you’ve figured out the statute of limitations deadline, the next step in filing a personal injury lawsuit is to physically file the complaint with the court. The complaint is a formal legal document, outlining the legal reasons for filing a lawsuit and the facts that underpin the case.
As the person filing the case, you are known as the plaintiff. The complaint will identify you, the defendant (the person you are filing the complaint against), and the court in which you are filing the lawsuit. In a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to declare that the other party has committed negligent actions, explain what they were, and state that you are seeking relief, including the amount of money are you pursuing. Your compensation will be called “damages.”
Serving the Defendant
Many courts will require you to file a summons. This is a document that identifies all parties in your suit and explains to those that you are suing that they are being sued. The lawsuit will need to be served to the defendant, known in legal circles as “service of process.”
Service of process means that the defendant, or the representative of the defendant, physically receives the documents specifying that they are being sued. Professional process servers and even law enforcement can become involved, depending on the nature and circumstances of the case. This is a necessary step to get your case moving.
Understanding Any Unique Factors That Relate to the Party You Are Suing
If you are suing a professional, such as a doctor, there may be additional legal steps you will need to take to successfully file a suit. In the case of professional malpractice, you will need to file a document known as a Certificate of Merit or an Affidavit of Merit, that would be signed by another expert in the same field as the person that you are suing. If witnesses are involved, expert witnesses may also be called in depending on the nature of the injuries or if you are filing a claim against someone in their professional capacity.
Defendants Responding to Your Complaint
Once you file all of the necessary documentation and the defendant is served, the defendant will have a chance to respond. If the defendant chooses to answer the claims directly, they will file a document with the court that responds to each of the allegations, choosing to admit or deny each. The defendant also has the option to neither admit nor deny the allegation. The defendant may also choose to file a motion to dismiss the complaint altogether. A court may choose to grant this motion, throwing out your complaint, or at least part of it.
Get Help Today
If this seems like a lot to handle, that is because it is. Qualified personal injury attorneys rack up years of education studying the law, because on top of all the procedural knowledge outlined above comes the knowledge of the law that is necessary to prove your claim. Claims are often far more complicated than the basic procedure outlined above, with mediation, securing court dates, and trial best handled by a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.
With a trusted personal injury lawyer on your side, you can navigate your case with confidence. Call the Texas personal injury lawyers of Gibson Hill Personal Injury today at 512-580-8334 for a free initial consultation.