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What Is the Timeline for a Personal Injury Claim?


We know each and every case is uniquely complicated and extremely personal to the involved victim and their family. That’s why we dedicate the needed effort and attention to making sure we not only provide the skilled legal backing you expect, but compassion and emotional support as well. Most of us in our firm have been in similar situations with our own family members, and we strongly believe that no one should go through a personal injury case feeling like they are alone. If we decide to take on your case, you become part of our family.

After you have been hurt in an accident, it is helpful to know what you can anticipate going into the personal injury claim process. Because each case is different from the next, the timeline for a personal injury claim can vary widely. Generally speaking, we will take the following steps with you to reach the final outcome for your personal injury case:

Obtain Medical Records

You may not immediately think of medical records as an integral part of your personal injury claim, but without your medical records, there is no way to show that you were hurt or prove the cause of your damage. Medical records may be requested from your doctor, therapist, or the hospital or specialist treating your injuries. The outcome of your case will depend on the information contained in medical reports made by these healthcare providers who possess professional knowledge related to your claim. In a personal injury claim, we must first gain a complete understanding of the injury.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed in 1996 to protect a patient’s confidential health information from being disclosed without their consent. Under HIPAA, you can request medical records for yourself, and usually for closely-related parties including your child or a decedent you are representing. You can also authorize your lawyer to request your medical records by filling out a HIPAA release form.

Medical records should be solely and directly relevant to the injury around which your case revolves. This is to prevent the opposing party from attempting to prove that your medical condition was preexisting or a result of causes other than the accident in question. As legal advisors, it is our duty to fully understand the nature, extent, and cause of your injury, and to shield you from a situation in which your sensitive medical data can be used against you.

Establish Liability

Regardless of the type of injury you sustained, liability is a key point in any personal injury claim. As the plaintiff, you can only be awarded compensation if you can prove that another person was partially or fully at fault for the harm you suffered. Your personal injury lawsuit will only move forward when you demonstrate that your personal damage was a result of the other’s party’s negligence. In order to show negligence, it must be established that the defendant owed you a duty of care (a responsibility to protect your safety), that the defendant breached, or failed in, this duty of care, that your injury was directly caused by this breach, and that you suffered physical, emotional, psychological, or financial damages as a result. In the early stages of taking your case, we will examine the details of your situation to establish that another party is fully or partially liable for your injuries.

File a Complaint

After we have obtained your medical records and established liability, we will be able to file a complaint. A complaint in a personal injury case is a pleading which states all of your (the plaintiff’s) claims against the party you believe caused your injury (the defendant) and lays out how you hope to remedy the situation that occurred (generally in the form of monetary compensation to cover your losses). As the plaintiff, your action of filing a complaint officially initiates the case and forces the defendant to respond with an answer.

The New Mexico court system, including the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque, issues regulations regarding how a complaint must be formatted and what it must contain. Information such as the name and address of the plaintiff and defendant, the nature of incident causing damage, the legal basis for the complaint, and the compensatory damages being sought should be written and submitted. As legal advisors, it is our job to make sure that we help our clients promptly and accurately fill out the forms required to file a complaint.

Get a Trial Date

Next, we will get a pre-trial scheduling order and the court will assign us a trial date. Getting a case ready for trial is what gets our clients the best results. Not every case will end up going to trial. In fact, in the majority of cases it is possible to reach an agreement and settle out of court. But preparing for trial gives us the best opportunity to fully construct, develop, and organize all details of your case, readying ourselves to achieve a favorable outcome whether we go to trial or reach an out-of-court settlement. When the defendant’s lawyer is aware that we are confidently prepared and willing to take your case to trial, we are taken more seriously and stand in a better position to achieve maximum compensation for you.

Conduct Discovery

Once the trial date has been established, our timeline works backwards from that date, and we enter into what is known as the pre-trial discovery process. This is a fact-finding investigation exploring every facet of your case. Discovery involves both sides, the plaintiff’s side and the defendant’s side. This is so that neither party is ambushed at trial by undisclosed information against which they did not have time to prepare an answer.

During this stage we work together to gather information and search for documents and other forms of evidence relevant to your claim. We will investigate liability, identifying proof that can be used to show negligence. And we will also investigate damages, collecting evidence to substantiate the amount of compensation which will fully and appropriately cover current and future losses you incurred due to your injury.

There are a few actions which can take place during the discovery process. The most common actions include:

  • Depositions. A deposition involves face-to-face questioning under oath. Witnesses, which can include you, the defendant, eyewitnesses, and other people offering testimony, are examined and cross-examined by the lawyers of both sides. This allows both parties to know what the other party plans to say at trial.
  • Requests for Production. This is the opportunity for one party to ask the other side to produce the physical evidence they are using to support their claim. The requested evidence can include anything from photos, phone records, contracts, deeds, bills, emails, and account data to relevant tangible items, damaged property, and access to a person’s home, vehicle, or land.
  • Interrogatories. Similar to a deposition, interrogatories require witnesses to answer questions under oath. In an interrogatory, the attorney of one side sends an official list of questions to the witness of the other side, usually asking for clarification of details, verification of facts, and confirmation of particulars relevant to your claim. These specifics can be brought up again at trial if your case goes to court, so it is important to make sure your accounts of the incident are consistent.

Contact an Attorney You Can Trust in Albuquerque

At Buckingham & Vega, our team of legal experts has experience advocating for those who have been injured through the harmful actions of a negligent party. We represent clients in multiple areas of personal injury law, including vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, work injuries, wrongful death, oil field accidents, and nursing home abuse.

Each of us here at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm takes pride in the work we have accomplished and the change we continue to make in our community. We have spent countless hours inside the Bernalillo County Courthouse vigilantly defending the rights of our clients in Albuquerque. Our lawyers have defended oil field workers injured on the job, motorcycle accident victims, individuals hurt through medical malpractice, and the family members of those who suffered a wrongful death. Personal injury victims who partner with us know that their case will receive the attention it deserves. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the details of your case and what we can do to help you. Reach out to our office today to set up a meeting with a member of our team.

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