Its easy for us lawyers to forget that most people have never been involved in a lawsuit. So here are the typical steps to one so you can understand the process a little better.
1. Pre-suit – This is everything that happens right after the accident occurs and you’ve undergone initial medical treatment. We will gather all pertinent medical records and initial evidence like the police report, photographs, witness statement. We will likely send most of these items to the insurance company representing the other party to see what their settlement position is, and to let them know about the severity of your claim to make sure they allocate appropriate funds for your case right away.
2. Now, The first real step to a lawsuit is to file a complaint, typically based on residence of the parties, or where the accident occurred.
3. After the defendants have filed their Answer to the Complain, we move on to the Discovery phase will start. Here the parties send written documents regarding the facts and evidence to each other. We will then take depositions of the parties and witnesses – this where questions regarding the case are asked and answered under oath and recorded. Typically, this is all done outside of the court. Often in discovery defendants like to hold evidence back or create issues as to what they must turn over, so this phase can be dragged out for a while.
4. Motion practice – During this pre-trial phase if there are any issues, included those causing delay in discovery that we need the Court to resolve, or we want to the Court to make a determination as a matter of law on an issues (like determining that the defendant is 100% at fault), then we will file motions with the Court to seek those remedies. Motions can be pending for several months as well.
5. If the case still cannot settle at this point, we let the Court know we are ready for trial. There is often a long wait due to how crowded the Courts are. During this time we make sure everything is ready to go for your trial so that WE are not the cause of any undue further delay and we can get to trial as soon as possible
As you can see, personal injury lawsuits are NOT fast moving whatsoever. The KEY is to hire an attorney who will always be PROACTIVE in your case and not just REACTING to the defendant’s moves or to Court Order. If your attorney is a reactive one, then your case will linger for much longer, unnecessarily.
This is not to say you should be in a rush to resolve your case. On the contrary, you want to be patient, intentional and careful through every step of the way. BUT, there is a difference between that and simply letting a case drag on due to lack of action.