The Personal Injury Recovery Process in Michigan
An accident can change your life in a split second. As those who have suffered serious injury know too well, the hospital stays, surgeries, follow-up doctors’ appointments and physical therapy treatments can make “normal” feel like a pipe dream. Unfortunately, some victims never fully recover. Many are left with lingering pain, physical scars, and other health challenges carrying permanent life-altering effects.
Of course, there is no way to turn back time. But pursuing a personal injury claim can help compensate you for actual costs, pain and suffering, and lost quality of life. A successful suit aims to bring you as close to “whole” as possible. By removing financial burdens and providing the cushion required to heal comfortably, our clients can embrace their new normals better.
The legal process is foreign to most people, so we will guide you through the process. Our firm has decades of collective experience and a national reputation for excellence. We strive to further that reputation with every client we represent.
Where does the process begin?
The first step of the claims process is to conduct a thorough investigation. Depending on the type of accident, this investigation might involve interviewing witnesses, gathering medical records, inspecting the property where the accident occurred, and consulting with experts in the field. The sooner this investigation is done, the better, as evidence is most readily available right after the injury occurs. Typical steps in the investigative process include:
- Reviewing police paperwork.
- Photographing the scene of the accident.
- Arranging to observe any physical evidence.
- Locating and interviewing accident witnesses.
- Identifying surveillance footage.
- Obtaining relevant medical records.
- Determining lost wages.
Gathering evidence helps establish the central premise on which a personal injury lawsuit rests: that the opposing party’s negligence contributed to the victim’s injury. Standards for proving negligence vary depending on the type of accident. Still, the basic requirement is that some individual or entity failed to behave reasonably under the circumstances. Their negligence need not be entirely responsible for the injury. In fact, the injured party may share some of the blame. What matters is there is a causal relationship between the party being sued and the injury alleged.
What will I have to do?
After you retain an attorney, your job is to remain available to answer questions, provide paperwork, and potentially participate in court proceedings. To increase your chance of recovery, your attorney may recommend consulting with various physicians and therapists who can help provide tangible evidence of your injury.
Some of our clients are unwilling to appear in court or to answer questions under oath. This generally is not a problem. As your advocate, we allow you to make the important decisions, including whether to accept settlement offers from the opposing party and how aggressively to pursue your claim.
It’s important to understand that your amount of recovery might be limited if you are unwilling to go through the litigation process. However, this isn’t always the case. Some injuries can yield large settlements in the early stages. It all depends on several different factors, including the defendant’s insurance coverage, the theory of liability, and the severity and nature of your injuries.
What does the litigation process look like?
If the parties cannot reach a settlement, the case generally gets resolved through the court system. This process begins with your attorney drafting a complaint, which provides a detailed summary of your case. The next step is the discovery process, where each side demands relevant information from the other. Because this process forces all of the evidence onto the table, it can sometimes lead to renewed settlement negotiations.
However, if settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the case will eventually proceed to trial. At this point, each side presents their case before a jury. The jury will be instructed to decide whether the plaintiff proved the defendant contributed to the injury according to the standard of proof. Unlike in a criminal case, where the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the civil standard is based on a preponderance of credible evidence. This means the jury must find a greater than 50 percent chance the plaintiff’s claim is true.
If the defendant is found responsible, the jury will also determine damages. Under Michigan law, both economic and non-economic damages can be awarded.
Economic damages are those that can easily be assigned a monetary value, including:
- Lost wages.
- Decrease in future earning capacity.
- Medical expenses, including medical bills and hospital expenses.
- Future medical expenses.
- Property damage.
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel to and from doctor’s appointments.
Non-economic damages are those that are harder to quantify and include:
- Physical pain.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of enjoyment of activities.
- Worsening of existing injuries.
- Temporary or permanent loss of relationships.
Depending on the specifics of a claim, limits may be placed on the amount of non-economic damages. However, there are no limits on economic damages.
Contact an Experienced Michigan Personal Injury Law Firm for Immediate Assistance
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, please contact the dedicated team of attorneys at Sommers Schwartz. We have been fighting for the rights of injured individuals for over 40 years. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a compensation claim, call us today at 800-783-0989 to schedule a free consultation.