Essential Legal Documents You Need to Know About
There are certain documents common to nearly every personal injury case, particularly those involving auto accidents. Although an accident attorney will assist you with the various documents required for your case, you should be aware of what they are and why they’re important.
If you’ve suffered injuries as a result of an automobile accident, an accident report will likely be generated. In Colorado, if a police officer was called to the scene of an accident to obtain information, he will file a report. However, if law enforcement does not respond, you will have to report the accident using either an online accident report form or a counter crash report.
You can report an accident online in Colorado if:
- No fatalities or injuries were involved
- The accident was not a hit and run
- No public property was damaged
- There was no suspicion of any party driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
If any of the above circumstances do not apply to the accident you were involved in, you should contact law enforcement for further instructions.
If you decide to hire an attorney to represent you in your personal injury case, you will be required to sign a retainer agreement. A retainer agreement is a contract that provides protections for both attorneys and clients, and will help lower the risk of a misunderstanding about the legal services that will be provided.
The retainer agreement covers matters such as fees and the terms of the attorney-client relationship. In a personal injury case, the retainer agreement usually contains a contingency fee provision stating that the lawyer will be paid a specific percentage of any monetary damages awarded upon resolution of the case, either through settlement or litigation. The attorney’s fee is contingent upon the overall damages that the client receives.
Once your injury-related medical treatment is complete and your primary physician has put you at maximum medical improvement, your attorney will gather your final medical records and bills, as well as confirmation of any work you missed as a result of your injury. He will then put together a settlement demand for the liability insurance company, which will tell the story of your injury by:
- Describing your damages
- Explaining why the other party is at fault
- Demanding a certain amount of money that will be acceptable to settle the claim
The purpose of a settlement demand is to settle a case before a lawsuit is filed in court. Even if the case does not resolve, a settlement demand often sets the tone for continued attempts at settlement as the case moves forward toward litigation.
Summons and Complaint
If your case does not settle and the statute of limitations is quickly approaching, you will need to file a summons and complaint to bring a lawsuit in court.
The summons is the document that officially starts a lawsuit. It must be formatted according to the requirements of the court having jurisdiction and must be properly delivered to, or served upon, the defendant. The complaint details the claims that you are making against the defendant as well as the type of judgment you are seeking.
The defendant will have a certain number of days to respond, or file an answer, to the complaint. This date is generally indicated on the summons, and if the defendant fails to respond, he runs the risk that the court will enter a default judgment against him.
Once your case is filed in court, more essential paperwork will follow until your case is finally resolved, as confirmed by yet another legal document called the judgment, or judicial decision.
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