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The Basics of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you have been injured in a personal injury incident, such as an auto accident, trucking accident or medical malpractice, you are likely angry and confused.  You are facing mounting medical bills and perhaps even a loss of income due to the inability to work.  You want justice for the pain, injuries and damages you have suffered due to the negligence of another person, but you may be apprehensive about the legal process for seeking compensation.  The following is a brief summary of the basics of a personal injury lawsuit and how victims can obtain the compensation that they need and deserve.

Hiring an Attorney

Personal injury lawsuits involve an area of law called “tort law,” which includes complex legal issues such as negligence, strict liability, product liability, and premises liability.  Tort laws vary from state to state so it is important to hire an attorney that understands the laws of the state in which the lawsuit will be filed.  At Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish, we are well-versed in the various tort laws of Illinois and we have considerable experience representing clients in complex personal injury lawsuits, including those involving medical malpractice, brain injuries, nursing home abuse, wrongful death, serious automobile accidents and commercial trucking accidents.

Filing a Complaint

After you have hired an experienced Illinois personal injury lawyer, the first step in initiating a legal procedure is to file a complaint.  The complaint is the first document filed with the court and it identifies the parties involved in the lawsuit, explains the basis for jurisdiction, lists the legal claims of the plaintiff, and describes the facts giving rise to the lawsuit.  The complaint will also include a section in which the plaintiff will specify the type of relief he or she is seeking and the amount of damages requested.

It is important to file a timely complaint since there are time limitations, called statutes of limitations, on when a lawsuit can be filed following an accident.  The applicable statute of limitations varies depending on the specifics of the lawsuit and a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help to ensure that your lawsuit is filed in a timely manner.

Defendant’s Answer

After the plaintiff has filed a complaint, the defendant must file an answer within a specified time period.  The answer is the defendant’s opportunity to respond to each of the specific claims set forth in the complaint.  The defendant may also include counterclaims (claims the defendant asserts against the plaintiff) or affirmative defenses (legal reasons why the defendant should not be held liable for the injury or damages suffered by the plaintiff) in the answer.

If he or she fails to file an answer, the plaintiff will receive a summary judgment, in which the court will award the plaintiff the relief that he or she requested.

Fact Discovery

After the initial court documents are filed, either party may request that the case be dismissed for a variety of reasons.  If the case is not dismissed or the parties do not settle their dispute, the lawsuit will enter the discovery phase of litigation.  During the discovery phase, each party has an opportunity to question the parties and witnesses of the other side.  The parties may also request documents and other information regarding the accident or incident giving rise to the lawsuit.

Settlement or Trial

Oftentimes parties will settle their dispute during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, but if they are unable to reach a settlement, the case will proceed to trial.  Because a personal injury trial is a complex legal proceeding, it is crucial to have a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney in your corner.  The Chicago, Illinois personal injury attorneys at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish have represented countless clients in complex personal injury lawsuits and we have the experience necessary to pursue your personal injury lawsuit through trial, if necessary.

Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  ( is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.

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