What Happens after Your Personal Injury Lawsuit Is Filed?

By Randy Turner

Cases usually settle without a lawsuit

Most personal injury claims are settled without the necessity of a lawsuit being filed.  After working up the case, the law firm representing the injured person is usually able to negotiate a settlement with the other side that is satisfactory to all parties.  A settlement agreement is signed, a check is issued (usually by an insurance company) and the case is concluded.  Sometimes, however, it is not possible to settle, either because the other side disputes that they were at fault or because a dollar amount cannot be agreed upon.  When this happens the only option is to file a lawsuit.

Written discovery

The first thing that usually happens after a lawsuit is filed is “written discovery.”  Here, each side sends the other written questions (“interrogatories”) that must be answered under oath.  Both sides also request copies of documents that may be relevant to the case.  These documents can include medical records and bills, employment records, vehicle or equipment records, witness statements, photographs, repair bills, company safety records and procedures, and anything else that may be relevant to the case.

Depositions

After written discovery is completed the attorneys often take depositions of the parties and anyone else who may know something relevant to the case.  In a deposition, a person is placed under oath and the attorneys ask questions while a court reporter takes everything down.  Depositions can be videotaped and sometimes last for several hours.  The main purpose of a deposition is for the attorneys to find out what the person is going to testify to before that person gets on the witness stand at trial.  As the plaintiff, you will typically be asked about your education, employment history, personal life, job, health background, extracurricular activities, the accident, your injuries and how they affect you, and your medical treatment.  By filing a personal injury lawsuit, many private aspects of your life will be opened up to scrutiny and discussion.  Although there are some limitations to the types of questions that may be asked, a deposition can be very intrusive.

Trial

Before your case goes to trial, there is a good chance it will first go to mediation.  Mediation is an informal meeting between all of the parties and a neutral mediator in which settlement negotiations take place.  Many cases settle at mediation.  If a lawsuit is not settled, it can take several months and, in some cases, one or more years before the case actually goes to trial.  The length of time will depend on which county and court the lawsuit is filed in and how complex the case is.  After the case goes to trial and a verdict is reached, there is a possibility that it will be appealed to a higher court by the losing side.  If the case is appealed, it can take months or even years before it is finally resolved.

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