Handling a personal injury lawsuit can be confusing and complicated for accident victims. You might not resolve your case favorably if you lack experience with lawsuits or don’t hire an attorney to represent you.
Lawsuits require complying with strict deadlines, understanding and applying state laws, and carefully following a specific legal process. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, you can seek legal assistance from a knowledgeable and skilled personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can take over every aspect of your case so you can focus on more important matters – like your health.
Understanding every critical part of a personal injury lawsuit is beneficial. You should know what to expect when you file a lawsuit and how to prepare for each step.
What Are the Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
You’re allowed to file a lawsuit without seeking legal representation. However, hiring an attorney to manage your case is best. Your lawyer can provide guidance and complete every step for you.
The first step in a personal injury lawsuit is ensuring the statute of limitations hasn’t passed. A statute of limitations allows a specific timeframe for filing a lawsuit. You can proceed with your case if you’re within the necessary timeframe. In New Jersey, you usually have two years from the accident date to file.
Draft and File Your Complaint
The first stage of a lawsuit is drafting a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that discusses relevant details about a personal injury matter. It includes information such as:
- The legal basis for holding the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injury
- The allegations being made against the defendant
- An explanation of the injuries sustained during the incident in question
- The amount of compensation being sought for medical care and other expenses
You must file the complaint with the appropriate civil court after drafting it.
Prepare and Serve a Summons
A summons notifies the defendant of the legal action being pursued. It informs the defendant of the complaint against them and how they should respond. In personal injury cases, responses must be in the form of a filed document called an “answer.”
You must serve the defendant a summons through the appropriate channels. You can’t hand them the document yourself. Only a process server, sheriff, or person appointed by the court can serve a summons in New Jersey.
Wait for the Defendant’s Answer
The process server should provide written proof of service. It can include the name of the person they handed the documents to and the date and location of service.
The defendant must file an answer to your complaint within 35 days of the date they receive the summons. Their answer should include responses to each allegation made against them. They also have the opportunity to file a counterclaim against you.
The discovery process allows each lawyer to request evidence and documents from the other. Typically, your attorney and the defense attorney will file requests, such as:
- Request for Production – A request for production asks the opposing party to provide copies of evidence and documentation they find while investigating the case.
- Interrogatories – An interrogatory is a question or statement the party must respond to. For example, one of the interrogatories might ask you to describe the injury you sustained in the incident. The plaintiff and defendant must sign the interrogatories under oath to certify their answers are truthful.
- Request for Deposition – A deposition is a process for obtaining information about the case. The defendant, plaintiff, or another witness must answer questions from the opposing party’s attorney under oath.
- Request for Admissions – Both parties must deny or admit to every statement in the request for admissions.
Attend a Mediation
The defendant, plaintiff, and their attorneys meet with a mediator to try to resolve the case during mediation. The mediator can’t decide on the case. However, they can suggest solutions for settling the matter.
Prepare for Trial
Trial preparations start if mediation is unsuccessful. Preparing a personal injury case for trial might include:
- Choosing witnesses to testify
- Preparing opening statements
- Obtaining evidence to present in court
- Preparing arguments to discount the defendant’s witnesses or poke holes in their case
Attend the Trial
Both sides can present their cases during the trial.
After hearing each party’s case, the judge or jury deliberates to decide whose arguments prevail. The judge will enter a judgment based on their own or the jury’s verdict. If the court rules in your favor, an order will require the defendant to pay compensation for your injury and losses.
You might have the right to file an appeal if the court rules in favor of the defendant.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
Brach Eichler Injury Lawyers has a proven track record of success. Our New Jersey personal injury attorneys provide personalized attention and services to every client. You will be our priority while we handle your case.
If you were injured in an accident due to someone else’s wrongdoing, call us at (973) 364-8300 for a free consultation. We might be able to represent you in a personal injury lawsuit and hold the negligent party liable.