Personal injury cases in Missouri can arise from various situations, such as car accidents, slips and falls, medical malpractice, or defective products. When you suffer harm due to someone else's negligence or intentional actions, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses.
You can pursue compensation in two ways. The first is a claim. A claim typically refers to the initial process of seeking compensation from an insurance company. After an accident, you may file a claim with the at-fault party's insurance provider to cover your medical expenses, property damage, and other losses. This process involves negotiating with the insurance adjuster to settle.
The second is a lawsuit, a legal action taken to civil court when the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement or denies the claim. Filing a lawsuit means taking your case to a judge or jury, seeking a resolution and compensation for your injuries. While most claims are settled before the trial stage, filing a lawsuit demonstrates your willingness to pursue your legal rights if necessary.
Understanding when to file a lawsuit is paramount in personal injury cases. It's a decision that should not be taken lightly, as it involves various considerations and legal complexities.
Circumstances that May Warrant a Lawsuit
Circumstances that may warrant filing a lawsuit can vary depending on the case details. These situations can arise when initial negotiations with insurance companies fail to yield a favorable outcome. When negligence and liability are established, exploring legal avenues to seek fair compensation for the harm endured becomes essential.
Severe injuries and the resulting medical expenses are significant factors that may warrant filing a lawsuit. When an accident causes serious physical harm, the medical costs can quickly escalate, burdening the victim with substantial financial strain. Filing a lawsuit can help alleviate the burden by pursuing compensation that covers medical bills, surgeries, rehabilitation, and ongoing treatment.
Accidents can sometimes result in long-term or permanent disabilities that profoundly impact a person's life. These disabilities may require ongoing medical care, adaptive equipment, and specialized treatments. Filing a lawsuit allows individuals to seek damages that address the long-term consequences of their injuries, ensuring they have the financial means to access necessary care and support.
Loss of Income
Loss of income and earning capacity is another circumstance that may warrant a lawsuit. Accidents preventing an individual from working temporarily or permanently can lead to significant financial hardship. Filing a lawsuit can help recover lost wages and future earning potential and provide financial stability during recovery.
Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish
Emotional distress and mental anguish are often overlooked but equally valid reasons to file a lawsuit. Serious accidents can have a profound psychological impact, leading to emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Compensation sought through a lawsuit can acknowledge and provide support for the mental and emotional suffering endured by the victim.
Tragically, some accidents result in wrongful death, where a loved one loses their life due to another party's negligence or intentional actions. Filing a lawsuit can help surviving family members seek justice and financial security in heartbreaking situations. Wrongful death lawsuits can compensate for funeral expenses, loss of financial support and companionship, and other damages the bereaved family suffers.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
The statute of limitations is a legal concept that establishes a deadline for initiating legal action. It ensures that lawsuits are brought within a reasonable time while allowing for the preservation of evidence and witness recollection. Failure to file a lawsuit within the prescribed statute of limitations can result in the court dismissing the case.
In Missouri, the time limits for filing a lawsuit can vary depending on the nature of the claim. For general personal injury claims, such as those arising from car accidents or product liability, the statute of limitations is typically five years.
Medical malpractice claims, however, have a different statute of limitations. These cases involve injuries or harm caused by a healthcare professional’s negligence. The deadline for medical malpractice claims is generally two years from the date the negligent act occurred or from the date of discovery of the injury.
Understanding the Civil Court Process
Familiarizing yourself with the stages of a personal injury lawsuit can help you confidently navigate the legal system.
Before filing a lawsuit, several prefiling considerations must be handled.
This includes gathering all relevant documentation related to the incident, such as:
- Medical records
- Accident reports
- Any evidence supporting your claim
It's also advisable to consult an attorney to assess your case's strength and determine a practical course of action.
The first official step in the civil court process is filing the lawsuit. This involves submitting the necessary paperwork and documentation to the appropriate court. The defendant, or the party being sued, will be served with a copy of the lawsuit, initiating the legal proceedings.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, the discovery phase begins. This stage involves both parties exchanging information and evidence related to the case. Depositions may be conducted, where witnesses provide sworn testimony that can be used during the trial. Additionally, requests for documents, records, and other evidence from the opposing side may be made.
Settlement negotiations often occur during the discovery phase, as both parties seek to resolve the case outside court. Mediation or arbitration sessions may be scheduled, where a neutral third party facilitates discussions and helps the parties reach a settlement agreement. Many matters are settled at this stage and do not proceed to court.
However, the case goes to trial if a settlement cannot be reached. Both sides can present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses to a judge or jury at trial. The judge or jury then evaluates the evidence and delivers a judgment, determining the case's outcome.
The civil court process can be complex, and each case is unique. The timeline and specific procedures may vary based on the circumstances and the court's docket. An attorney well-versed in Missouri's civil court process can assist you in navigating each stage effectively.
The Importance of Consulting a Lawyer
Consulting with an attorney is essential when dealing with a personal injury case. They can protect your rights and pursue just compensation.
A lawyer can also assess the viability of your case by thoroughly evaluating the circumstances surrounding your injury, determining the strength of your claim, and identifying any potential legal challenges that may arise.
Moreover, an attorney can assist you in gathering the necessary evidence to build a persuasive case. They have the knowledge and resources to investigate the accident, collect witness statements, obtain relevant documentation, and consult with experts if needed.
If your case must be litigated, a lawyer can develop compelling arguments and present them before a judge or jury.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Team
At Bertram & Graf, L.L.C., we pursue available legal avenues to help our clients seek justice and compensation. Our Kansas City attorneys understand the claims and lawsuit processes and deliver sound guidance at every stage.
Contact us at (888) 398-2277 today.