Filing a lawsuit is a long, complex, multi-stage process. If you have ever watched any courtroom movie or television show, then you probably know the language of this process, but the words can sometimes be confusing. In this video, HensonFuerst managing partner David Henson walks you through the stages of a lawsuit and the timeline involved at every step. If you are involved in a lawsuit, or are considering taking legal action, then this video will give you the big-picture overview of what you can expect.
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(Principal office of Henson & Fuerst, PA: 2501 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607)
We talk a lot about filing a lawsuit, but what does that really mean? What's the process?
Hi, I'm David Henson, Managing partner with HensonFuerst Attorneys. Once the decision is made to file suit in your automobile wreck or other personal injury case, your lawyer leaps into action.
The first major step is to research the applicable laws as they relate to the specific facts of your case. Then, we draft the lawsuit paperwork, which is called the "complaint." After the complaint is filed at the courthouse, the court issues official notices of the lawsuit, called "summonses." These summonses and the complaint are sent to the sheriff, who delivers them to the defendants. This part of process, from filing suit to serving the defendants, takes about two to three weeks to complete.
Defendants then have thirty days to file an answer to the complaint, although this is usually extended to sixty days by the defendants' attorney.
Once the answer is filed, the next step is called "discovery," which is where each side gets to learn (or "discover") all of the basic facts of the case. There are typically two parts of discovery: written and oral. Written discovery involves the exchange of written questions known as "interrogatories." The defense lawyer will send us written questions regarding how the accident occurred, your previous medical history, and your injuries. We also send similar written interrogatories, asking the other parties questions about how the accident happened, eyewitnesses, defenses they may have, etc. Each side has thirty days to answer those interrogatories, but, again, this is usually extended to sixty days.
After the written discovery, the next step is "oral discovery," when lawyers get to ask questions in person. The lawyers for both sides gather with the plaintiff and defendants to take "depositions," which are sworn statements, questions answered under oath and then typed into a transcript. We always advise our clients in detail about what to expect during a deposition so they are not taken by surprise during the questioning.
Once depositions are completed, the next step is usually "mediation," which is a court-ordered process to see if there is any way to avoid going to court. A specially trained mediator works with both sides to open lines of communication and facilitate settlement discussions with the hope that the parties can resolve case on their own. The mediator does not make any binding decisions, but simply determines if there is any room for negotiations within the context of the lawsuit. A great number of cases settle at mediation.
If mediation doesn't work for your case, then we proceed with the case by picking a trial date, and conducting depositions of witnesses, your treating physicians, and any other people who might have relevant information. Once we have all that information, we can complete preparations to have your case heard in a trial before a judge and a jury.
We tell clients to expect a one-and-a-half to two-year period from the date they file suit until their case goes to trial. Although the attorneys at HensonFuerst try to move each case as quickly as possible, unfortunately, the legal system in North Carolina is complicated, with intricate rules and requirements that keep cases moving slow as molasses. As your attorneys, our job is to move your case as swiftly as possible, while also building your case as strong as possible so that you stand the best chance of being fully compensated for your injuries.