Every person’s case is different: this is a general overview of D’Amore Law Group’s process for filing a lawsuit for damages.
A lawsuit is usually filed if once it is determined that your claim cannot be resolved through negotiation. See What to Expect: Stages of a Personal Injury Claim: you and your lawyer should discuss if filing a lawsuit is in your best interest.
1. The Complaint
Your case will be detailed in a legal document known as a “Complaint,” The complaint is filed with the court.
You are the “plaintiff,” and the person or company responsible for your injuries is the “defendant.”
The defendant is provided with a summons, or notification, of the complaint. The defendant should must to the complaint by filing a court document known as an “answer.”
2. Discovery and Depositions
When a defendant and his/her insurance company receive notice of the complaint, an insurance company attorney will step in to represent the defendant.
Then, the attorneys begin the process of “discovery,” which is the process of exchanging information and documentation about your claim.
You may be asked for documentation that you do not think is related, but your attorney may need it as part of the process of exchanging information.
There may also be recorded or videotaped statements taken from you, the defendant, and any important witnesses or other parties. These statements are known as “depositions,” and your attorney will help you prepare for yours. This is typically the only time the defense attorney gets to ask you questions, and can be a crucial step in the process.
Some courts require the plaintiff and defendant attempt to reach a settlement before moving forward with a trial. Often, a judge or neutral third-party reviews the case and meets with all parties to see if it can be settled by agreement.
4. Mediation, Arbitration, or Judicial Settlement Conference
In a pretrial conference, a judge will meet with the attorneys and review schedules. The court selects a trial date, and a different judge may be assigned to hear the case.
Getting a court date can sometimes be a challenge due to court scheduling demands. As a result, it may be two to five years after your injury before you are granted a trial date.
Your lawyer will discuss trial preparation with you.
Only a small percentage of cases go to trial, and some will settle before or during the trial instead of going to verdict.
6. Disbursal and closing process
When your case is resolved, either by settlement or trial, your personal injury lawyer should prepare a full accounting of the funds and present it to you for review and approval.
The law firm will process payments—“disburse”—to your medical providers or other lien holders. Your attorney’s fees, and the costs the office advanced on your behalf, will be taken out of the settlement or verdict funds.
This process involves a lot of communication with insurance companies and providers. It can take several months to complete.
This is only an overview of the personal injury lawsuit process: your case may be different.