The Timeline of Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
While most personal injury claims will be settled out of court within the first 9-18 months, some claims will require that a lawsuit is filed to attempt to resolve the matter.
When wondering what a personal injury lawsuit timeline is, keep in mind that just like fingerprints, no two cases are exactly alike. Many things that you encounter along the way will be specific to your case, so comparing an MVA to a Products Liability case is truly like comparing apples to oranges.
The complexity of your case, the extent of your injuries, the number and type of defendants, and the number of expert witnesses involved will all play a role in how long it takes to get your case from inception through trial.
While many cases resolve once in litigation by reaching a voluntary settlement, not all do, and if that is the case for you, do not be discouraged. Our trial teams are seasoned professionals who are ready to answer your questions and see your case through.
While each jurisdiction has its own rules, lawsuits generally proceed through 3 major steps:
Numerous guidelines are in place through various levels of the court system that govern each of these steps and set timelines for each party to respond, which is designed to allow the parties sufficient time to respond and learn all of the information necessary to move to the next step. Still, these timelines also serve to keep the case moving along the way.
Below is a birds-eye view of each of the three major steps:
Pleadings are formal documents that are filed with the court.
Each party files pleadings that explain their position/side regarding the dispute.
Petitions & Complaints
A lawsuit begins with the filing of a Petition or Complaint by the injured party(ies), which are referred to as Plaintiff(s) against the person/people/entity or entities that caused the injuries, which are commonly referred to as Defendant(s).
Once the Petition or Complaint is filed, a summons is served upon the Defendant(s). That summons alerts them that the lawsuit has been filed, provides them with a copy, and identifies the amount of time allotted by the law for them to respond to the claims. The Defendant(s) responds by filing what is referred to as their Answer.
The discovery phase is the longest phase of litigation.
After initial pleadings have been filed, the case enters the discovery phase. This is the point during which questions commonly referred to as interrogatories and requests for production of documents are exchanged between the parties so that each side may gather the knowledge necessary to proceed.
The variable length of the discovery process is a large part of why we encourage our clients not to compare their case to others. Many factors come into play as to how long the discovery phase can take. For instance, if there are only two parties to a lawsuit, this part of the process will likely be sufficiently faster than one with eight to ten parties involved.
Once the initial paper discovery has taken place, the discovery phase moves into depositions.
A deposition is where you sit down with your personal injury attorney and the other parties’ attorney, and you answer questions under oath, just as you would in court. This questioning is recorded and sometimes videotaped by certified court reporters.
Depositions allow you to tell your side of the story and are a vital tool utilized to learn more about the facts of the case, what each party or witness says happened, and the opinions of any experts from each side.
An expert’s support is often needed to explain technical information to the parties and the jury to validate an argument. In some instances, multiple experts are necessary because as the term implies, experts are usually an expert on one particular area.
At Brown & Crouppen, we work closely with expert witnesses, including accident reconstructionists, medical experts, vocational experts, mechanical engineers, and numerous others.
As your case nears the end of the discovery phase, we begin to prepare for trial.
In a bench trial, a judge makes the decisions, whereas a jury trial allows your case to be presented to a body of people referred to as a jury, typically consisting of 12 members.
Before a trial commences, the parties often file motions (legal pleadings) that ask the court to rule whether certain things can come into evidence at the trial. These usually pertain to facts in the case and are law-based arguments that a Judge can resolve before the trial.
As your legal team prepares your case for trial, they carefully consider the motions that will be necessary in your case and will file motions as well as reply to any motions filed by the other side.
Some trials will be a single day, while more complex cases with multiple parties may take upwards of two to three weeks.
The best resource when it comes to your personal injury lawsuit timeline is your legal team. Here at Brown & Crouppen, we strive to ensure we put forth the best case possible for you and encourage our clients to reach out to us with any questions they may have along the way. Contact us now for a free personal injury lawsuit consultation.
Mary Frances Broughman is an experienced Litigation Paralegal with Brown & Crouppen, working in the Complex Personal Injury Department. Ms. Broughman attended Virginia Western and has worked in the legal field for over two decades, focusing on a variety of practice types. This variety allowed her to develop a unique skill set that empowers her to focus and thrive in complex litigation.