Personal injury claims proceed through numerous stages, starting with an initial consultation and ending with (hopefully) a settlement or, conceivably, a trial or even an appeal. This blog covers these steps and offers information on how Missouri's personal injury claims are handled. kansas city personal injury lawyer

Stage 1: Legal Advice From Your Lawyer - The Initial Consultation 

You will initially contact a personal injury law firm like Foster Wallace, LLC. Your initial appointment, which normally lasts 30 to 60 minutes and involves talking to a lawyer and obtaining information, is free. You should bring any necessary paperwork, including any requested materials, police reports, medical records, photos, and videos. During this consultation, the lawyer should be able to inform you if they can represent you after evaluating your case. If you decide you want to hire the law firm, you would then sign an engagement letter stating forth the agreement between the law firm and you, the client.

Stage 2: Fact-finding and Investigation

Your attorney will start a comprehensive investigation of your case as soon as you sign an engagement agreement. We would usually send a letter of representation to all relevant insurance companies or defendant’s and ask that they not discard any relevant evidence. We would also potentially speak to witnesses, police officers, doctors, and even employers. Depending on the particulars of your situation, this process could take months. Because our client is typically injured, they will get all the treatment necessary to get back to 100%.

Stage 3: Negotiating a Settlement or Bringing a Lawsuit 

Once we have located all potential sources of financial recovery and the client has treated and we have a good understanding of their injuries and damages, your attorney will make an effort to settle with the Defendant out of court. If a settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer can suggest bringing a lawsuit.

Stage 4: Filing a Lawsuit

Your lawyer would then draft and file a petition stating your causes of action against all potential defendants.  You would usually file this lawsuit where the injury occurred (but there are some exceptions to the rule) and then have a process server serve the defendant with the Petition and Summons.

Stage 5: Answer From the Defendant 

Through "service," the petition is delivered to the defendant or defendants. Once served with the petition, the defendant or his or her attorney will subsequently present an "answer" in the jurisdiction where the case was file. Typically the answer will be denying.

Stage 6: Discovery

The trial date and pre-trial deadlines are specified by the court via a case management order. Both parties share information and documents during the 'discovery' phase. Typically both sides will send requests for production of documents and interrogatories to each other during this fact gathering process. Once discovery is answered, typically depositions will take place where the adverse party can question witnesses under oath and in person (or via Zoom). Both parties must disclose during discovery if they intend to engage expert witnesses. Then, through "pre-trial motions," each side might try to restrict evidence from an expert witness.

Step 7: Mediation

Through mediation, which is facilitated by an impartial mediator who is usually a former judge or attorney, the parties may attempt to resolve the dispute in person or via zoom. At this point, most cases in Missouri wind up being resolved.

Step 8: Trial and Jury Selection 

The matter goes to trial if mediation doesn't produce a resolution. A jury trial can take multiple days if not a few weeks. A jury will first be picked, followed opening statements, testimony from witnesses (including cross examination), and closing statements. A jury will decide who wins and loses the case and how much damages are to be awarded. If one party believes a mistake was made at the trial, they can appeal the case to an appellate court which further prolongs the case.

How Long Will it Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Claim?

Every personal injury case is distinct, so the length and result can change. Some cases may only take a few months to settle while others could take years resolve. Our goal is to settle a case for as much money as possible and as fast as possible as well.

After a lawsuit has been settled, settlement checks are typically received in seven to 14 days, although liens or other complications like Medicare or ERISA liens may cause delays. Medical expenses, missed pay, and pain and suffering are usually covered through any settlement.

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney
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