Whether an individual becomes incapacitated after an automobile accident, injured due to malpractice or harmed because a business establishment was careless, the incident could trigger personal injury litigation wherein other parties are required to compensate the victim. Kansas law governing such lawsuits unique in some ways, though judicial systems are similar nationwide.
What Is the Jurisdiction for My Lawsuit?
All civil litigation in Kansas is filed in district court, and there is a courthouse in each county. While Kansas does have a small claims court system, its sole jurisdiction is debt disputes of less than $4,000. As far as location, the litigation can commence either in the county in which the injured individual resides or the location where the incident occurred.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Litigation?
In Kansas, the deadline by which litigation must be filed varies widely, from one year for battery or most personal injury to two years for medical or legal malpractice.
What Is the Filing Procedure?
The plaintiff's initial action involves preparing and filing the lawsuit—legally, this document is called the complaint. That complaint will be served, along with a summons setting a date for a court appearance, on the individual, business or organization subject to the litigation. Defendants usually are given 10 days after that appearance in which to file a response, and defendants also can file countersuits or incorporate counterclaims in the response if they were harmed as a result of the plaintiff's negligence.
How Will Damages Be Determined?
The lawsuit can ask for economic damages—reimbursement for medical expenses, recompense for lost wages, compensation for lost earning capacity—and state law does not limit this. However, state law establishes a $250,000 limit on compensation for pain and suffering. Punitive damages are permitted, though they are limited to the defendant's yearly income multiplied by five or $5 million and they are established during a separate legal hearing. There are legal standards for awarding punitive damages, with factors such as whether the defendant had knowledge of the misconduct and whether he profited from it taken into consideration. In Kansas, plaintiffs are permitted to collect damages only if they were less negligent than the defendant.
Preparing for the Trial
Once the litigation is served, both sides begin a mutual exchange through a process known as "discovery" that requires any requested information or evidence be disclosed. Questions the other side must answer honestly—interrogatories—frequently are exchanged as well. Out-of-court oral testimony from witnesses, known as depositions, sometimes will be taken, and plaintiffs often will undergo physiological or psychological examinations.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Though the fictional drama centers on the courtroom, in real life the overwhelming majority of lawsuits are resolved before trial, often through arbitration, mediation or neutral assessment. In Kansas, the state's mediation program establishes several varieties of mediation that encourages parties to settle differences before the lawsuit reaches trial.
Going to Trial
The trial commences with the selection of six jurors for litigation seeking less than $10,000—otherwise, 12 jurors are required. The plaintiff and defendant then present evidence in hopes of swaying jurors; the verdict must be unanimous if there are six jurors, 5/6 majority if there are 12. Either side can appeal the decision, and in personal injury lawsuits, appeals often center on the type and amount of damages.
What Will the Case Cost?
Personal injury litigators often work on contingency bases; their compensation comes from damages awarded the plaintiffs, and they are not paid beyond expenses if they do not win. Kansas law does not specify a numeric limitation on contingency fees, though they must be "reasonable"; a sliding scale that usually begins at a third of the damages awarded is common.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
This article is a general overview of personal injury law in Kansas. Consult a local attorney for specific questions.