What Happens in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If you have been injured and believe you have a solid personal injury case, you may be wondering what exactly happens with this type of lawsuit. While the ultimate course will depend on the individual circumstances of your case, there is a general set of steps that takes place. Here is an overview of what to expect when filing a lawsuit of this nature.

Meeting with a Lawyer

The first step in filing a personal injury lawsuit is obviously determining if there is a case. When meeting with a lawyer, he will ask detailed questions about your injury and how it occurred. If he believes that you have a case for negligence, he will suggest filing a lawsuit. He will draw up papers that will serve as the basis for the suit, called a ‘’complaint.’’

Filing of the Suit

The lawyer will file the suit with the appropriate court. At this point, the defendant will get served with documents notifying the party that a suit has been filed; typically, the papers are served within 30 to 60 days, with most cases occurring within a month. Once the defendant receives the papers, they have 30 days to file a response; there is an additional 15 day grace period that is often requested.


Once the defendant has answered the papers, both sides get very busy gathering information about the case. Within about two months, each side sends the other a set of questions –officially termed interrogatories– to be answered; typically, a response must be received within a month. Your attorney will be finding out as much as he can about the defendant and the defendant’s attorney will be finding out as much about you and the injury as he can. Within about six months from the filing of the case, depositions will take place—this is like informal testimony where each party, as well as experts and other witnesses will be answering questions by the other side’s attorney, while being recorded by a court reporter. Each side will share all the information gathered with the other. During this time, there may be motions filed, such as the request to suppress certain testimony or even dismiss the case altogether.


In most instances, the court will request at least one mediation session to see if the case can be settled out of court; from the moment the suit is filed, it is possible that the lawyers have been going back and forth trying to reach a settlement. Essentially, a settlement can be reached any time, even if a trial has been set. If your attorney has a particularly strong reputation for winning personal injury cases, the defendant may be more amenable to a settlement rather than spending large sums of money on a trial, only to pay out the same or even more money from a jury award.

Going to Trial

If out-of-court negotiations have been unsuccessful, a court date will be set. This could be many months from now, and it is possible that during this time, there still may be calls to try and settle the case.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about various legal topics; if you are in need of a personal injury attorney in the Chicago area, she recommends this Cook County injury attorney.