We’re big believers in the idea that clients and potential clients need to know as much as possible about their claims and the claim process so that the clients can make informed decisions when deciding how they want to proceed. One of our repeated conversations is a description of the phases of a personal injury lawsuit.
1. Filing of the lawsuit.
The attorney files your lawsuit and notifies the other party that they have been sued. The other party then has between 20 and 30 days to file a response.
2. Written Discovery.
The parties exchange written requests for information about the case. These usually include a request for disclosure, interrogatories, and a request for production. A request for disclosure is a request that the other party provide standard information. Interrogatories are questions that the parties ask each other. Requests for production are requests for documents or other items.
This is not too stressful. While we need your help, we do much of the work to respond to the these items.
You can look at samples of each here:
The parties will take depositions of the other party (and possibly of fact witnesses or experts). A deposition is sworn testimony. You will gather with your attorney, the opposing attorney, and the court reporter. You will be sworn under oath, and the other lawyer will ask you questions about the case, and you will provide answers. Because you’re sworn under oath, you’re testifying subject to the same penalties of perjury just as if you were testifying at the court house in front of a judge or jury. The court reporter will also prepare the lawyer’s questions and your answers into a booklet that may be read to the judge or jury and considered by them as evidence. In some instances, the other party may videotape your deposition and play the deposition for the judge or jury.
This stage is hard and stressful, and that’s why it’s so important to properly prepare. You should meet with your attorney before the deposition, and the attorney should go over the process with you. The attorney should also go over your answers to discovery and your medical records to help you be familiar with those items.
In Travis County, almost all cases are required to go through mediation, a settlement conference. The parties gather with a mediator, a neutral third party, who tries to help the parties resolve the case.
The last phase of the case is the trial. There are several phases of the trial, and we’ll have a post about those phases as well.