If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident and someone else is at fault, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a personal injury case. As you consider pursuing a case, you may have questions about how the process works, how long it will take, and what your involvement will be. As Denver personal injury lawyers, we are experienced in navigating out clients through every step of the process. Every case is unique, but there are certain procedural aspects of every personal injury case that are the same. Let us break it down for you.
The Complaint Must Be Filed and Served
The first step in a personal injury case is when your attorney files a document with the court called a complaint. The complaint, referred to as a “pleading,” sets out the basics of your claims in the case. Each claim, whether for negligence or wrongful death or medical malpractice, is called a “cause of action.” The complaint’s purpose is to give the party or parties sued (the “defendants”) notice of the claims against them. After the complaint is filed with the court, it must be delivered or “served” on the defendants.
The next step is for the defendants to respond with a pleading called the answer. In addition to admitting or denying the claims against them, the answer sets forth any defenses that may apply, as well as any claims the defendants have against each other (“cross-claims”) or against you (“counterclaims”).
Depositions and Documents
After the complaint and answer have been exchanged, the case proceeds to what will likely be the most time-consuming portion of the case — discovery. This is when documents are exchanged, depositions are taken, and the parties gather facts and evidence about the case. As the plaintiff, you will be the first to sit for a deposition. Your attorney will ensure that you will be well-prepared for questioning by the defense attorney and will be sitting by your side throughout the deposition.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the number of parties, as well as the nature and extent of your injuries, discovery in a personal injury case can take months or even years.
Trial or Settlement
Once discovery is complete, there are several possible scenarios for your case. Either settlement negotiations will take place – this can even happen during discovery, or, in rare cases, before discovery even gets underway – or the case will be prepared for trial. In some cases, the defense will submit what is called a motion for summary judgment, which argues that the case should be dismissed without going to trial because there is no “genuine issue as to any material fact,” meaning that even if the court looks at the evidence in the light most favorable to you, the evidence does not support a claim.
A Word About the Statute of Limitations
The most important consideration for bringing a personal injury case is making sure that it is timely. For most personal injury cases in Colorado, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the occurrence. For auto accidents, it is three years. If you are thinking about bringing a case, early consultation with an attorney is essential.
Let Our Denver Personal Injury Lawyers Help