If you have been injured due to the unsafe actions or negligence of someone else, you may have legal grounds for a personal injury claim. Connecticut has specific rules for this potentially lengthy civil court process.
Filing in the Appropriate Jurisdiction
You must usually file your personal injury complaint in the judicial district where you live or where the defendant lives. Residents of some towns may have a choice of districts. If your case is simple and the damages are under $5,000, you may also be able to file in small claims court.
Connecticut's Statute of Limitations
The state's statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally two years. In some cases, depending on when the injury was discovered, you may have up to three years. Product liability complaints must be filed within three years in most cases.
What Happens After You File Suit
After filing your initial lawsuit, called a complaint, you must have the defendant served with a copy and a summons. The defendant then has time to respond to your charges. If you have already begun settlement negotiations, they can continue while you prepare for trial.
Damages You May Receive
Two basic types of damages can be awarded, depending on the factors of the case.
Economic damages compensate you for money you lost or are estimated to lose due to your injury. They address such things as medical bills, both already incurred and expected, lost earnings, and diminished earnings capacity.
Non-economic damages compensate you for other effects of your injuries, such as loss of enjoyment of life or pain and suffering.
You must prove that your losses result directly from the defendant's actions or negligence.
Connecticut's Modified Comparative Fault Rule
Connecticut uses a 51 percent bar in determining eligibility for damages. This means you may not receive any damages if you are 51 percent or more at fault for the incident. If you are eligible for damages, they are reduced by your degree of fault.
The Discovery Phase
In preparation for trial, both parties attempt to uncover facts to support their case through discovery techniques.
Interrogatories are written questionnaires which are considered to be answered under oath.
Depositions are oral interviews of both parties, as well as any witnesses.
The defense may also request that its own doctors examine you. You may have your lawyer present for any examinations.
Settling Through Mediation
If negotiations fail, you might still be able to avoid trial through mediation. This process uses a neutral third party to help you reach a fair resolution.
Going to Trial
If you want a jury trial, you must ask for one in a written request. The judge and lawyers then question prospective jurors in a process called voir dire and make final selections. After a jury is seated, your lawyer will make an opening statement, presenting your case to the court. The opposing side will do the same, then the sides take turns presenting evidence and examining witnesses.
Paying For a Personal Injury Case
In most cases, a plaintiff's lawyer will work on contingency. This means the lawyer only gets paid if you win and gets an agreed-upon percentage of your award, often one-third.
A loss at trial may not be the end of your case. If you believe errors were made, you may file certain requests.
Motion to amend judgment
Motion for a new trial
Notice of appeal
You must show evidence of a significant procedural error or a mistake in applying the law to succeed with these types of motions.
How Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Personal injury statutes are complex and the facts of your case are unique. A personal injury attorney can help you gather the evidence you need and determine your best course of action.