Personal Injury Lawyer
A question many attorneys get in almost every personal injury consultation is “What happens next?” This is an excellent question and most attorneys like to take the time to explain the litigation process to clients. Though each state is different, below our friends at Fowler St. Clair PLLC provide a general overview.
The first thing to happen in a lawsuit is the Plaintiff (the injured party) files what is called a Complaint. The Complaint explains what happened and why you are filing the lawsuit. The Complaint must be “served” on the Defendant. There are different ways this can occur but typically your attorney will hire someone to take it to the Defendant. After the Defendant is served, she or he gets a certain amount of time to respond to the Complaint. The time limit is set by statute. The Defendant typically files an “Answer” admitting or denying aspects of the Complaint. After this, you get into the discovery process.
Generally speaking, discovery consists of two parts: written and spoken. Written discovery is where the insurance company will request your medical records and have you respond to written questions. In general, you get approximately a month to respond to those questions. After you provide your response, the insurance company’s attorney may have follow up questions or you may move to spoken discovery.
Spoken discovery is just what it sounds like. You will have to sit in front of the insurance company’s attorney and answer questions. Those questions will be based on your responses to the written discovery, including but not limited to your medical records. This process is called a deposition. Your attorney will likely meet with you prior to the deposition to prepare you and will defend you in the deposition.
Discovery is the most time-consuming portion of the litigation process. Depending on the severity of your injuries, it could take anywhere from a few months to potentially over a year plus. When meeting with an attorney for the first time, it is important to ask for an estimate of how long discovery will take in your case.
Alternative Dispute Resolution and Settlement Negotiations
There are different names for the next step, but it can be categorized as Alternative Dispute Resolution. In this process, you will meet with a third party to try and resolve your case with the insurance company. As previously stated, different states do things differently but Alternative Dispute Resolution is something you typically see in litigation.
Depending on how badly you were hurt, your personal injury attorney may decide meeting with a third-party is not the best option and simply engaging in settlement discussions with opposing counsel is more efficient. You should discuss the best ways to resolve your dispute with your attorney and ask any questions you have. Alternative Dispute Resolution is the last time you are in control of your case before you turn it over to a jury to decide.
The last step in a typical lawsuit is the trial. The length of trial will depend on many factors including your injuries. At the trial, you will likely testify in front of the jury and have to answer questions from the insurance company’s attorney, like you did at your deposition. Your attorney will prepare you for what to expect at trial and you should not hesitate to ask any questions.
This has been a brief, general overview of the litigation process. Not every case is the same and this article just scratches the surface of the litigation process. Litigation can take years to resolve so it is important to remember to be patient and always maintain communication with your attorney.