Lawsuits begin with the aggrieved party, known as the plaintiff, files a complaint with the court. A complaint is a very technical legal document that lays out the relevant facts and the specific laws allegedly violated by the defendant. The complaint also explains what the plaintiff wishes the court to do, such as award damages or issue an order requiring the defendant to do something. Usually the complaint should be drafted by a lawyer.

What Happens after the Complaint Is Filed?

Once the complaint is filed a defendant will have an opportunity to answer the allegations in a document called an answer. If the defendant has a personal claim against the plaintiff, the defendant may also file a complaint, usually called a counter-claim. At this early stage, relevant third parties may also be added to the litigation through various procedural steps.

Pre-trial Litigation

In the pre-trial litigation process, both parties will ask one another for evidence and witness information in which the other party must share. This stage of the process is called "discovery." At the early phases, both parties will appear in court to update the judge on how the case is being handled. The parties can both agree to mediation or arbitration in which they set a trial date.

Once the case seems to be moving closer to trial, the parties will start to engage in mandatory settlement conferences, make motions to establish what evidence will be allowed at trial, and also select a jury.

What Happens at a Personal Injury Trial?

Trials usually last only several days in a personal injury lawsuit. At trial, the judge or jury will decide if the defendant is at fault for the personal injuries suffered by the plaintiff and how much damages the plaintiff is entitled to for her injuries. After trial, either party can appeal the decision that was determined at trial.

What Do Personal Injury Attorneys Do?

Personal injury attorneys work with either the victim or the defendant in determining all kinds of accidents including auto-accidents, boating accidents, injuries at work, medical malpractice, and defective product injuries. The personal injury attorney will help settle the case with the opposing party for a favorable and fair decision.

In addition, the attorneys for each side will research the facts and law of the lawsuit in a process known as discovery. Eventually, the case will be resolved, either through a trial, or by settlement if the parties can negotiate an outcome acceptable to both sides.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Initiate a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If you believe you have a personal injury claim against someone, or if a complaint has been brought against you, contact a personal injury attorney to learn about your legal rights and the complicated legal system. Remember that there are deadlines set in the law, so waiting too long could result in you losing your ability to bring a claim or defend yourself.