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Trial journal: Pre-trial litigation

The stages of a personal injury lawsuit

Once the defendant has been served with court documents for a personal injury trial, he or she will usually have at least a month to find and hire a defense attorney. If the defendant is a large company, it may already have a law firm that represents it. In some cases the trial can affect a defendant's liability, so an insurance company will be involved. Insurance companies require notification when a client is involved in such a case. 

Pre-trial litigation and discovery

Before the trial begins, both parties will go through what is called "discovery." The attorneys for both parties will investigate witness information and evidence as they begin to build a case for their respective clients. 

During the pre-trial phase, both parties will go before an appointed judge to let the court know how the case will proceed. In some cases both parties will agree to settle out of court, or decide through arbitration or mediation. If these occur, then the case won't be going to trial. 

If the case continues, both parties will begin scheduling depositions. In a deposition, the attorneys will speak with witnesses and members of the other party. This includes examinations and cross-examinations that are under oath, but outside the courtroom. 

Researching evidence and testimonies

During this time, attorneys will also engage in motions to determine what evidence will be admissible in the courtroom. If evidence is considered "tainted" in some way- for instance, a witness who was coaxed into saying something, or physical evidence that was acquired illegally- then any findings related to it will not be presented in court. In order to be admissible in the trial, the evidence or testimony has to prove something in the case, for either party. 

Depending on the scope of the trial and the amount of potential evidence, the discovery phase can go on for an extended period of time – sometimes months and even years. If discovery continues, the trial date can be pushed back to make sure that both sides are prepared. At this point, the defendant may claim that the plaintiff's side does not have enough evidence, and ask the judge to issue a summary judgment. A summary judgment effectively means the judge throws the case out due to lack of merit. In most cases, this motion will be denied and the case will go to trial. 

The next step is the trial. It will be here, before a judge and jury, that both party's attorneys will present their cases. 

Are you or a loved one suffering from an injury? Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn your options. Contact Zehl & Associates for a free, no commitment consultation by calling 1-888-991-0474 or by clicking here