Making Sense of North Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuits
In many cases, a personal injury claim can be handled without ever having to go to court. A personal injury attorney can facilitate negotiations between the at fault part, the insurance company, and the injured person to come to a fair settlement agreement. Yet, in the past few years, more and more personal injury claims have gone to court. This is in part because insurance companies have been putting more pressure on their claims adjusters to minimize the number of settlements and deny claims, rather than settling those claims for a fair sum. This leads the victims of such injuries to take their claims to court as the only way to ensure that they do receive just compensation for their damages. Here, we’ll discuss the process of personal injury lawsuits in North Carolina when they do end up in court.
Establishing Who Is Liable in Your Personal Injury Claim
The first step in any personal injury claim, long before it goes to trial, is to establish who the negligent or at-fault party is. This defendant, also known as the tortfeasor, is the person who has caused the injury through their negligence or wrongdoing. The insurance company of this person will likely be the entity that is responsible for paying for your damages, and if they refuse to do so fairly, this is what will lead you to the only realistic option to recover fair damages – going to court.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim Lawsuit in North Carolina
Personal injury claim lawsuits are civil proceedings that are filed in the North Carolina Civil Court. Which court you file the claim with will depend on the amount of compensation you are trying to obtain. If the amount of compensation that you are seeking is less than $10,000, then you will file the claim in the District Court. If the sum is greater than this, you must file your claim in the Superior Court. You will then have to deal with the pre-trial processes associated with that court.
After you file the lawsuit, the defendant will receive a notice and will have a deadline to answer the lawsuit by admitting to the allegations (or accusation of liability) or denying those allegations. The defendant may also provide an affirmative defense to argue against the allegations and may also file a counterclaim against the injured person, who is the plaintiff.
The Discovery Phase of a North Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuit
The next step is the discovery phase. This is where each side of the lawsuit has a chance to gather evidence and information to prepare the case for trial. There may be written questions for the opposing side to answer and there may also be interrogatories or depositions in which the associated parties are interviewed regarding the details of the case. During the discovery phase, each side can also obtain the documents that are relevant to the case, such as photographic evidence, medical reports from the treatment of the injury, and anything else that might be relevant. If either side refuses to provide these proofs, there may be a motion filed with the court to determine whether or not they have to.
Arbitration of Personal Injury Lawsuits in North Carolina District Courts
In many cases, non-binding arbitration may be required by the District Court. This is a process involves a court-appointed arbitrator who will allow each side of the case to present their case within half an hour, each. The arbitrator will then come to a decision based on the provided evidence and testimony. If either side of the case disagrees with the outcome of arbitration, then they have one month to appeal the decision. If nobody appeals, then the final decisions of the arbitrator are entered as the final judgment, effectively resolving the case. However, if someone does appeal, as is often the case when both sides have already established that they disagree with each other, the case will then go to trial, and the arbitrator’s decision will be irrelevant or inadmissible when it does.
Mediation of Personal Injury Lawsuits in North Carolina Superior Courts
In other cases, where the plaintiff is seeking greater than $10,000, and the case goes to the Superior Court, there may be a mediation process, instead of arbitration. In such cases, the mediator will not be deciding the case, the way that the arbitrator would in a District Court case. There will also not be any testimony or evidence associated with mediation. The purpose of mediation is different from the purpose of arbitration, in that the goal is not to decide the case but to reach a settlement via the process of negotiation. If successful, the case will be resolved through this negotiation. If not successful, then the case will go to trial, and the mediation process will not be relevant to the trial.
Going to Trial with a North Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuit
When the process of arbitration or the process of mediation is not successful, the case will go to trial in the appropriate court, based on the value of compensation that the plaintiff is seeking. The rules and procedures that follow will be based on the county where the case is filed. It may take a long time for the trial date, as cases are typically scheduled based on the order of filing. The best way to prepare for trial and to make sense of the different rules and procedures that will apply to your case is to contact a determined personal injury attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is also the best way to succeed in your case.
The attorneys at Brown Moore & Associates can often reach a fair settlement agreement without ever having to take the case to trial. If the case must go to trial because no fair settlement can be reached, we will fight for your right to compensation for all of your associated damages in court. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and get started on the process with all of the information you need.