Your Augusta Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Augusta is lovely place -- historic buildings, mild weather, and beautiful green countryside - basically, perfect. Of course, you already know this. The hordes of people that descend on the city every April to watch the Master's Tournament might not. They move by so fast that they didn't even notice when one of their golf clubs slid out of an open car window on Reynolds Street, bounced around, and then hit you in the head when you were enjoying a snack on Augusta Common. You've got doctors bills and their license plate number, but is there a way to recover all the time and money you're out? Here's some useful info on how personal injury suits work in Augusta.
There is No One Type of Personal Injury Case
Many people don't realize how many different issues are considered personal injury cases. Personal injury cases include a huge range of different kinds of injuries, some of which have nothing to do with a physical "injury" to the person. Here's some:
- Automobile accidents
- Slip and falls
- Product liability cases, including unsafe food, and defective household products and automobiles
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Disputes stemming from a physical altercation, like assault and battery
- Injuries to reputation, like defamation and
- Some workplace accidents
The laws for determining fault can vary based on the different types of cases, so many lawyers choose to specialize in only a few kinds. However, all of the above categories are ultimately resolved through the civil litigation or in administrative systems that handle certain cases.
First Steps after an Accident
No matter where you are, the first steps after a physical injury that might lead to a lawsuit should be the same: 1) seek medical attention, if necessary; 2) file a claim with the applicable insurance company; and 3) document, document, document.
Seeking medical attention should be an obvious first step. Your health and safety are more important than your legal claim, and you do not want to make an injury worse by waiting too long to see a doctor. As a side note, medical records are often a great way to prove an injury, in the event a lawsuit ever comes up.
Many accidents and injuries are covered by at least one type of insurance. For example, auto insurance may cover damage to your vehicle and some medical expenses. If you're the defendant in a lawsuit, it may even pay for your legal defense. However, many insurance companies have deadlines on filing a claim, so be sure to file quickly so you don't miss your chance.
Finally, try to record what happened as thoroughly as you can. Take pictures of your injuries, the place where the accident happened, and anything else that seems relevant. Many people find it helpful to write down their perception of what happened as soon as possible after the incident while the memories are fresh. Get the names and contact information of witnesses and anyone involved in the accident. Obtain and save copies of any medical records, bills, receipts, police reports, or correspondence related to the accident. Keep a phone journal and write down the date, time, and substance of each phone call as it happens.
Time Limits and Lawyers
There are time limits on when people can bring a suit, so individuals considering legal action may want to check with a local attorney specializing in personal injury law to get information and advice specific to their circumstances. Personal injury lawyers in Augusta handle many cases and are familiar with the specifics of local law, which may allow them to spend less time and money on a case without compromising quality. Many plaintiffs' attorneys operate on contingency fees, which mean that they will get a percentage of whatever settlement or award results in a case. Yes, this typically means that if they don't win a case, they don't get paid.
Early Stages of a Case: Discovery and Settlement Negotiations
The majority (often all) of a personal injury case takes place before anyone sets foot in a courtroom. First, both the plaintiff and the defendant will gather information about what happened through a process called "discovery." This will involve a thorough review of all of the documentation, including police reports, bills, and witness statements.
Once the attorneys have enough information, they may start to offer settlement deals to the opposing side. Everyone keeps an eye on deadlines, and the plaintiff's attorney may file a complaint and other pleadings or pretrial motions to ensure that they don't lose the chance to be in court.
If no settlement can be reached, the case will go to trial. Civil cases are heard in the State Court in the August Judicial Center. Trials can last a little as a day or as long as a week or more. A plaintiff and their lawyer can decide whether to have a judge or a jury decide the case. There are a number of factors to consider, including time, expense, and how the parties might perform in front of a jury.
If the judge or jury rules for the plaintiff, the plaintiff will get a monetary award. However, this does not mean all the money goes straight to the plaintiff. First, the lawyer will take her share. Then, the plaintiff's health, auto, and homeowners' insurance may make a claim on some of the award as compensation for money they have already paid out.
Accidents happen every day, and range from the minor to the deadly type. For those injured in an accident, however, getting back to normal is usually the highest priority. Many injury attorneys offer free consultations and that can be a good starting point on the road to getting back on one's feet.