First Stage of a Personal Injury Lawsuit:
The Lawsuit, Service & The Answer
There are generally five stages to a lawsuit, at least from the client’s perspective.
The first stage is the filing the lawsuit stage. The second stage is the written discovery stage. The third stage is the deposition stage. The fourth is the mediation stage. The fifth is the trial stage.
The first stage is generally the easiest for the client because they don’t typically do anything except wait.
For the lawyers, there are several steps. We prepare the actual lawsuit to be filed, and then we file it with the relevant court. The court issues a citation, which is a note to the defendant that he or she is being sued.
Serving the defendant
The defendant then has to be served with the citation so a constable or some other process server has to deliver the citation to the defendant in person. If the process server has any trouble delivering it in person, then we may be forced to look at alternative methods of service.
Receiving the answer
Once the defendant is served, then we wait for them to file an answer. The defendant must file the answer by “10:00 a.m. on the Monday next following the expiration of twenty days” after they were served. What does that mean? It means you take the day the defendant was served, count 20 days, and then go to the next Monday.
Many clients are excited to see what the defendant says. They shouldn't be. It’s almost all boilerplate language that is not specific to the client’s case. But it’s a necessary part of the process that we have to wait around for.
After we get the answer, we can start the second phase, the written discovery phase, in earnest.