So your personal injury lawyer has told you settlement is not a possibility and the case is going into litigation. What does that mean? Most clients have no idea. As a result, below we set forth 4 tips to help better understand what to expect in the litigation process.
Tip One: Complaint / Answer
The process begins with your lawyer discussing with you what to sue for. Once this is decided a Complaint is filed in the appropriate Court for a certain amount. You are the Plaintiff, the other side, which is known as the Defendant, must then file an Answer. In most instances, once the Defendant is served with the Complaint he files a general denial to the allegations.
Tip Two: Discovery / Motions
The next phase of litigation involves discovery and motions. Discovery generally consists of questions called Interrogatories that must be answered and document requests for medical records, etc. Depositions where witnesses and parties giving testimony at one of the lawyers offices also occurs. Motions involve many different aspects of the law and often involve evidentiary matters. Many motion issues involve an attempt to exclude certain evidence.
Tip Three: Settlement / Mediation
Once discovery is over the parties generally can exchange in meaningful settlement negotiations. Often this is done just between the lawyers themselves. However, in some jurisdictions including Prince George’s County, the Court may order the two sides to try and resolve the case before a neutral third party appointed by the Court. Many personal injury cases settle at this stage.
Tip Four: Trial
Cases that don’t settle go to trial. Your attorney should properly prepare you to testify days before the trial. If the amount sued for was $15,000 or less, it will be a quick trial in front of a Judge in Hyattsville or Waldorf. If the amount sued for was for $30,000 or more the case will be tried in front of a Jury of six people in Waldorf, Maryland.