If your injury case doesn't settle, then you have the right to file a lawsuit against the defendant. Below is a brief overview of what to expect in such a lawsuit.
The first step is to file a lawsuit with the relevant court. You file your case in a civil court that has jurisdiction over your case. The accident's location and the defendant's residency are some of the factors that determine your case's jurisdiction and venue. Your lawyer will help you identify the appropriate court.
Keep in mind, you will need to file a case that details the allegations and the compensation you expect from the defendant. You must also serve the defendant, which means you give them a copy of your court application. The defendant typically has 30 days to answer your complaint (the court documents will specify the period).
If the defendant's answer denies your complaint, then the case moves to the discovery phase. You use the discovery phase to get relevant information and materials relevant to the case. The rationale for the process is that each side should have all relevant information before the trial. Some of the information you should get include:
- The defense's evidence
- The defense's testimony
- The defendant's insurance information
Say the defendant claims they have evidence that you contributed to your injury. You have the right to examine this evidence before the case begins.
The discovery process involves various tools or techniques. Examples include:
- Interrogatories, which are written questions that the opposing side must answer
- Depositions, which are oral questions that the opposing side must answer
- Requests for documents relevant to the case
For example, if the defendant claims you were drunk, you can ask them for documentary proof of the same. In South Carolina, your doctor must be part of the deposition process to link your injury to the accident. Your lawyer will give you specific tips on how to handle the deposition.
After the discovery, one or both parties may have an issue that they want the court to rule on before trial. For example, if the discovery unearthed illegal defense evidence, you can ask the court to suppress it. In this case, you file a motion to suppress evidence. Other examples include motions to:
- Change the venue
- Dismiss the case
- Allow certain evidence
Courts typically resolve pretrial motions fast so that they can move to the crux of the matter.
Filing a lawsuit doesn't close the door to negotiations. You can even halt the court process and try alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation. In some jurisdictions, such as South Carolina, mediation is a required step in the litigation process.
Mediation involves sitting down with a neutral third party to negotiate your case. The mediator facilitates the negotiation but doesn't rule on it.
Most cases end in resolutions outside the courtroom, but that is not always the case. Your case will move to trial if mediation (or other alternative litigation alternatives) fails. If you choose a jury trial, then the first step is to choose the jury. After that:
- Both sides give their opening statement
- The witnesses testify and are cross-examined
- Both sides give their closing arguments
- The jury gets their instructions (about the relevant laws)
- The jury deliberates and gives their verdict
If you opt for a bench trial, the judge will listen to each side's arguments, then they will deliberate and issue their verdict.
If you win your case, you should get your money from the defendant soon after the judgment. Palmetto Injury Lawyers LLC can help you with any personal injury case. Contact us for a free initial consultation to evaluate your case.