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I will be going through a lawsuit; what can I expect?

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This is a frequently asked question from clients of ours who are unable to reach a settlement with the insurance company from their car accident case and are facing a situation where they will need to file a lawsuit. The lawsuit will take about 1 year to 18 months to complete. The length of time the case may take is dependent on the complexity of the case, how many days it may take to go to trial, and the venue of where the case is pending. Cases pending in large communities such as Milwaukee or Madison, may take longer than a lawsuit filed in an outlying rural community.

The lawsuit is commenced by filing legal papers known as a summons and complaint. After 45 days, the defendants in the lawsuit are required to file a written answer in response to the lawsuit. After that, in approximately 90 days after filing of the lawsuit, the trial judge will call the attorneys in on both sides of the case to hold a status conference. The parties to the lawsuit are usually not required to attend this initial court appearance. At the status conference, the lawyers will briefly fill the trial judge in on the issues of the case. The judge will prepare a written scheduling order that compels the attorneys to comply with such things as filing witness lists, the filing of pre-trial motions, cut off dates for claiming permanent injury, when discovery needs to be completed, and ordering the parties to mediate. The court will set strict time lines when all of these pre-trial matters needs to be completed. The court will also routinely set a final pre-trial date on the case, which the attorneys must attend, after all the scheduling orders are completed, and if the case is otherwise not settled at mediation. Following the initial scheduling conference it is not unusual for the plaintiff (person filing the lawsuit) to receive from the defense attorney, certain written discovery documents that must be answered under oath. These are called “written interrogatories” and sometimes a request is made for certain documents as well, including the requirement that the plaintiff sign medical authorizations for release of their current and prior medical records. Discovery is a normal part of every lawsuit. Following the initial written discovery requests, the next step for the plaintiff is usually having to give testimony at a deposition. The deposition is testimony taken under oath at one of the lawyer’s office, where the defense counsel is allowed to ask the plaintiff questions about their accident, injuries and prior medical history, among other issues. Likewise, the injured parties’ lawyers can also do pre-trial discovery, including taking depositions of the other driver who caused the accident and other important witnesses. If a person is claiming permanent injury, the defense has the right to have the plaintiff to submit to a medical examination by a doctor of their choice and paid for by the defendant. If the case gets as far as mediation and otherwise cannot be settled, following the final pre-trial on the case, the matter will be set for jury trial. The length of the trial will depend again on the complexity of the case and where the lawsuit is pending. A simple car accident case may take 1 ½ days to litigate to a jury, where a major medical malpractice case with expert testimony from various doctors could take several weeks to litigate. At trial, the plaintiff would have to come to court to testify and participate in all aspects of the trial.

If you were seriously injured in a car crash and are contemplating filing a lawsuit, contact one of our personal injury attorneys at Karp & Iancu, S.C.

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