Understanding the Steps in a Typical Personal Injury Case in Wisconsin

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

A personal injury case is a marathon – not a sprint. Just like there are checkpoints along the way that tell you where you are in your case, there are certain steps that tell you and your attorney where you are in the process of your “race.” However, just like an actual race, the checkpoint destinations may differ for everyone. Some can complete a marathon quicker and with fewer checkpoints; others must battle to finish!

If you’ve been injured, facing the timeline of the litigation process for a personal injury case can feel like a daunting task. Many have expectations of how the “timeline” should look, and when it doesn’t turn out that way, they get discouraged. That’s why it’s so important to have knowledge of the things to come. We’re going to break down a typical personal injury case so that you can be prepared and understand the checkpoints on your personal marathon. An attorney’s job is to confidently guide you through this process. If you’re ready to reach out, contact us online to schedule a consultation with a Wisconsin personal injury lawyer.

Key Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

So what exactly are these “checkpoints,” and what happens at each? First, we should make clear that, as much as everyone says it, each case really is different. In reality, you could come out of the gate sprinting but slow down later, or it could be a steady climb. This depends on the type of accident, the severity of the case, and the injuries incurred. 

Personal Injury Lawsuit Procedures 

In summary, it includes getting medical care, hiring an attorney, investigating the claim, settlement negotiations, filing the lawsuit, pre-trial motions, and trial. 

Immediately Get Medical Care for Any Injuries

While sometimes this may seem obvious, other times it is not! Let’s say you get into a car accident. You were rear-ended, and you were jolted forward. You’re a little sore but walk away from the accident. Why waste time and money on a doctor’s visit, right? Wrong! It’s actually very important to get medical care for even injuries that are not seen by the naked eye. Though it’s amazing to walk away from a scary situation, you will want to be seen by a doctor for a few important reasons. For one thing, if injuries show up later, a doctor’s assessment of your health right after the accident could be key evidence in your case, especially in regards to the bodily injury compensation you may be entitled to. 

Contact a Wisconsin Personal Injury Lawyer

After getting medical care, it’s essential to contact an attorney. The first step involves researching many different law firms in your area online. Ask your neighbors what they’ve heard about other firms in your community, and meet with several personal injury lawyers to make this decision. Once you choose one that you trust, it’s time to discuss the details of your case. The attorney will assess the merits of your claim, explain your legal options, and outline the next steps. This step feels like a significant relief to many! 

Claim Investigation

Once you hire an attorney, they will conduct a thorough investigation. This includes gathering evidence such as medical records, accident reports, witness statements, and any other relevant documentation. While it may seem like a ton of information, this is only the surface of the evidence and data they collect if your case continues! The attorney will also evaluate the extent of your injuries and the impact on your life to determine the expected value of your claim. The attorney will let you know if they think, at that point, you should proceed with filing an official claim. That means it’s time for personal injury litigation! 

Settlement Demand and Negotiation

Settlement negotiations are a critical phase in a personal injury case where both parties attempt to resolve the dispute without going to trial. Think of this as getting couples counseling before filing for divorce! The goal is to find a solution that works for both parties without the risk of trial. 

The process often begins with your attorney sending a demand letter to the defendant or their insurance company. This letter outlines the facts of the case, the extent of your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. It also specifies the amount of compensation you are seeking. This will typically start an exchange of offers where both sides will use various strategies to support their positions. A neutral third-party mediator may help facilitate discussions and guide the parties toward a settlement. Sometimes, your journey ends here! If both parties agree on the settlement terms, the agreement is put in writing, and the defendant or their insurer will disburse the settlement funds. It’s important to note that a settlement can happen before and after a lawsuit is filed. Also – trial is actually rare!

Filing the Personal Injury Lawsuit, Pre-Trial Motions and Trial 

If the parties cannot come to a decision, your attorney will formally file a personal injury lawsuit and begin the process of receiving a jury verdict. This is the part of injury lawsuits you see in the movies! The lawsuit document, called a complaint, gets filed with the court and then served on the defendant (the party you’re suing). Both sides gather information to build their cases. It can involve both parties exchanging documents and answering written questions (interrogatories) from each other. Depositions, or formal question-and-answer sessions under oath, may occur.  

The pre-trial stage focuses on resolving procedural issues and shaping the evidence presented at trial. Both sides can file motions with the judge to address the various problems. The case goes to trial if no pre-trial motions result in dismissal or settlement. Attorneys question potential jurors to ensure they are impartial. Attorneys for each side present their opening statements, outlining their case and the evidence they will introduce.

Each side presents witnesses who are sworn in and questioned by their attorneys. Evidence (documents, photos, etc.) is also introduced. The opposing attorney can cross-examine witnesses, challenging their testimony. After all evidence is presented, attorneys deliver closing arguments, summarizing their case and urging the jury (or judge) to rule in their favor. The jury then makes a decision. If you’ve made it to this point, you’ve undoubtedly finished the race! 

It’s important to note that this is a simplified overview, and the specifics of pre-trial motions and trial can vary depending on the type of case, jurisdiction, and the judge’s rulings. 

Statute of Limitations in Wisconsin

Don’t wait to take action! In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases imposes a critical deadline that dictates the time frame within which an injured party must file a lawsuit. Generally, this period is three years from the date of the injury. What does that mean for you? If you’re waiting too long to recover or rest before you start a lawsuit, you may miss this window! 

This means that if you’ve suffered harm due to an accident, medical malpractice, or another form of negligence, you must initiate legal action within this three-year window to preserve your right to seek compensation. Failing to file within this period typically results in the forfeiture of your right to pursue a claim, regardless of the severity of your injuries. But if this is you, don’t give up. There are exceptions for which you may qualify. 

Finding the Right Lawyer

One thing you don’t want to rush, however, is finding the right lawyer. To follow our earlier illustration of a marathon, they could be your running coach! Finding the right personal injury lawyer is crucial to the success of your case and can significantly impact the outcome. Their expertise can alleviate the stress and uncertainty of dealing with legal proceedings, allowing you to focus on recovery. Ultimately, the right attorney can be the difference between a favorable settlement or verdict and an inadequate resolution, making their selection a critical step in your personal injury case! 

Contact a Green Bay Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer in the Green Bay or Appleton area, choose Peterson Berk & Cross, P.C. We totally understand that finding a lawyer you can trust after dealing with the most stressful injury of your life can be overwhelming. Our job as your attorney is to take that stress off of you and onto us as we advocate for your rights. We will even speak to you free of charge to make sure we are the right fit for each other. Let Wisconsin personal injury lawyers listen to your story! Just contact us online to schedule a consultation. We proudly serve clients all over Wisconsin.