Many of our clients question how long the legal process will take if they choose to pursue legal action against the party responsible for their slip and fall accident. There is no short answer to this question, because every accident is different, and determining how best to present your case takes time.
The Process of Filing A Civil Lawsuit
A civil lawsuit is filed when one party believes that another party has harmed them in some way. The plaintiff seeks compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, physical pain and suffering, and in some cases, emotional trauma.
The first step is to find a lawyer. Our firm believes it is in the best interest of the client to select a firm that works solely with slip and fall victims. Every slip and fall accident is different, and you and your loved ones will want someone on their side who understands the intricacies of this branch of the law.
One you have selected a lawyer, the process of filing can begin.
Both parties that will be involved in the lawsuit, also known as the plaintiff and the defendant, will file their initial paperwork known as the pleadings. The plaintiff files a complaint which is then formally delivered to the defendant. The complaint notifies the defendant of why they are being sued and describes what they did or failed to do.
The defendant may file an answer, which details why the defendant believes they were not at fault for the plaintiff’s accident and injuries.
The discovery is the methods by which each party involved in the complaint gathers information that pertains to the incident. This may be information from each other or from third parties. This is also when the legal counsel for both sides spends time reviewing and researching the law. This process begins almost as soon as the lawsuit it filed and often continues until either the case goes to trial or a settlement agreement is reached.
Depositions may be taken at this time. A deposition is when witnesses are questioned under oath by the attorneys and their responses are recorded by a court reporter.
Expert witnesses may also be consulted, to explain technical terms or to offer testimony that will help validate a particular argument. Expert witnesses may include medical professionals, accident reconstruction experts, or other highly trained individuals whose field of study / work is in some way related to the accident or injuries.
At any time, the two parties may agree to a settlement. If this happens, the case will not go to trial. However, there is always a possibility that a trial will take place.
When a case is taken to trial, both sides present their evidence, which should support their claims, to the jury and/or judge. At the end of the trial, a verdict will be reached.
Alternatives To Litigation
There are alternatives to taking a complaint to trial, which may save all parties involved time and money.
The possibility of settling can be discussed at any time during the litigation, and in fact, the majority of complaints are settled out of court.
While many parties are able to reach a settlement agreement without assistance, it is still common to involve a third party mediator. The mediators job is to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments.
In arbitration, the plaintiff and defendant can select a third party to resolve the dispute. The case and arguments are presented to the arbitrator who will then decide which party wins. This process is less formal than going to trial, and in many cases, the court requires smaller disputes to explore this option prior to going to trial.
It doesn’t matter if your case goes to trial, or if a settlement can be reached – the fact of the matter is that pursuing legal action takes time, usually at least several months. However, the reality is that victims frequently find that this process is the only way that they can obtain the compensation they need to pay their medical bills.
For additional information on how our firm can assist you after a slip and fall injury, contact us today.