When is my court date and how long does a lawsuit take anyway?
Well the true answer is: it depends. If you have filed in small claims court those are typically run on an expedited docket with no discovery and a prearranged hearing date typically found on the petition or the paperwork that has been filed with the courthouse. If it is your typical civil lawsuit,
There are two sides to every story.Remember, no matter how *right* you are, there is always another side to ever story and every lawsuit. Yes, you probably do think that the other driver was reckless and changed lanes out of nowhere, that your doctor was an incompetent nitwit, and your contractor was negligent beyond belief. However, the law will presume there is another side to the story. Perhaps, you were staying the driver*s blind spot and texting while driving. Maybe, the doctor wasn*t incompetent, but you were much more ill than anyone could have foreseen. Whatever the other side may be, it exists, and the justice system will presume that it exists.
The Justice system has built-in breaks and delaysSince there are two sides to every story, the justice system has built-in breaks and delays. For example, in Oklahoma once served with a petition, the Defendant has 20 days to respond but this isn*t the end of the matter. Often times, a defendant will sit on his lawsuit and won*t go to an attorney until the 20 days are nearly up. Typically, the lawyer once retained may file what*s called an Entry of Appearance and Reservation of Time which notifies the court that the Defendant has retained counsel and allows an additional 20 days for the attorney to prepare an answer. This built-in time delay is just one of many examples which the justice system has in place to give everyone a *fair shake* so to speak.
Discovery needs to take place.Once all parties have answered the parties may now engage it what is called discovery. They will typically subpoena documents, send written requests for admissions or questions to the other side, interview witnesses, depose parties or witnesses, hire experts, and basically build their case. Remember: every case has at least two sides and while the attorneys will be skilled in the law they will have no clue about the facts of the case and the evidence that is there until discovery has been completed. This phase can take three months to several years depending upon the complexity of the case.
For example, a simple and straightforward car wreck case with only two individual parties and basic injuries and damages probably won*t have a lot of discovery outside of witnesses and medical bills and records. You only need so many witnesses to prove who ran a red light and what injuries were caused. On the other hand, a six-car pileup involving two or more commercial vehicles, extensive injuries and preexisting conditions as well as weather related issues are going to be much more complex and involve more parties and complex theories of liability.
A construction defect claim can be even more complicated still requiring the hiring of expert engineers and multiple parties such as contractors and subcontractors. The more people involved in the case, the more complicated it becomes and thus the longer and more expensive the case becomes.
Further, discovery deadlines will come into play with their own set of extensions and rules. Additionally, parties may oppose discovery of certain documents and the parties will have to have a hearing in front of a judge or discovery master to determine if, when, and how they obtain the discovery they are seeking.
The system is very busyRemember, your case is not the only case in the system. It*s not the only case the judge has, or your attorney or the other side*s attorney. All of these individuals are people with complicated and busy schedules that require maneuvering to get everything scheduled. Court dates for discovery hearings are dependent upon the judge*s docket as well as the schedules of all the attorneys. Further once rulings are made, there are often specific time periods in which the documents are to be delivered so again everyone has a fair chance to produce what they have and should produce.
Sometimes the parties are not forthcoming with discovery the judge is required to make additional rulings. All of this takes time an abundance of time.
Overall expect your case to take some time. Keep regularly in touch with your attorney and don*t be afraid to ask for status updates on the case. Also, don*t be surprised if there are a few weeks or even a month where nothing seems to be happening. Sometimes your attorney will be finished with her discovery and is now waiting for the deadlines to expire before the court will set a trial date.
Overall expect your case to take some time. Keep regularly in touch with your attorney and don*t be afraid to ask for status updates on the case. Also, don*t be surprised if there are a few weeks or even a month where nothing seems to be happening. Sometimes your attorney will be finished with her discovery and is now waiting for the deadlines to expire before the court will set a trial date