The Major Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you have been hurt in an accident that someone else caused, then you may already be looking into your options for seeking compensation. Depending on a variety of factors, you may likely be working with an insurance company, or you are in communication with a legal team who is representing the defendant. Regardless, it is important that you have your own lawyer who can lead you through this complicated and overwhelming process so that you can leverage their legal and technical know-how while you focus on your own personal recovery.
Once you have teamed up with a lawyer, they will be able to guide you through every step of the way; however, the following is an idea of what you can expect if your case must go to the courts. Keep in mind, though, that many personal injury cases are resolved through settlement negotiations, meaning that you may never need to go down this path. Another thing to consider, though, is that many personal injury lawyers are NOT trial lawyers, so if you are unable to reach a settlement, you may need to find a different attorney to help you with this final, important step. Personal Injury Lawyer Richard Morse in San Diego is a trial-ready personal injury attorney who can help you from start to finish.
Step 1: Filing Your Complaint
For a lawsuit to begin, there needs to be an official complaint submitted to the courts. Once you have submitted your complaint, the defendant will receive a summons that informs them of the complaint, and provides all of the information submitted in the complaint such as the resolution you are seeking.
Step 2: Defendant Answers the Complaint
Within a certain amount of time (set by the courts and included in the summons), the defendant will need to respond to the complaint. They will be able to admit or deny the allegations, provide defenses against specifics in the complaint, and possibly even file their own counterclaim.
Step 3: The Discovery Phase
Once the lawsuit has been registered, the defendant and plaintiff will go through the discovery phase, where both legal teams will be able to obtain information from each other. There are a variety of methods for gathering information in this step, including depositions, medical exams, specific questions submitted directly to each party, and requests for evidence of certain details.
Step 4: Motions
After the discovery period is concluded, each party will have an opportunity to submit a motion: these motions may even be for the case to be dismissed in certain instances.
Step 5: Negotiations
Another benefit of the discovery phase is that oftentimes very compelling information emerges that can help to drive a negotiation, even if you and your attorney had attempted settlement negotiations before even filing a lawsuit. At this point, one or both parties may see the writing on the wall and hope to get out of the lawsuit before a trial.
Step 6: Trial
If you are unable to reach an agreement during negotiations, then the next step is to go to trial. During the trial, there are many steps that you will need to go through that we won't get into here. Luckily, you have an attorney who can guide you through the entire process so that you are maximizing your chance of a positive outcome. Trial lawyers designate themselves as such because this is such a complex process that many personal injury lawyers simply choose to focus their energies on settlements so while others focus on only handling trials.
Step 7: Judgment
At this point, you and the defendant will have each submitted all of your evidence and arguments to the courts, and the judge or jury will then use this information to make a final decision. However, if you do not agree with the judgment then you will have an opportunity to file an appeal, at which point you will essentially go back to step 1.