For many clients who have personal injury lawsuits, it is the first time they’ve ever had to sue anyone. Their attorney can answer many of their questions, but often times they do this as cases go along. Because of this, clients don’t always know what to expect with their lawsuit from the start. I’m here today to try to shed a little light on the legal process.
DISCLAIMER: The following should not be construed as legal advice; it is designed to help many clients know what to expect. It is not true of every case. Some states and counties have different rules, vocabulary, and timeline.
THE ACCIDENT HAPPENS
This can be anything from a motor vehicle accident to a slip and fall to a medical malpractice case to the diagnosis of a condition caused by a faulty drug.
CLIENT HIRES AN ATTORNEY
Speak to an attorney to make sure he or she has your best interest in mind. You will need to sign a retainer hiring that attorney to handle your case.
THE ATTORNEY COLLECTS DOCUMENTS ABOUT YOUR CASE
These documents can include medical reports, police or incident reports, insurance information, expert testimony, and/or additional documents.
This is probably the earliest time a funding company would consider your case. Exceptions can be made and we can consider some cases before this – call to see if yours qualifies.
THE ATTORNEY TRIES TO SETTLE THE CASE BEFORE FILING A COMPLAINT
The attorney will be in constant contact with the defendant’s attorney to try to resolve the claim without having to file suit. Some insurance companies are more open to discussing a settlement than others. If the attorney can’t settle it at this point, that does NOT mean you have a bad case. It’s common for insurance companies to want to try a case.
THE ATTORNEY SUBMITS A DEMAND
The attorney will send a formal document saying how much money they are demanding to settle the case. This is NOT necessarily how much your case is with.
If your attorney submits a demand for $1 million, it’s dangerous to expect to receive $1 million on your case. Having realistic expectations is helpful because if the insurance company does make a reasonable settlement offer that is less than the demand, it may be worth accepting. Always consult with your attorney to see if a settlement offer is reasonable. They’ve likely done this far longer than you.
THE ATTORNEY FILES A SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT
This is when the lawsuit is officially launched. Since the case could not be settled between the two parties, it is now going to go to court to determine the outcome. The complaint lists out all the claims that the plaintiff is making.
Note: there is a certain period of time in each state when a complaint has to be filed by. You can see the different Statutes of Limitations for each state HERE.
THE DEFENDANT ANSWERS THE COMPLAINT
The defendant’s attorney will need to file their own response within a certain time frame. Often this is only a matter of weeks. They will respond and acknowledge for which (of any) of the plaintiff’s claims the defendant admits fault.
THE DISCOVERY PERIOD
This is when both sides exchange information (medical information, insurance declarations, etc). This is also when either interrogatories (written question-and-answers) or depositions (statements taken in court) take place. Some states do one, other states do the other.
In SOME cases, now would be the time the two sides try to come to a settlement by using an outside party like a mediator or an arbitrator. Not all cases do this, and even if it is attempted, it doesn’t always result in a settlement.
If the case hasn’t settled yet, and it hasn’t been dismissed (there are many reasons a case could be dismissed before this point), the attorneys will present their evidence to convince a jury to give a settlement in their client’s favor. The judge will take the jury’s decision and order a Judgment be entered in whichever party’s favor the jury decided.
If one side wins but the other side feels it was unjust, or too high a verdict, or that some evidence wasn’t heard, they can appeal the decision. This will send the case back into court. Sometimes the verdict is changed, sometimes it is upheld.
If you are a plaintiff and the defendant was awarded a verdict and you are appealing it, most funding companies will not consider your case until the judge rules on the appeal. You can call us to see if your case falls into that category.
If the plaintiff wins, they will receive their judgment after some period of time. This can be a few weeks to close to a year depending on many factors.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
– At any point during this process, a case can settle. The defendant can see that the writing is on the wall and they could make a reasonable offer that you accept.
– At any point in this process, a case can be dismissed. There are many technical reasons a case can be dismissed, from missed statutes to the defendant’s failure to respond to a complaint. Your lawyer can give you a better idea of what happened if your case is dismissed.
– While the above is a template for many cases, some don’t fit this mold at all. If your case has followed a very different path, assume that your attorney is correct. This is only a rough guide.
As you can see, a lawsuit can take a long time. Insurance companies try to stretch cases out to try to bleed the client dry so they will accept a much lower settlement. A pre-settlement loan may be the answer to level the playing field. Call us or fill out an online application to start the process today.