STEPS IN A LOUISIANA PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT

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1 STEPS IN A LOUISIANA PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT Having at least a basic understanding of the most common steps involved in a typical personal injury case may help empower you as a victim. Broussard & Hart, LLC

2 Personal injury accidents happen every day and occur under a wide variety of circumstances. Unfortunately, the sheer prevalence of personal injury accidents makes it likely that you, or someone close to you, will be the victim of one at some point in your life. As a victim, you may initially feel angry, confused, frustrated, and worried. All of these emotions are both common and understandable given the impact a personal injury accident can have on you physically, emotionally, and financially. Because every personal injury accident is unique, it is always best to consult with an experienced Louisiana personal injury accident attorney; however, as the old adage goes Knowledge is power. As it applies in this situation, having at least a basic understanding of the most common steps involved in a typical personal injury case may help empower you as a victim. 1. Seek medical treatment. This applies in any accident. While this may seem like an obvious step, many people do not seek medical treatment immediately following an accident. There are two 2

3 important reasons why you should always go immediately to the emergency room for a thorough examination when you have been in any type of accident: Hidden injuries many of the most serious injuries a victim can suffer, such as a traumatic brain injury, do not show signs immediately following the injury. In fact, some internal and brain injuries can take days to start showing symptoms; however, in the meantime they can worsen, even becoming life threatening. Legal nexus if you do end up pursuing legal action down the road, it can be difficult to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident if you wait days to have those injuries documented by a medical professional. The sooner your injuries are documented the easier it is to prove a nexus between the injuries and the accident. 2. Document the accident and gather information. When possible, get contact information for everyone involved in an accident as well as witnesses to the accident before you leave the scene. Also, snap photos with your cell phone or return to the scene to take photos is necessary to document the scene of the accident. Finally, sit down and write out what happened as soon as possible after the accident. Details tend to fade with 3

4 time. Making a written record shortly after the accident can help down the road when your memories of the accident aren t as fresh. Determine if you are the victim of a personal injury accident. People often think car accident when the term personal injury accident is mentioned. While motor vehicle accidents do certainly qualify as personal injury accidents, there are a wide variety of other types of accidents/injuries that may also fall under the purview of a personal injury accident for purposes of pursuing compensation as a victim, including, but not limited to, the following: Slip and fall accidents Product liability injuries Dog bites/animal attacks Premises liability injuries Medical errors Trucking accidents Elevator/escalator accidents Swimming pool accidents Boating accidents Motorcycle accidents Wrongful deaths 4

5 3. Do not speak to anyone! While not officially a step, this is crucial for the victim of a personal injury accident. Typically, a victim will receive a telephone call and/or written correspondence from the at-fault party or the party s liability insurance provider not long after the accident. Do not speak to anyone about the accident until you have consulted with an attorney! 4. Contact an Attorney. The only way to confirm that your injuries were the result of a personal injury accident and are, therefore, compensable is to consult with an experienced Louisiana personal injury attorney. Moreover, by contacting an attorney early on 5

6 you do not have to worry about phone calls/correspondence from the negligent party because your attorney will become your voice in the matter. 5. Analyze Negligence. In order for you to be entitled to compensation as a result of the injuries you suffered another party must have caused, or contributed, to the accident. In legal terms this is usually known as negligence. To prove negligence, you must show the following: The at-fault party owed you a duty of care The duty of care was breached Causation Damages You can your attorney will discuss the issue of negligence early on in the case to ensure that you do, indeed, have the basis for a valid personal injury lawsuit. 6. Follow through with treatment. Following through with a prescribed course of treatment is important for two reasons. First, you will only heal completely, or at much as possible, if you follow your physician s orders. Second, failing to follow suggested or prescribed treatment devalues your legal claim against the negligent party. Your attorney will not typically begin settlement negotiations until you have reached what is known as maximum medical improvement, or MMI. MMI doesn t necessarily mean you have completely healed and are back to your pre-accident state. Instead, it means 6

7 that you have reached a point at which continued treatment is unlikely to substantially change your condition. 7. Compile a demand. Once you have reached MMI you and your attorney will prepare a demand package. This usually includes a recap of the accident along with a legal argument explaining how the defendant was negligent and why the defendant is liable for your injuries. It will also include a summary of your damages and a demand for a specific sum of money to settle the matter. 7

8 8. Negotiate a settlement. After the demand package is sent, your attorney and the defendant s attorney will usually enter into settlement negotiations. If negligence is not an issue, the negotiations will center solely on the value of the claim. If, however, the defendant does not agree that he/she/i was negligent, or does not agree on the degree to which he/she/it was negligent, much of the negotiations may revolve around that issue. If a settlement is ultimately reached you will sign a release of claims and you will receive your settlement funds in the manner agreed upon by the parties. 8

9 10. Proceed to trial. Most personal injury accident claims are settled without the need for a trial; however, if yours is not settled outside of the courtroom it will proceed to trial. At trial, a judge or jury will decide if the defendant was negligent and, if so, what the value of your damages are. If you believe you are the victim of a personal injury accident it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Louisiana personal injury accident attorney as soon after the accident as possible to ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated for all your injuries. REFERENCES: Lawyers.com, Louisiana Statute of Limitations Center for America, Liability Louisiana Findlaw, Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit 9

10 About Broussard & Hart, LLC If you or a member of your family has been seriously or fatally injured in an accident or as a result of medical malpractice, you have experienced and continue to experience trauma and grief. During this difficult time, as you struggle with medical, emotional, and financial issues, you will need to make decisions that will permanently affect your ability to take care of yourself and your family. At Broussard & Hart, L.L.C., our Lake Charles law firm staff and lawyers are focused on helping those who, like yourself, have suffered losses to catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, working to see that they recover the compensation they need and deserve. Our efforts stem from a genuine concern for those we serve. Our firm is prepared to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, including those involving medical malpractice, trucking accidents, 18-wheeler accidents, and maritime law. After our Louisiana attorneys have reviewed your case they will give you an honest assessment of your options. If you would like to schedule a free, confidential consultation with our law firm in Lake Charles, please contact our office Common Street Lake Charles LA Phone: Website: 10

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