Step 4 – The Lawsuit Process
The following is a brief breakdown of the process of a lawsuit. This is only a general overview of a lawsuit. There are many, many more issues that could occur during a lawsuit so it is important to discuss your case with an experienced West Virginia attorney.
A. Filing Complaint
A lawsuit begins when a complaint is filed. It is a good idea to serve an initial set of discovery (see below) along with the complaint in order to get the case moving faster. The complaint needs to be filed within the statute of limitations. It is important to discuss the statute of limitations with your attorney at the initial meeting and to calendar this date.
B. Serving Discovery
Discovery is the investigation part of the lawsuit. Formal discovery will include a set of questions called interrogatories being sent to the other party along with requests for documents and possibly requests for admissions. Requests for admissions ask for the other party to admit facts that are relevant to the lawsuit. Informal discovery will include witness interviews and possibly meetings with experts. An opposing party has thirty days to answer discovery requests, or forty-five days if the requests are served with the complaint.
C. Answering Discovery
Chances are that the other side will serve formal discovery. You will have to meet with your attorney to prepare responses to the discovery questions. These also have to be answered in thirty days.
Depositions are where a party’s attorney sets a formal time to ask questions of key witnesses under oath. Depositions are important for determining the strength of a case and what witnesses will say at trial. A deposition is recorded by a Court reporter.
E. Expert Discovery
Expert discovery can include site visits, interviews and depositions of experts. In a personal injury action, it is common to hire expert witnesses to discuss medical damages, monetary losses and/or any other specific area where an expert’s testimony is necessary.
F. Settlement Negotiations – Mediation
At any time during the lawsuit settlement negotiations may be ongoing. Sometimes a formal negotiations session known as a mediation is conducted. The parties will agree to this session and will pick a mediator who will listen to both sides and will work to get the case settled. Mediation is a good opportunity to hear another person’s view of the strengths of a case.
If the case does not settle, it will proceed to trial. A trial can be as short as one day or take many months. Most trials are two to four days in length. In personal injury actions, a jury will almost always hear the case. At the end of the trial the jury renders a verdict.
A trial usually marks the end of the litigation process. If the jury awards money to the Plaintiff, the Defendants will have to pay the money plus interest. If there were any problems at the trial they could be appealed. Appeals will possibly be discussed in a later posting.
From start to end, a lawsuit can take more than two years. It is important to discuss your expectations with your attorney prior to proceeding with a lawsuit.
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