Once you speak with a lawyer about the complexity of your case, you must make a decision on whether or not to file a lawsuit immediately or endeavor to settle your case at some point prior to formal litigation. If you decide to file a lawsuit, there are different deadlines and procedures you must adhere to:
To file a law suit, papers must be filed in court and a fee must be paid. These papers are called a “Complaint or Summons and Complaint.” The person who files the lawsuit is called the plaintiff, and the company or person being sued is the defendant. You are allotted a certain amount of time from date of the accident to file and serve a copy of the Summons and Complaint to the defendant. This is called the statute of limitations. Claims against a government entity must, normally, be filed within a much shorter period of time or you may lose your right to do so. You should consult with an attorney as soon as possible after being injured to insure your rights are fully protected.
It is important to allow yourself enough time to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations or claims filing deadline. Waiting too long can jeopardize your case resulting in it being dismissed. Click here to read about a case that is currently dealing with issues of these limitations.
You should retain an attorney as soon as possible as many attorneys will refuse to accept your case if there is not enough time to investigate and file a timely lawsuit.
Once the case is filed with the court and the defendant is served, the discovery process begins. Discovery is the exchange of information and evidence that may be used in trial. It will include sending and responding to interrogatories that are relevant to the case. Requests for documents and retrieving materials relevant to the case are also a part of the discovery phase. Medical records, work history and financial records are allowed to be accessed by either side.
Depositions are a part of discovery. Depositions are face-to-face meetings with a party, witnesses, experts, family/friends, etc. where questions are asked under oath, and a reporter documents the session. This information can be referenced in trial so it is essential to prepare for your deposition with your attorney.
The discovery phase can take months or even years before it ends. Settlement discussions may occur if both sides want to resolve the case before a trial. Both parties will, many times, consent to participate in a Mediation process where a professional Mediator attempts to assist the parties to resolve the case prior to trial. Proper trial documents must be filed within 30 to 60 days before the trial date, depending on the state. These documents can include motions, trial memorandums, jury instructions and exhibit lists.
Most of the above information is discussed with your lawyer during your case, but I thought it would be relevant information for those thinking about pursuing a lawsuit. Berglund & Johnson has a very high success rate in resolving cases prior to trial because we are very prepared and utilize state-of-the-art litigation and courtroom techniques.