Litigation and Lawsuit Stage of a Case
Litigation & Lawsuit: This is the stage where suit is filed, and your lawyer starts dealing directly with their lawyer. This process begins when your lawyer signs some paperwork and sends it to the court clerks to open a file. This stage can be divided into several sub-stages. Sometimes these stages overlap, and may occur at different times but generally follow in this order:
FILING SUIT: a suit is filed with the court clerk’s. A judge is normally assigned and a cause number given to the file. A suit consists of papers informing the court and the defendant the nature of your claims.
SERVICE: After suit is filed, the court issues papers that tell the defendant to answer the lawsuit. This is given to either a sheriff, constable, or a process server. One of those three goes and finds the defendant and traditionally puts the papers in his hand. Most of the time, this take just a few days or weeks, but if a defendant is hard to locate, it could take months, or in very rare instances, years.
ANSWER: once the defendant gets served, he has, depending on the rules in the court or state where the case was filed, a few days, typically 20 to 30 days, to answer. He normally answers by filing written papers with the court denying your claims and giving a copy to your lawyer. If he does not answer, you may take a default against him or her.
DISCOVERY: this is the most time consuming part of the case, and after the answer is filed, it can continue right into the time of trial. WRITTEN DISCOVERY: It almost always begin with written discovery, usually called interrogatories (which is legalese for written questions), requests for production (which request you to turn over documents, pictures, and the like), and may include some other general information you have to provide by the rules. Another type of written discovery is requests for admissions, which is require you to admit or deny what you will claim at trial.
DEPOSITIONS: usually after written discovery is exchanged, your lawyer and the other lawyer arrange to take depositions. A deposition is a live question and answer sessions. The other lawyer will usually come to your lawyers office and ask a bunch of questions about your case. There will be a court reporter present who will type down every question and every answer. When the questioning is done, the reporter will send a written copy to both lawyers. This is one of the most important parts of your case process. The most important thing is DO NOT LIE, and be real careful about remembering past injuries and claims. If you are caught lying, the value of your case will plummet, and do not think you will not be caught. More information is available on you than you probably know about yourself, so if you forget a prior claim, there is probably a record of it somewhere, and a lawyer can issue a subpoena to prove you did not disclose it.
DOCUMENT DISCOVERY: all along, the other side and lawyer, will often request documents from others. In some cases, the opposing lawyer may request medical records that you have incurred as a result of this case, or other cases. This may be done by authorization to get that information, or by subpoena.
INVESTIGATION: the investigation stage that started right after the injury, can continue right into trial. Additional witnesses may be located, and then later called to trial. So, during the discovery period, both parties may do additional investigation to gather more evidence. You can help by making sure your lawyer knows all potentially helpful and harmful facts about your case. Another helpful thing to do is give your lawyer a list of potential witnesses telling him what each could testify about. Be sure to include friends and family who could testify to how badly you were hurt and what you have had to do to overcome your injuries.
NEGOTIATION AND SETTLEMENT: There was probably a period just before suit was filed that negotiations fell apart. Through the discovery process, both side will learn more about your case. This may spark more negotiations, and hopefully your case will settle. If not, many courts will order the case to mediation, which is the next step.
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