The Claims Process in Maryland
The personal injury claims process in Maryland can be long, complex, and confusing. There are many questions that may arise as you and your loved ones go through the various stages of a legal proceeding in Maryland. These questions may include: how long the process takes, will you have to go to court, do you have to file a claim within a certain amount of time, who decides your case, how the negotiations process works, what types of compensation can you recover, how attorney's fees work, do you need to retain an attorney, how the insurance process works, and what to do when there are criminal charges pending against a defendant, to name a few. This section covers the common questions that arise over the course of the claims process.
At Gilman & Bedigian we understand how confusing and difficult the legal process can be in Maryland. That is why we strive to answer any and all questions our clients may have regarding their case. It is our policy to try and return calls the same business day when received during business hours or the following day if a call is received after hours. If you have any questions about your Maryland case or if you have questions about whether or not you may have a case, please don't hesitate to contact us today.
Detailed Personal Injury Claims Process
If you have suffered an injury, the last thing you want to do is think about the process of filing a lawsuit. However, an understanding of how hiring an experienced personal injury attorney would be of great assistance in helping you and your family get the compensation you need to move forward with your life. The steps a personal injury claim will take will vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction in which the injury occurred, the type of claim, and the unique characteristics of the case. However, the steps below represent the general process involved in settling such a claim.
As you may have guessed, an injury must have occurred prior to the filing of a claim. The injury must have been caused by a breach of duty on the part of the defendant; that is, the defendant must been responsible to act in a certain way, or refrain from acting in a certain way towards a plaintiff and the defendant failed to do so. Additionally, this breach must have been the cause of the injury. Specifically, the injury would not have occurred were it not for the defendant's breach and it was reasonably foreseeable that an injury would occur as a result of the action or inaction of the defendant.
Selecting an Attorney
Hiring an attorney is a critical part of the process. It is important that you find someone you feel comfortable working with and that you trust to be an advocate of your best interests. Unless you are unable to do so due to injury, speaking directly with a potential attorney should be your first step. The vast majority of personal injury lawyers will speak with you at no cost prior to agreeing to take your case. When you speak with a lawyer (often called an initial consultation), there are several questions the attorney will be asking you in order to determine whether or not he or she would be in a good position to take your case. These can include (but certainly aren't limited to) questions relating to how you were injured, the medical treatment you received, your personal health history and anything else that may be relevant for a potential lawsuit. You should also take this opportunity to ask the attorney any questions you may have. These can include how the attorney sees your case progressing, as well as questions relating directly to the lawyer's experience and expertise, such as how long they have been practicing and the types of cases they generally handle. There are other things you can evaluate during your initial consultation. A lawsuit can be a lengthy process and you may have to disclose a good deal of personal information. Therefore, you should feel comfortable and confident about working with your attorney. This initial meeting can give you a sense of what it would feel like to be represented by this particular lawyer. Also, if a paralegal or administrative assistant will serve as your point of contact during representation, it is a good idea to meet this person and get a feel for working with them.
Filing The Claim
After you have selected the attorney best suited to represent you, the attorney will file a claim, which will begin the litigation process. The first few steps of a lawsuit, including the initial filing and response from the defendant will depend on the rules of civil procedure and rules of court for the jurisdiction in which the case has been filed, but most claims generally begin the same way. The "plaintiff" is the person or entity who initiates a lawsuit. In the case of a personal injury claim, the plaintiff is the individual who suffered the injury (or his or her representatives). The plaintiff's attorney will make take the first step, which is to file a complaint with the court. This complaint outlines the general facts related to the specific cause of action against the defendant. Next, the court will notify the defendant that a complaint has been filed, and give the defendant a time frame in which a reply must be made. The defendant will then file a response to the complaint within the allotted timeframe, which is known as an "answer".
The Evidence Collection Process
After the claim has been properly filed, both sides will begin collecting evidence relevant to the claim. As with all other steps in the claims process, the type of evidence will depend upon the nature of the claim and the nature of the injury. This could include police reports, hospital records, and other documentation relevant to the injury. It can also include depositions that your attorney takes. A deposition is a process where a person with knowledge related to the claim is questioned by attorneys by either or both sides of a lawsuit. The answers given are sworn statements, meaning that they would be admissible if the claim reached a trial.
Settlement negotiations can occur at any point in the process after a complaint has been filed. In fact, the vast majority of personal injury claims do not reach the inside of a courtroom. In most cases, the defendant will make an offer, in most instances a specific amount of money they would be willing to pay to settle the claim. Once an offer has been made, you and your attorney will examine it in detail, and discuss the possible advantages of accepting. You will balance the nature of the offer against the time and costs involved in taking the case to trial as well as the likelihood of obtaining a verdict in your favor. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of action to take, but ultimately the decision whether or not to accept a settlement offer will be up to you.
The Trial Stage
If you were not able to reach a settlement agreement, the case will advance to the trial stage. A trial may be held before a jury, who will make the ultimate determination of who was at fault, or with only a judge (known as a bench trial). The trial will typically begin with both sides making an opening statement, which is a very detailed description of what occurred and who was at fault according to the legal strategy being presented by each side. Next, both sides will present evidence, which can include witness testimony, photographs, documents, and all other relevant material that the judge had deemed admissible for the case. Following the presentation of evidence, both sides will make a closing statement, which summarizes the legal theory and evidence presented. Finally, either a judge or jury will evaluate what has been presented and determine whether or not the defendant will be held liable for your injuries. If the defendant was found to be liable for your injuries, the judge will award you damages. This is a monetary sum that the court feels would be sufficient to put you in the same situation had the injury not happened. Some of the steps in the personal injury litigation process may seem complex, but an experienced attorney will help to guide you through this process, answering any questions you may have along the way, and advocate vigorously to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. If you have any questions about this process or an injury you have suffered, please contact our law offices. We will be glad to take the time to discuss your case and answer any questions you may have.