We hear it all the time: “Is the lawsuit process really worth it?” Or, “What kind of time commitment should we expect?” These queries are far from unusual, and we always strive to answer all your burning questions beginning with the first consultation. However, the following may provide some insight into the most frequently asked questions about the civil litigation process, including the typical timeline of a case and what procedural steps are generally required by the California courts. So, before the next episode of The Good Wife causes you to lose heart in the civil lawsuit process, consider that most personal injury lawsuits are worth the time, energy, and effort, and may result in a sizable award for the successful plaintiff.
FAQ #1 – What is the timeline of a typical personal injury case?
Probably the last answer you want to hear is “it depends.” Before you throw in the towel, keep in mind that the civil cases you read about that drag on for years and years are an exception to the rule. Courts generally encourage litigants and attorneys to resolve matters quickly and most personal injury cases are resolved in approximately 18 months. When we say “it depends,” we mean there are a number of factors at work in a personal injury case that can cause a case to resolve quickly or drag on longer. These include any of the following:
Joinder of Parties: If your case involves more than one plaintiff or defendant, joining parties, getting them served and allowing each to make counter- or cross-claims can delay things;
Complex Subject Matter: Cases that involve potential mechanical defects or rare, complex medical issues may require the input of an expert witness – who may delay matters;
- Offers to Settle: An offer to settle can arrive at any time, but usually occurs during the discovery process. If the defendant in your case realizes that you have a strong case with a high likelihood of success before a trier of fact, he will be incentivized to settle with you before leaving his fate in the hands of a jury of his peers. This can truncate the litigation process and resolve matters more quickly.
FAQ #2 – What is the General Timeline of a Civil Case?
Good question! And one that only partially invokes that vexatious answer of “it depends.” In general, the California personal injury process works like this:
- Step One: File your complaint. Once you meet with your attorney, he will gather the facts of your case and will file your Complaint, along with several other papers, in the California Superior Court.
- Step Two: Service of Process- This vital step involves arranging for the defendant(s) in your case to receive the documents and notice of the upcoming hearing or trial.
- Step Three: Defendant’s Response- The defendant has 30 days from the day he was served to file a response or counter claim.
- Step Four: Discovery of Evidence- This is the portion of the timeline that will depend upon the complexity of the case, number of parties involved, and extent of evidence.
- Step Five: Resolution of the Issues- The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before reaching trial. However, your case may wind up in trial– which as we explained above, can significantly extend the timeline.
FAQ #3 – Who Should I Call to Get Started on my Case?
Another excellent question! If you are considering a civil lawsuit and would like to speak to an experienced and reputable San Francisco personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Nelson C. Barry today at (415) 587-0550, or contact us online!