After your attorney files your lawsuit (a Complaint) in the Court, the Defendant(s) will be tracked down and the Complaint and suit papers will be literally hand delivered to them (service of process). The Defendant will then have 20 days to respond or “Answer” the Complaint.
Both Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s attorneys customarily send written questions (Interrogatories) and Request for Production of documents (medical records, income documents and other materials). These are important and your attorney will have to review the questions and prepare responses together with you.
Attorneys for both sides also schedule depositions (questions under oath). These are usually coordinated to take place once the attorneys receive the Interrogatory answers, medical records and have a chance to subpoena other medical records. Your Attorney will meet you before the deposition to explain the process and review important aspects of your case. Your Attorney will attend the deposition with you.
The Defendant will also likely schedule you to be examined by a doctor of their choice. This is customary and will take an hour or two of your time. Your Attorney will explain this process to you in further detail once the examination is scheduled.
Your case will have to be scheduled for trial. Virtually all cases are now ordered to go to mediation before trial. This is an informal meeting among Plaintiff, Defendant, all attorneys and an objective neutral mediator who tries to bring the parties together to settle the case. If the case cannot be settled at mediation, the case may proceed to trial. Judges are very busy and have many cases scheduled for trial during a particular month. In other words, your Attorney will not know if your case will be called to trial until he learns the Judge’s schedule, as older cases within the Court system are usually called to trial before newer ones. Many times, the case is not reached during the month it is scheduled and is rescheduled for another trial docket, possibly several months later.
The scheduling of depositions and other matters take time because of various conflicts in schedules. The litigation or lawsuit process is slow and even a relatively straightforward case takes considerable time to complete these tasks. Depending on how the case progresses, your Attorney can attempt to settle the case at any time during the process. In other words, it is not necessarily have to wait until the mediation or trial to settle the case. However, the Defendant’s attorney and insurance company are not in a position to settle a case until most of these components of the lawsuit are accomplished.
It is critical that you keep your Attorney informed of your current telephone number and mailing address as some documents are time sensitive.