What Happens After You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A lot happens between filing a personal injury lawsuit and your trial date. Below is a brief and general overview.
A Complaint Begins a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Complaint – A complaint begins a lawsuit. It notifies the defendant(s) and the Court of your desire sue. A complaint outlines the defendant(s)’ alleged wrongdoing and your injuries.
Return Date – Every lawsuit in Connecticut has a return date. It is always a Tuesday set several weeks after the lawsuit is actually filed. The parties do not appear at this date. It starts the clock running.
Appearance – The defendant files an appearance after the return date. An appearance alerts the Court, and your attorney, who will be opposing your claims.
Responsive Pleading Stage of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Motions to Strike/Dismiss– A defendant can file a number of motions that seek to dismiss, strike, or clarify portions of your lawsuit. This post will not explores these various motions. These motions must be responded to, and have the potential to delay the progress of your case.
Answer – The defendant files an answer in response to the complaint’s allegations. An answer addresses the allegations paragraph by paragraph. The defendant, for each paragraph, responds with an admission, denial, or some variation of “leave the plaintiff to his/her proof”. The defendant can also notify the court of their defenses. A defendant also may file a counterclaim. A counterclaim is when a defendant files a lawsuit against you for your alleged wrongdoing.
Reply – A reply is your response to any defenses or counterclaims raised by the defendant.
Scheduling Order – While not a pleading, the Court often demands that one be filed. A scheduling order is, as the name implies, a schedule submitted to the Court designed to force the attorneys to act timely.
Discovery Stage of Personal Injury Lawsuit
Discovery – Discovery is the fact finding portion of a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury attorney use a number of techniques to gather information. The most common are 1) interrogatories, 2) requests for production, and 3) depositions. Interrogatories are a series of written questions submitted to the parties for response. Requests for production are a demand for production of documents/items. Depositions are live testimony, under oath, given before a court reporter.
Judicial Intervention in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Pre-trial conference – A pre-trial conference is a meeting with a judge to discuss the case, the progress of discovery, and the possibility of resolution. Trial attorneys grow myopic as they approach a trial date, therefore the judge will often use a pre-trial conference to point out a case’s relative strengths and weaknesses.
Trail Management Conference – A judge holds a trial management conference approximately one to two weeks before the trial begins. The conference narrows the issues and evidence to be offered at trial.
Jury Selection – The attorneys question potential jurors individually. For jury selection in a personal injury lawsuit, the judge is usually not present. The attorneys do their best to pick a jury that will favor their theory of the case, or at the least, pick a jury that doesn’t harbor any biases towards their client.
Trial – Attorneys present the evidence they gathered during discover to the judge and/or jury. Documents are submitted, and witnesses, which may include the parties, medical professionals, police officers, and/or others testify. The attorneys question the witnesses about their testimony. Once done, the case is submitted to the jury for consideration.
From start to finish, this process usually takes more than a year. Be aware that the timeline varies from Courthouse to Courthouse.