5 steps for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Montana
Filing a personal injury lawsuit in Montana can be a challenging task, even for those professionally trained in legal proceedings. All states use some form of negligence law, and Montana’s law is one of the most confusing in the nation.
In Montana, comparative negligence is always a major factor in settling all personal injury claims, regardless of whether it is an auto accident or a premises liability issue.
Both the plaintiff and defendants in a Montana personal injury case are assessed for their personal contribution to the injury or accidents that’s at the center of the case. Montana law requires claimants to have less contributory fault than the opposing negligent party in order to receive financial compensation for their injuries. This becomes an important issue from the very beginning when trying to determine if you can file a lawsuit.
The final say on the comparative fault percentage is determined by a jury after a case is heard in court. This can make it difficult when attempting to settle a claim out of court. This stipulation also encourages many respondent parties and their insurance companies to force a claim into the courtroom. And it always requires an experienced Montana personal injury lawyer to represent the case when it goes to court.
While each case can vary slightly depending on the unique circumstances of the case, here’s a general overview of how a personal injury lawsuit is pursued in Montana.
Step 1: Filing the initial motion
The first filings or “pleadings” submitted in a lawsuit will contain the material facts as claimed by the plaintiff’s legal team. The plaintiff must prove that an injury occurred and that the respondent was negligent. The pleadings will be discussed in the hearing, stating the nature of the injuries and the financial demands of the claimant. The defense can then offer a settlement or present a counterclaim.
Step 2: Defendant’s response
After the initial motion has been filed, the defendant will respond by either agreeing to the settlement terms (in which case the case concludes) or by stating their defense, which is typically information supporting a claim that the plaintiff or another party was responsible in some amount for creating the scenario causing the claimed injury.
Injury cases can get confusing when there are multiple parties involved because each side will be given an opportunity to present their version of events, along with documentation of any personal injuries that they have suffered. The plaintiff’s legal counsel is then allowed to redirect with any information that may clarify their claims or counter any defenses of opposing parties.
Step 3: Trial
The next step in the lawsuit process is the trial. While trials are in fact rare in personal injury cases since a majority of cases settle, occasionally a case proceeds to court.
In the trial, the plaintiff’s legal team will detail the evidence and have the opportunity to cross-examine any officers or defense witnesses contesting their statements. Trials can be stressful, confusing and intense, and small details can matter greatly when determining liability. You’ll definitely want an experienced and trained trial lawyer on your side during this phase.
Step 4: Deliberation
Accident cases in Montana that are settled by the court system can either result in a jury trial or a bench trial. In a bench trial, a judge will hear your case and apply the law based on material facts presented by all parties.
A jury trial, on the other hand, is in front of a panel of jurors. Jury trials are always used when a claimant is seeking punitive damages or there are any other extenuating circumstances involving fault. Comparative fault percentages are determined by the jury as well. While a verdict can be returned quickly with a jury, many times a bench case may be delayed when the judge wants to further evaluate all aspects claimed by all parties.
Step 5: Appeals process
Just as with any other type of legal case, decisions by either a jury or a judge may be eligible for appeal. Appeals are not retrying of a case, but rather an evaluation by a higher level court. Certain aspects can be changed or sent back to the court with clarification for an amended verdict.
Personal injury court cases in Montana can be complex legal matters due to state injury law policy, and it is imperative to have a seasoned legal professional when pursuing financial damages for your injuries. Never try to handle your accident injury claim on your own because the injury could be much more serious than you know. Montana residents should always call Murphy Law Firm for comprehensive representation.