Legal proceedings can take nearly forever, and often feel as though they are taking longer than it should. If you are involved in a lawsuit, it is helpful to know what comes next so there are no surprises. Here is a rough outline of a typical personal injury lawsuit. Talk with your lawyers to make sure you are always on the same page as well.
Suit is filed by attorneys sometime after the date of the accident. Summons is issued and served on the defendant. The defendant then has anywhere between 20 and 30 days to file an answer or otherwise plead to the lawsuit.
Case Management Conference
In the more populated counties where it seems there’s an endless backlog of cases, a case management conference is usually set for a 3 to 4 month date after filing of suit. The case management conference is a scheduling conference and, amongst other deadlines, a trial date is set. The attorneys are expected to comply with the deadlines. Sometimes they’re unable to comply with these dates due to circumstances out of their control and dates are extended.
On a national basis, cases are ordinarily scheduled for trial 14-16 months after date of filing of lawsuit. Bench trials without a jury might be scheduled sooner.
The lion’s share of accident cases settle without the necessity of a trial. Some of them are even dismissed without any compensation being exchanged. Settlements can be reached any time before, or even during, trial.
Delayed or Continued Trials
Trials are sometimes continued for good cause. One of those reasons being that the court simply cannot hear a trial on the scheduled date because no judges are available as they’re hearing other cases. When that happens, there’s usually a 2 to 4 month continuance and the continued case is given a higher priority on the court’s next trial call.
Trial and Payment
If and when a case does go to trial, the typical trial in an accident case will take 3-5 days, depending on the number of witnesses and doctors that are scheduled to testify. Assuming plaintiff prevails and an award is given, follow up work takes 3-4 weeks with preparation and exchange of releases and issuance of final check. When final check is received by plaintiff’s attorney, it is signed off on and deposited into the attorney’s client trust account. After a short few days when funds transfer, the attorney then makes all final disbursements in accordance with a written settlement statement.
With all of these steps, a personal injury lawsuit lasts a total of 15 to 17 months without continuances. Remember that you are in a marathon, not a sprint. Relax as much as you can and let your suit consume your personal injury lawyers’ lives, not your own.