What Does “Litigation” or “Filing a Lawsuit” Mean in an Iowa Personal Injury Case?

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Posted by Emily Anderson

After you’ve suffered an injury in Iowa, your head is probably spinning with all sorts of questions.

Who is going to pay for my medical bills?

Will I get paid back for my lost wages?

What if my pain doesn’t go away?

Am I going to end up filing a lawsuit and if I do, what does that mean?

We are happy to answer all of those questions—but this article is going to focus on the last one.

Why You May Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Iowa

First, know that many cases settle without filing a lawsuit.  Whether your case can be settled without filing a lawsuit depends on several factors, but here are two big ones:

1. How long will you receive medical treatment?

2. Will the insurance company offer fair value for your injuries without a lawsuit?

The timing of your medical care matters because ideally before you settle your case, you want to know how much your medical care has a cost, and whether you’ll need care in the future.  If you don’t know those answers, you may accept too little.

For all personal injury cases, there is a deadline that applies to filing your claim.  If you cannot get the case settled before that deadline, you will have to file a lawsuit to protect your rights going forward.   

If your medical treatment takes a long time, you may reach the deadline to file the lawsuit before you are ready to settle it. Because of the length of your treatment, you may have no choice but to file your case in court.  An attorney can help you decide the right time to file your lawsuit. 

Whether your case can be settled before you file a lawsuit also depends on the amount of money the insurance company is offering.

Before a lawsuit is filed, an employee of the defendant’s insurance company decides how much money to offer to settle your claim.  It simply may not be enough.

When you can’t agree on an appropriate amount, your options are to take what the insurance company is offering or file a lawsuit. If you have an attorney, he or she can give you an opinion on whether the offer is too low.   

Even if you must file a lawsuit, know that you’ll have an attorney there guiding you through all of the steps.  Also know that even after filing a lawsuit—your case can still settle before it goes to a trial—in fact, most do.

What Happens After You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Iowa

If you file a lawsuit, the first step is something called “written discovery.”  This is where both sides exchange documents that are relevant to the lawsuit, like your medical records.

Both sides also ask written questions called interrogatories. Your attorney’s office will help you gather the necessary information and fill out the written questions. 

After that step, the defendant may ask to take your deposition. This is where they ask you questions in person and under oath.  A court reporter takes down everything that is said. Again, your attorney will prepare you for your deposition, and be there with you when you’re asking questions. Your attorney may want to take the deposition of the defendant or any witnesses. 

You may be asked by your attorney, or the defendant, to see a doctor as a part of the lawsuit. This doctor will not treat you. Instead, he or she will read your medical records, examine you and then offer opinions about your injuries like whether they are related to the accident, how bad they are, and any future treatment you may need.

Mediation and Trial in an Iowa Personal Injury Claim

Before your case goes to trial you may participate in a “mediation.” This is a settlement conference where both parties hire a neutral mediator to try to reach a settlement of the claim.

A mediation is not always necessary to settle a case, as both attorneys may just work informally to negotiate your claim.

Finally, if your case does not settle, your claim will be decided by a jury at a trial.  Your Iowa attorney will run the trial.  He or she will select the exhibits, may presentations to the jury, question all the witnesses, and present motions to the Court.

Ahead of a trial, your attorney and the office staff will work with you several times to prepare you for the trial and guide you through every step of the process. 

Even though a “lawsuit” sounds scary, assure yourself that calling a lawyer doesn’t mean that your case will certainly end in a lawsuit or trial.

Our goal is to settle your case if at all possible.  When that’s not possible, we will be here to guide you through the litigation process—explaining each step as we go. If you have been seriously injured because of someone else’s fault, we offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Contact us today at 1-800-433-0283.

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