PERSONAL INJURY CHRONOLOGY
If you are injured in an accident in Alabama, you may be unsure of what to expect when your lawsuit is filed. Experienced Alabama injury lawyers will be able to answer any specific questions you might have about your case, but the following accident and injury chronology will provide an overview as to how a civil suit normally proceeds in Alabama.
- A Alabama personal injury action arising from a vehicle accident will begin with a Complaint, usually accompanied by a Summons. A Complaint is a legal document that lays out the claims that the Plaintiff (the person or business bringing the lawsuit) has against the Defendant (the person or business being sued). It tells what happened in the accident and how you were injured.
- The Defendant, the party who caused the accident or injury, has to answer within a certain time (usually about thirty days). The Answer says what portions of the Complaint, if any, the defendant admits to, what the Defendant contests, what defenses the Defendant may have, and whether the Defendant has claims against the Plaintiff or any other party.
- If the Defendant doesn’t answer the Complaint, the court may enter a default judgment against the Defendant. If the Answer contains a Counterclaim (against the Plaintiff) or a Third-party Complaint, the party against whom that claim is made also has to answer within a certain time.
- The parties exchange documents and other information about the issues relevant to the litigation, by a process called Discovery. Discovery can take four forms: written Admissions, written Interrogatories which must be answered under oath; document production; and Depositions, which are formally transcribed and sworn statements taken in front of a court reporter or other court officer.
- The parties can voluntarily resolve all their issues through Alternate Dispute Resolution such as mediation or a negotiated settlement. The parties can also agree to binding arbitration. Some counties, states, and federal courts require litigants to go through alternative dispute resolution in some form.
- In many cases, one or both of the parties will try to get rid of the case, or a portion of it, by Motion For Summary Judgment or some other Motion. Basically, the parties present to the court those issues that are not in dispute, either because the parties agree as to the facts, or because application of the law to the facts dictates a result.
- If the parties do not reach an agreement, and if the matter is not disposed of by motion, the case will go to Trial. In most civil cases, either party can choose to have a jury.
- At trial, the attorneys present evidence and arguments for each side, and the judge or jury decides the unresolved issues. Once the judge or jury has reached a decision, the judge will order that Judgment be entered for the party who wins.
- Either or both parties can Appeal a judge’s decision to a higher court, but it’s unusual for an appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision. Also, remember that settlements usually cannot be appealed if both parties agree to their terms.
It’s hard to say how long all these steps will take in your particular case. The entire process can take from as little as a few months, to as long as a few years. Generally speaking, the less money at stake, and the more issues that can be resolved before trial, the smoother and faster the lawsuit will go.