Stages of a Lawsuit – Part 2
We’ve talked about the early stages of a personal injury case and what happens before a lawsuit is filed; now negotiation has failed, what happens next?
Injury Law News brought to you by the SE Farris Law Firm.
I’m Spencer Farris, a St. Louis personal injury lawyer, and a partner at The S.E. Farris Law Firm.
Often times negotiations with insurance companies don’t work and if the insurance company won’t be reasonable, your attorney will have to push them to the next stage. That’s filing of a lawsuit.
If the insurance company won’t be reasonable your lawyer has to start a lawsuit. The lawsuit starts when a petition is filed. A petition sets out who hurt you, and who you are of course, and what happened. Once those papers or served, or delivered to the wrongdoer by the Sheriff, the lawsuit is started. And in Missouri, even though the insurance company is in control, they are seldom the one sued. We always have to serve the person who hurt you. After the defendant is served with the lawsuit, they filed what’s called an answer where they tell the court the reasons that they don’t believe their responsible for your damages.
The next stage of the lawsuit process is called Discovery. Discovery consists of two factors, the first is written discovery where each side sends the other questions to be answered under oath so that facts can be gathered, statements can be gathered and so on and each party can learn a little bit about the case. The other part of discovery is called Request for Production, and in those situations documents are exchanged, or video tapes, surveillance, and those kinds of things if they exist. Requests to produce also allow a party to inspect cars or property or other items that are involved in the lawsuit.
After written discovery is started, and probably completed, each party will sit for a deposition in which the lawyers get to ask the parties what happened and what they know about the case.
LAWSUITS TAKE TIME
This process doesn’t happen quickly, remember it takes 30 days after the petition is filed before an answer is due. It then takes some time to get written discovery out to each side and there’s another 30 days period to answer those questions and produce documents. And again, there may be delays along the way. Depositions are set up and people’s schedules come into question, and when everyone is available, depositions go forward. So, it may well be six months to a year from the start of a lawsuit just to get through the deposition process.
After discovery, the next step of the process is the trial. Don’t be alarmed, about ninety, maybe ninety-five percent, of all cases settle before trial, sometimes on the courthouse steps. You may get a trial date when your lawsuit is filed, you may get it at some point along the way, and don’t be concerned if the first trial setting is continued or delayed, it’s very common in the law that multiple cases will be set the same day for trial and the oldest case goes out first. So if it doesn’t settle, the cases that are not as old have to wait their turn.
Hopefully after trial your case is over, but not necessarily. Sometimes case are appealed because there’s an error in the law or something didn’t happen as it should. All in all this process can take months or even years to get from beginning to end. If you’ve hired the right lawyer and law firm, you’re guided through this process with expert care and the experience that is necessary for you to be successful at the end of your injury case.
If you have questions about an injury; if you have questions about a lawsuit, contact my office at the number or the web site at the bottom of the screen. I’m happy to visit with you without cost or obligation.
The SE Farris Law firm is dedicated to needs of injury victims and their families.