Should you or your property be harmed due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a viable personal injury claim. Examples of personal injury claims include auto accidents, medical malpractice and product liability. Filing a personal injury case might result in you receiving compensatory damages, usually in monetary form.
Louisiana Statute of Limitations
You must file a personal injury suit within a statute of limitations. In most cases the time limit is one year. If you don't discover your injury right away, you have one year from the date you do.
Court Jurisdiction Rules
You can file a personal injury claim in the state court in the county where the injury occurred, or where the defendant resides. If you seek damages of $3,000 or less, you can file with Louisiana's small claims court.
Mediation May Help
Most personal injury disputes are settled prior to trial, and mediation can help you accomplish this with less expense than going to trial. A mediator is a third party who tries to help you and the defendant come to a fair and equitable agreement regarding your claim. The majority of personal injury cases do not go to trial. It is more common for a settlement to be reached prior to the court date.
After you file a personal injury complaint with the court, you have the burden to prove your case. The defendant is served with your legal paperwork and the discovery process begins. Motions made during these early stages of the case are called pretrial motions. Experts may be engaged as witnesses, and your witnesses must be disclosed to the opposing party.
Discovery is a fact-finding process. Information may be gathered through several methods:
- Depositions involve taking and recording verbal testimony of witnesses under oath
- Interrogatories are written questions
- Examinations may be physical or mental
The Personal Injury Trial
Most trials proceed in the same way:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements made by attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant
- Witness testimony, cross-examination and evidence presented
- Final arguments presented by the defense, the prosecution, then the defense again
- Testimony and evidence are considered by the judge or jury, then a verdict is reached
The final verdict will be reviewed by the judge, then read aloud in court. If appropriate, compensatory damages will be awarded.
Damages for Personal Injury
Damages compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, disability, disfigurement, or physical pain and suffering. Louisiana acknowledges pure comparative fault in personal injury cases. The plaintiff’s contributory negligence reduces his or her damages by the determined percentage of fault.
Paying for a Personal Injury Lawyer
Most personal injury lawyers do not ask for money up front. Typically, you will not owe your attorney anything unless your case is successful. This is called working on a contingency basis. The contingency fee is usually a fixed percentage payable upon recovery. Regardless of whether you win or lose your case, you may still be responsible for paying some of its costs and expenses, such as fees for depositions and expert witnesses.
The Appeal Process
The appeal process is a legal remedy from judgments that are overly or unfairly punitive. Appeals in cases from state or superior court are filed with the appropriate appellate court, also called the third circuit court. Appeals may ask for a reversal, a new ruling or a new trial. No new evidence is introduced and witnesses do not give testimony.
Every personal injury claim is different and laws may change. A personal injury lawyer can help if you have questions or need legal advice.