The process for resolving a personal injury claim is divided into two sections: 1) pre-litigation and 2) litigation. The pre-litigation phase involves everything which occurs prior to the filing of a lawsuit. The litigation phase involves everything that occurs starting with the filing of a lawsuit. This article addresses the litigation process.

In the event the claim cannot be resolved in the pre-litigation phase, it often moves to the litigation phase. The first step is the filing of a complaint in the appropriate Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. The complaint is the legal document that delineates the parties to the action, how the action occurred and a basis for the claim. The party bringing the complaint is called the plaintiff and the party responding to the complaint is called the defendant.

After the complaint is filed, it is personally served upon the defendant. The defendant has twenty-one days from the date of service of the complaint to respond. The response may consist of an answer or another appropriate motion depending upon the circumstances. This is called the pleading phase of litigation.

The next step in the litigation process is discovery. In discovery, both parties learn more about the position of the other with regard to the claim. This is achieved through written questions (interrogatories), written requests for documents (request for production of documents) and written requests for the opposing party to admit certain facts as true (request for admissions). In addition, depositions (oral examinations) of the parties and witnesses are conducted during discovery.

Next, the attorney prepares the case for the upcoming trial. This involves preparing all witnesses (including the represented party) for questioning; opening and closing arguments; all necessary evidence to be utilized as exhibits; jury instructions; appropriate motions, etc. The trial is then conducted with a judge or jury rendering the verdict. Following the verdict, there may be motions made and possibly an appeal.

If you have been injured as the result of an act of another, contact an experienced attorney at the law firm of Paulson & Paulson, PLC to protect and understand your rights.