Every case is different and laws change often, but in general, personal injury refers to harm, physical or mental, caused by another person. Personal injury commonly results from an auto accident, medical malpractice or negligence. Filing a personal injury case protects you and helps you receive compensation.
Court Jurisdiction Determination
The jurisdiction of a personal injury lawsuit is the state court in the county where the dispute occurred or where the person you are suing lives. If the injury arose in one county and the responsible party lives in another county, you can select where to file.
In Maine, if you are seeking money damages of $6,000 or less, you can file with small claims court, according to Maine Courts.
Maine’s Statute of Limitations
By state law, you only have six years after the incident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who injured you.
Financial Responsibility for the Lawsuit
Personal injury lawyers usually work on contingency. They do not get paid unless you win damages. You may be accountable for a portion of the cost and expenses of the case, as well.
If you have filed a complaint with court:
- The defendant is then served with the legal paperwork.
- Discovery begins in order to gather information about the case by interrogatories, or written questions, depositions or oral questions, and physical exams, if applicable.
- Pretrial motions may be made in the early stages of the case.
- Experts may be hired as witnesses and must be disclosed and deposed by the opposite side.
Only a small percentage of personal injury cases filed go all the way to trial. Settlements are typically negotiated and reached before the court date.
Most personal injury cases do not go to trial but are settled before trial, sometimes through mediation. The mediator is a third party who tries to help all involved to reach a common agreement.
Damages for Personal Injury
Should injury be proved, money damages may be awarded. Damages compensate for things like medical expenses, lost wages, disability, disfigurement, physical pain and suffering.
In Maine, contributory negligence may limit recovery. If fault is shared, the damages will be limited by the percentage of fault. If fault is found to be 50 percent or greater, no damages will be awarded.
Trial for Personal Injury
Most trials proceed in the same manner. Jury selection begins. Opening statements are made. Defendant and then the plaintiff answer questions, and lawyers cross-examine the opposing side. Counterclaims may be made and answered. Final arguments by defense and plaintiff are made, with defense having a chance for a final statement. Judge or jury deliberates, and a verdict is reached and read aloud in court. Damages will be awarded if applicable.
Court cases are not cut and dry. The end of the case may not mean the end of court involvement. Complainants often attempt to win post-trial motions to reduce damages they owe. A motion for judgment states the verdict was unreasonable and must be overturned. Motions to modify judgment attempt to alter the ruling. Also, a motion for a new trial may be filed. Judges have far-reaching discretion on post-trial decisions. While changes to the judgment occur, it is unusual for a case to be dismissed.
Should a judgment seem to be unfair or overly punitive, the appeals process is available. Appeals in cases from State or Superior court are filed to the appropriate appellate court, and may request a reversal, new ruling or new trial. There is a 30-day time limit to file.
A response will be in the form of a written appellate brief. The appellate court may require lawyers to answer additional questions before reviewing the lower court ruling and either affirm the lower court ruling, reverse the ruling or remand the ruling back to trial.
Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Personal injury law changes often and may be complicated. Speak with a personal injury attorney if you need legal assistance.