Experiencing an injury or property damage due to someone else’s negligence can turn your life upside down. Between doctor appointments, missed work, insurance claims, and more, pursuing compensation through a personal injury lawsuit adds another layer of stress and uncertainty. A Ponca City personal injury lawyer can help you know what to expect and help you feel more in control.
Initial Investigation and Demand Letter
The first step after any incident is to fully document what happened and the resulting harm. Documents are one of the most important pieces to your case. Your personal injury attorney in Oklahoma will start this investigation by collecting key evidence like:
- Police report with details about the accident
- Photographs documenting property damage, injuries, defective products, or dangerous premises
- Medical records related to treatment, diagnoses, prognoses, and expenses
- Receipts for medical costs, prescriptions, medical equipment
- Payroll documentation of missed work days and lost income
- Statements from eyewitnesses while memories are fresh
Once adequate evidence is shown, your attorney will send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This letter describes your damages, outlines the other party’s liability under the law, makes a settlement demand within policy limits, and sets a deadline to respond. This starts the negotiation process to see if a satisfactory pre-litigation settlement can be achieved.
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Filing the Personal Injury Lawsuit
The at-fault party’s insurer may deny the claim or make an unreasonable counteroffer. If this happens, your attorney will prepare a civil complaint to be filed in court. The complaint lays out detailed allegations describing:
- The defendant’s negligent or intentional misconduct
- How this misconduct breached a legal duty owed to you
- The injuries and damages you suffered as a direct result
The complaint will specify the types of economic and non-economic damages the plaintiff is entitled to under the law. This includes medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and anything else you may be experiencing. Defendants typically have 20 days from being served to file a formal response.
Now the fact-finding discovery process begins. The process is vital and should be carefully thought out because it can make or break your case. This is when both sides obtain information to support their legal positions through:
- Interrogatories – Written questions the opposing party must answer under oath
- Requests for production – Requests to furnish applicable documents, records, videos, photographs, etc.
- Requests for admission – Written statements asking the opposing party to admit or deny specific facts
- Depositions – Oral testimony from parties and witnesses given under oath, recorded by a court reporter
- Medical exams – The defense may request the plaintiff undergo an exam by their doctor
It can be overwhelming to go about this on your own. A personal injury lawyer in Oklahoma will use discovery tools to build leverage for either settlement negotiations or trial. You will have someone to walk you through each step to ensure you cover every area.
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Many personal injury claims settle before trial once discovery is complete. Having a clear picture of the evidence on both sides helps the parties weigh risks realistically and reach reasonable settlement terms. Factors like high litigation costs and desire for closure also incentivize settlements.
Your attorney will handle these negotiations assertively, backed by trial experience and a willingness to proceed if offers are turned down. Involving a mediator can facilitate productive talks if negotiations stall. Many cases are resolved through the settlement process.
A settlement amount is typically influenced by the evidence of liability. This is why it is so important to have your bases covered. It is beneficial to show every bit of evidence and proof you have, even if you think it is too small of proof.
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Preparing for trial involves filing motions asking the judge to decide important evidentiary and procedural matters. This helps shape the presentation of the case. For example:
- Plaintiff’s motions may seek to compel the release of certain defense medical reports, allow testimony from an expert witness, or exclude prejudicial evidence.
- Defense motions may ask to dismiss all or part of the case due to legal insufficiencies or prohibit the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony.
Other motions address procedural aspects like determining the jury questionnaire forms.
The judge holds motion hearings to consider arguments from both sides before issuing critical pre-trial rulings. This helps streamline issues for trial.
The Personal Injury Trial
After a while of back and forth and negotiations, if no settlement can be reached, it is time for the next phase. The case proceeds to a jury or bench trial. Key phases include:
- Opening statements laying out the core evidence backing each side’s position
- Plaintiff presents evidence and testimony to prove liability and damages
- The defense attempts to refute the plaintiff’s case through cross-examination and counter-witnesses and exhibits
Closing arguments from each side arguing their view of the persuasive facts. Next, the judge or jury will deliberate on the testimony and evidence. This will determine if there was any negligence and if damages should be awarded.
Jury Deliberation, Verdict, and Final Judgement
An experienced Oklahoma personal injury attorney knows how to present evidence and argue for their client in the most compelling way. Strict rules govern trial procedures. Ultimately, the jury or judge will decide if the plaintiff proved their case.
If the jury finds the defendant liable, they will award economic damages for tangible losses and non-economic damages for intangible harms stemming from the plaintiff’s injuries. Awards can range from thousands to millions of dollars depending on the severity of proofs. The more proof you have, the better your award may be.
Once the verdict is issued, the judge enters a final appealable judgment consistent with the liability finding and damages amounts. In most cases, the defendant’s insurer pays the judgment up to policy limits. If the defense wins, the plaintiff recovers nothing.
The Appeals Process
The losing party has the right to appeal. They can request a review by a higher court. Reasons for appeals typically include:
- Alleged legal, procedural, or evidentiary errors by the trial judge
- The jury verdict contradicted the manifest weight of the evidence
- Excessive or inadequate jury award
The appeals court looks for prejudicial legal errors only. It does not re-hear the case or consider new evidence. The appeals court may uphold the verdict, overturn it, order a new trial, or adjust the damage award.
Let Us Help You Take the Next Steps for Your Case
Dealing with a personal injury can be extremely overwhelming. Your main focus is likely trying to heal and recover from whatever unexpected trauma you have experienced. But proving you were not at fault and handling the legal complexities of an injury case is a whole other major challenge on top of that.
An Oklahoma personal injury lawyer can help you throughout the process. Our team will focus more on the legal side of things so you can focus more on healing. Contact us for a free consultation.
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