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Steps in a Lawsuit

Posted on in Personal Injury

McHenry County personal injury attorney, steps in a lawsuit, personal injury suits, depositions, interrogatoriesMany people, especially those who have not interacted much with the legal system, find lawsuits to be confusing or complicated. Therefore it makes it difficult for them to participate as active members of their own legal team. Fortunately, even though no two lawsuits are alike, many personal injury suits follow a similar pattern. First, there are the opening filings with the court that lay out both parties' initial positions. Second, there is the discovery phase in which both parties gather the information they need. Finally, if the case has not settled beforehand, there is a trial where the lawyers make their arguments and the judge or jury decides the case.

The First Moves

A lawsuit starts when a party triggers one with the court. In most instances, this happens when the injured party, the plaintiff, files a complaint. The complaint is a legal document in which the plaintiff lays out the facts of the situation and what sort of legal claim he or she is bringing. Once the complaint is filed, it must be “served” to the defendant, which means that the defendant receives a copy of the complaint and another document, the summons, telling him or her to appear in court. Once this happens, the defendant gets to file an answer to the complaint. The answer will tell the court, and the other side, what facts in the complaint he or she is disputing, as well as any other legal defenses that he or she is going to raise.


After those filings are complete, the lawsuit moves into discovery. In discovery, both sides get to seek information from the other to help build their case. This can be done in three different ways: document requests; interrogatories; and depositions. Document requests are exactly as they sound. The lawyers ask the other side to provide documents relevant to the case. Interrogatories are lists of written questions prepared by one side that the other side has to answer. Depositions are interviews conducted by the lawyer, who ask questions of the other party and the other party's witnesses. Depositions are the most intensive type of discovery and will likely be one of the places where a client is most involved.

Discovery is often a key point in the lawsuit because as more information comes to light. Parties learn more about their cases and their chances of success. This can often lead the parties to reach a settlement. In fact, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 97 percent of cases settle before the trial.

The Trial

If the case does not settle, then it moves on to the trial phase. Here, the lawyers choose their jury, make their opening statements, and then begin introducing evidence. Both sides present their evidence and try to tell the most convincing story of the case through their documents and their witnesses. Eventually, the trial ends with each lawyer making a closing argument that sums up the case, and the jury deliberates until a verdict is reached.

If you have been injured because of another person's carelessness, contact a McHenry County personal injury attorney today to learn more about how you can get the full, fair compensation you deserve.

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