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Stages of a Personal Injury Case


Meeting with your Attorney


At your first meeting with your attorney following your accident or injury, your lawyer will want to hear about the events of the accident or injury. During this first meeting, your attorney will need to get information from you regarding others who may have been involved in the accident, people who may have been witness to the accident or injury, and your medical records including the treatment that you received following the incident. 


Beginning your case


The initial paper work that is filed to begin your case starts with the complaint. This complaint lays out the cause of action, basic facts, and legal reason that your lawyer believes to be sufficient to support a claim against the defendant. The complaint will also include the prayer for relief which discusses what your lawyer is asking the court to require the defendant to do, which is mostly commonly to pay damages. 


Following the filing of the complaint, the court will issue a summons to the defendant. The summons gives the defendant notice that he or she is being sued and sets out the time limit that the defendant has to file an answer or seek to have the case dismissed.


The Answer is the defendant's response to the complaint. The answer addresses each paragraph of the complaint and gives one of three answers: "admitted," "denied," or "insufficient knowledge to admit or deny."

Counterclaims and cross-claims may also be made at this stage of a personal injury case. Counterclaims occur when the defendant has a claim against the plaintiff which happened concerning the same events that led to your initial complaint. If a counterclaim is filed, your attorney will send an answer to their counterclaim that is similar in format to the answer discussed above.


When there are more than one party to a lawsuit, cross-claims may arise. A cross-claim allows for a claim to be brought against a co-party in the same side of the lawsuit. The answer to a cross-claim is similar to the answer of the original complaint.


Discovery and Fact Finding


Discovery allows for gathering information in preparation for trial. There are three basic forms of discovery: depositions, written discovery, and document production. Depositions are witness testimonies that are given under oath and recorded to be used in court at a later date. Interrogatories serve as a way to gather information through written questioning. These questions normally begin with standard questions to find out background information on the litigant. Document production allows for the either party to see the documents that arguably relate to the case. After discovery both attorneys are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.


Court Motions and Settlement Resolution


Following the discovery process, a number of motions can be made to resolve important questions concerning the lawsuit.  The most common of these court motions are motion for default judgment, motion to dismiss, and a summary judgment motion.  A motion for default judgment  can be filed if after your complaint has been filed with the court, the opposing party has been served both with the summons and compliant, and the opposing party has not made answer or defense the action in the time period specified by law. A motion to dismiss is filed when the defendant believes that there is some kind of legal deficiency with your claim. When the court considers this motion, it must view the facts in the light most favorable to the defendant. A motion for summary judgment allows the court to take the undisputed facts that both parties agree upon and apply the law to these facts to render a decision without going to trial. The motion for summary judgment is often made prior to the discovery process to save the costs of discovery.


Resolution through settlement also often occurs before the costly discovery process. Both parties normally have a strong incentive to settle to avoid costs of a trial. One side will make a settlement offer and then the parties may agree to have a settlement conference during which they will attempt to reach a solution. For example, in a personal injury case, the plaintiff may agree to give up the right further pursue any form of legal action against the defendant in exchange for a mutually agreed upon sum of money.




The trial serves as the plaintiff's opportunity to show evidence as to why he or she should obtain a judgment against the defendant. The defendant also is given the opportunity to show his or her own evidence to refute any claims made by the plaintiff. Following the presented arguments, the judge or jury will deliberate to decide if the defendant should be held legally responsible and if so to what extent.


Collection of Money and Damages


Additional steps may be required to obtain the money owed to you following a judgment in your favor. A lawyer can assist you in taking the appropriate actions to collect from the individuals or businesses involved.


The stages of a personal injury case are most easily navigated with the assistance of a lawyer. The Injury Law Group, a division of Sommer Law Group, P.C., represents individuals and families who have suffered injuries due to the negligence and carelessness of others. The Injury Law Group offers a free consultation to give you the guidance needed to guarantee your rights are protected.