The Steps in a Personal Injury Case

Posted On January 12, 2017 by Administrator in Personal Injury

Dan Murphy of the Massachusetts-based Murphy Law Group speaks with John Maher about the steps in a personal injury case. He walks you through the first steps after being injured, the purpose of a demand letter, and when it is time to start the litigation or mediation process.

John Maher: Hi I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dan Murphy of the Murphy law group in North Andover and Boston, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about the steps in a personal injury case. Welcome Dan.

Dan Murphy: Morning John.

Starting a Personal Injury Case

John: So Dan how does a personal injury case commence?

Dan: Well there are steps that are taken prior to the commencement of an actual lawsuit. Once an injury occurs, and the attorney has had the ability to evaluate the situation, the attorney will typically put the other side on notice if they think that there’s a potential claim and ask the other side to notify their own insurance company.

Once that is done the process would be to work to see how the injuries have affected the injured person, in terms of their medical costs, loss of wages, et cetera. Then you would determine at some point what an appropriate demand would be to be making upon the insurance company representing the person that caused the injury.

There are a number of steps that are taken prior to even getting to that demand. Obviously, there needs to be an evaluation of potential liability because any demand letter would have to expressly state why you felt as though the other party was at fault for causing your client an injury, and that would be one part of ultimately what you would put into a demand letter.

The second part would be the damages part, and the damages part would come from an evaluation of what occurred as a result of the accident, the medical costs that were incurred, the injuries, the pain and suffering incurred by the victim, the loss of wages, and any continuing long-term effects of those injuries.

Why Not File a Personal Injury Case Immediately?

John: What would be some reasons why I wouldn’t want to just file a suit immediately?

Dan: Well, once you file a lawsuit, it is then turned over to the insurance company’s attorneys, and you begin to incur costs immediately. Prior to filing the lawsuit–if you make a demand and you can get into a dialogue with the insurance company with or without the insurance company’s counsel–you will get an opportunity to see how they are evaluating the case, and see whether or not they’d be willing to potentially resolve the case prior to your having to incur any cost in a litigation.

Next Steps in a Personal Injury Case

John: Then the next step would be to file that demand letter. Is the demand letter when the suit begins or is that separate from the actual suit?

Dan: No, the demand letter is done once you’ve had the opportunity to evaluate one: liability, and secondly you are in a position to state what a reasonable demand would be for damages. You’ve had — typically the victim will have finished whatever medical care they had to incur. You’ll have an idea as to what the long-term effects of the injury were. Obviously, you’ll be able to describe the pain and suffering that the victim went through as well as loss of wages and changes in enjoyment of life. You put all that into your evaluation of damages, and you make a demand that it again has two parts to it.

One says this is why we believe that your client is liable. And the second part is this is the amount that we demand in the area of damages.

John: Then what else happens before the suit? do you wait for some response from the other party?

Dan: Usually, you typically put a 30 day period on that for a response. if you get a reasonable response and you feel as though it makes sense to have a dialogue with the insurance company prior to filing the lawsuit, Then you go down that road. If on the other hand the insurance company simply denies liability and/or does not recognize that your client has suffered some serious damages then you simply file the lawsuit at that point.

After Filing a Personal Injury Claim

John: Then what are the steps that happen after the lawsuit is filed?

Dan: Once the law suit is filed, the process would be that the insurance company’s council would respond with either an answer to the lawsuit or a motion to dismiss.

And then once you get beyond that process, you go into the discovery phase process which is simply an exchange of information. But that can take a fair amount of time.

These cases, once they’re put in to suit, the process within the courts themselves does not…is not a particularly expedient process. It takes a period of time. And unfortunately with a lot of these personal injury cases, the litigation may take on a life of its own, which again is why as counsel you always want to look for an opportunity to resolve the case, to get an efficient resolution for your client rather than allow it to just simply take on a life of its own, and to go on for years and years and years.

John: What are some possible ways that a lawsuit could be resolved?

Dan: Well again, you start with the demand, if the demand doesn’t go into place because you’ve not gotten their attention, perhaps the filing of the lawsuit will, or something during discovery will.

When you feel as though it’s appropriate you suggest potential mediation. That is a way for a third party to be involved to evaluate the case both from the plaintiff’s perspective and from the defendant’s perspective, and to try to get the parties together for a resolution of the case that will bring the case to closure for your client.

John: How do I pay a lawyer for a personal injury case? It seems like there’s a lot of steps involved. Obviously a lot of time. You said that there’s costs being incurred, you know, already right out of the gate as soon as you get a lawyer involved. How do I pay for all of that?

Dan: Well typically, the legal fees are done on a contingency fee basis. That means that you sign a contract with your lawyer, and your lawyer says that your lawyer will agree to forego being paid for their legal services until such time as the case is resolved, and will accept typically one-third of whatever the case settles for.

John: All right. That’s great information, Dan. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dan: Thank you, John.

John: For more information about the Murphy Law Group visit their web site at or call 978-686-3200.