Whether an incident involves complications from medical treatment or a catastrophic automobile crash, individuals who believe they have suffered as a result of someone else's negligence might have grounds for a lawsuit. Utah laws governing personal injury litigation have unique requirements, although some legal procedures are similar nationwide.
What Is The Jurisdiction For My Lawsuit?
Individuals requesting less than $10,000 in damages can file personal injury lawsuits in Utah's small claims courts. They should do so in the county in which they reside or in the county where the accident occurred. Lawsuits seeking greater amounts are filed in District Court.
How Long Do I Have To File Litigation?
In Utah, plaintiffs in most cases face a four-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims. However, the statute is two years for medical malpractice and product liability suits. In medical malpractice, the deadline begins from the date the injury or problem was discovered.
What Is The Filing Procedure?
A personal injury case begins when the plaintiff files a legal document known as a complaint. This describes the accident and requests damages. The person or organization accused in the complaint, called the defendant, has 20 days to file a response. They have 30 days to respond if they don't live in the state. In addition to denying the accusations, defendants can file crossclaims with their responses, blaming another party or the plaintiff.
How Will Damages Be Determined?
Lawsuits may include requests for reimbursement for lost wages, medical expenses and damaged property. These are compensatory damages. Non-economic damages, such as compensation for emotional distress or pain and suffering, are also permitted, although there are caps in medical malpractice and product liability cases. Punitive damages are permitted only if there is clear evidence of willful negligence. Utah prohibits plaintiffs from collecting damages if they are found to be more responsible for the accident than the defendant.
Preparations For Trial
As litigants prepare for court, multiple procedures occur. Some involve exchanging information and evidence. This process, called discovery, can include various components:
- Medical records, including court-ordered mental or physical evaluations
- Documentation, including anything related to the case, even if it is stored electronically
- A list of witnesses that includes contact information and names of experts
- Interrogatories, which are written questions the other side must answer.
How long each side has to disclose information depends on the dollar amount of damages sought in the case.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Rarely do personal injury cases reach trial. The vast majority settle out of court or resolve through mediation, arbitration or neutral assessment. These methods of alternative dispute resolution are not required in Utah, but judges encourage them because the processes are efficient and economical for all parties, including the judicial system.
Proceeding To Trial
Trial commences with the selection of jurors. Most cases involve eight jurors, but if less than $20,000 in damages is being sought, only four are required. The defendant and the plaintiff present evidence, and three-quarters of the jurors must agree to the verdict. If either party has legal grounds to disagree with the verdict, including the amount of damages, they can appeal the decision.
What Will The Lawsuit Cost?
Many personal injury litigators represent clients on a contingency basis. This means they are not paid unless the plaintiff is awarded damages, although they are reimbursed for expenses. The standard fee is one-third of any monetary award. This is the state's legal limit for medical malpractice cases.
Consulting An Attorney
This article offers a general overview of Utah personal injury law. It is not intended to offer legal advice. Consult with an attorney for answers to specific questions.