The San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Hogan Injury help burn victims get the compensation they need and deserve for the injuries they’ve suffered. Treatment for serious burns is very intensive as the injured victim often requires extensive hospitalization. Additional therapies and surgeries are typically required at a later time which often results in treatment that lasts for years. In addition to the physical pain associated with severe burns and their treatment, the emotional scars left after these injuries are equally debilitating. It is common for burn victims to need psychological counseling as they make the adjustment to living an altered life.
Burn victims can sustain their injuries in many ways including structure fires, defective products and car, truck & motorcycle accidents. Regardless of how a burn victim has received his or her injuries, he or she inevitably struggles to recover physically, emotionally and financially.
Stages of a Burn Injury Lawsuit
Unless you have been involved in a lawsuit before, it can be confusing to know what to expect when you’ve been seriously burned in an accident or incident. It is common for victims and their families to feel apprehensive about the litigation process and even more so when the victim has been very seriously injured.
The first step in a lawsuit involves obtaining important information about the case and conducting a thorough investigation. The victim’s burn injury attorney will, depending upon the case, interview witnesses, gather and preserve evidence and speak with medical experts and other professionals in his or her quest to build a strong case. Once this initial phase is completed, the attorney will make a final determination as to whether or not the legal claim should be pursued.
Most personal injury lawyers enter into settlement negotiations with the responsible party or their insurance company to determine if a just and reasonable settlement can be attained without needing to file a lawsuit. This is when the victim’s attorney collects and puts together all the facts and evidence about the accident/incident pertaining to the victim’s damages including medical bills and lost wages documents. All this information is evaluated so that a settlement range is determined for the case. The insurance company is then presented with a demand which sets forth the facts surrounding the case and which explains why the other party is liable. An amount to settle the case is included in this demand. If the insurance company rejects the demand, the negotiation process continues until either a settlement is obtained or an impasse is reached.
Filing and Serving the Lawsuit
If a settlement is not obtained, the plaintiff’s attorney will prepare a lawsuit. Included with the lawsuit, called a complaint is a statement of damages wherein the amount of the damages are listed out. The lawsuit is filed with the court. Once filed, the lawsuit is served on the defendant. If the defendant cannot be located, the lawsuit is served by publication in a newspaper once the court approves it.
Once the defendant answers the lawsuit, they will send written questions that must be answered by the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s attorney will also send written questions for the defendant to answer. Both sides have 30 days to answer these questions. Each side can depose or orally ask questions to the other side. While depositions are not done in every case, the defendant is typically the one to depose the plaintiff. Depositions are done in front of a court reporter with the plaintiff and his or her attorney present.
Medical Examination & Arbitration
The defendant can request that the plaintiff be examined by a physician of their choice. If a medical exam is requested, it is carried out and documented in a report. In the state of California, most cases go to judicial arbitration. A third-party arbitrator listens to the evidence so that he or she can make a valuation determination of the case. Once this is done, a written decision is sent to both sides.
Each side has 30 days to reject the arbitration award. If it is not rejected, the arbitration award becomes a judgment that the defendant pays. In the case that either side rejects the arbitration, the case is set for trial.
Expert Discovery & Settlement Conference
Both sides are legally entitled to retain experts who will explain to the jury what has occurred which includes facts about the plaintiff’s injuries. Each side is allowed to question these experts. Most burn injury cases in California then have a settlement conference which is designed to get the case settled without the need for a trial. An outside attorney hears the case and attempts to get the parties to come to a settlement agreement.
Try the Case
If no settlement agreement can be reached, a judge or jury will hear the case. Each side is allowed to present evidence to the judge or jury and is given the opportunity to cross-examine the opposing side’s witlessness. The judge or jury will then decide the case and render a verdict.