Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
How to Get Compensated After an Accident
Insurance companies often downplay the amount of pain you are in and how much your life has been affected because of an injury. While many cases can be resolved with persuasive negotiations by your attorney, some cases must proceed to litigation.
In personal injury cases in Orange County, a lawsuit will be filed in the Orange County Superior Court. The following is a general overview of a personal injury lawsuit in Orange County, this may or may not apply to your specific case. If you have been injured in a car accident or any other type of accident, then you should promptly speak with a personal injury attorney to discuss the specific details of your case.
- Step 1: File the Lawsuit – If your case does not settle in pre-litigation negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company, a lawsuit will be filed in the Orange County Superior Court. The first set of papers filed with the clerk of court includes summons and complaint.
- Step 2: Service of Process – The defendant must be served with a copy of the complaint, summons, and other papers that have been filed with the court. The California Code of Civil Procedure requires a defendant to be served personally, with some exceptions. In some cases, a service by publication may be allowed.
- Step 3: Motions – The defendant's attorney may file motions challenging the procedural or substantive basis of your suit. A complete analysis of your case will allow us to anticipate any such efforts and we will seek to handle these challenges ahead of time.
- Step 4: Written Discovery – The defendant's attorney will likely send written questions after filing their answer, which is commonly referred to as interrogatories. We will also serve the interrogatories of our own.
- Step 5: Discovery – Depositions of Parties and Experts – Both parties are allowed to take depositions of the other. The experts of either party may also be deposed with some limitations. The deposition is an in-person meeting that typically takes place in a conference room where attorneys from both sides are present with a court reporter. The person being deposed will answer the questions of the other opposing lawyer under oath.
- Step 6: Medical Examination by a Physician – The defendant may ask for you to be examined by a physician chosen by them. This individual must be licensed to practice medicine in your state. Typically, our clients will be accompanied by a witness during any such examination. We may seek intervention by a judge if the defendant seeks unnecessary intrusion.
- Step 7: Alternative Dispute Resolution – Judicial arbitration may be ordered where a third party arbitrator will make a decision after hearing the evidence in an informal setting. The decision may be rejected by either party before it becomes binding after 30 days.
- Step 8: Settlement Conference – A mandatory settlement conference is set in most personal injury lawsuits as a final attempt to settle the case to avoid a costly trial and to protect judicial resources. A disinterested attorney typically hears the case and encourages a settlement.
- Step 9: Trial – While some of the cases settle before a case is filed in court, most of those filed tend to settle before the case proceeds to a trial. If the defendant fails to offer an acceptable settlement for the injuries you have suffered, the case proceeds to a trial. Once a jury is chosen, each party's attorney begins with their opening statement. The plaintiff's attorney is the first to present their case to the jury, the defense may cross-examine any witnesses we present. We will also be allowed to cross-examine any witnesses presented by the defense. Once both sides have presented their evidence, the case will proceed to the closing statements before being submitted to the jury for deliberations. The jury then decides the case and renders a verdict.