Filing A Lawsuit
If we are not able to reach a settlement with the insurance company, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. This is a decision that will be made together. However, before we file a lawsuit, I will explain to you the pros and cons and the lawsuit will not be filed until I obtain your permission. Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is still always possible. Negotiations continue and only a small percentage of lawsuits actually go to trial.
The following is a general timeline of filing a lawsuit:
- A Complaint (a document that sets out the allegations of negligence and injuries) is filed against the at-fault party in the county where he/she resides. The person who files the Complaint is the plaintiff (you). The at-fault person is called the defendant.
- Once the lawsuit is filed, a Judge is assigned to hear the case.
- The defendant must be personally served with a copy of the Complaint.
- Once served, the defendant has 30 days to file an Answer responding to the allegations. The answer sets out all the reasons why the defendant is not at fault and why he/she should not be responsible for your injuries.
- Once the Answer is filed, both sides have six (6) months to “discover” facts concerning the opposing party’s case. Normal discovery proceedings include interrogatories (written questions that must be answered under oath), depositions (verbal questions that must be answered under oath), production of documents, and sometimes medical examinations.
- For medical malpractice cases and complex cases with multiple parties, the discovery period is often extended to 12 months or more.
- At the end of the discovery period, the case is placed on the Judge’s next available civil trial calendar.
- Depending on how many cases are in front of you on the Judge’s calendar and how often the Judge hears civil cases, it can take anywhere from 1- 12 months for your case to reach the No. 1 position where your case is called into trial.
- Overall, it generally takes about 12 to 24 months to get a case to trial.
- There are occasions when the parties will agree to try to resolve the dispute through mediation. This is when the parties meet with an independent third person, usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge, who will try to work the the parties to negotiate a resolution of the case. Most Judges order the parties to mediation before they will put your case on their trial calendar.