What is the personal injury litigation timeline if my case goes to court? These cases usually take about two years to resolve in Pennsylvania.
The average personal injury litigation timeline is about two years in Pennsylvania. In layman’s terms, this means your case will probably resolve in about two years if it goes into litigation.
Not all personal injury cases go into litigation, but if you are unable to reach a settlement your attorney will file a lawsuit. Doing this puts your case in court, and once this happens your attorney will help you navigate this complicated system.
While each court and judge may have slight variations in how they handle cases, most will follow this 6-Step Process:
STEP 1 (Months 1-3): Pleadings – Complaint, Answer, Possible Preliminary Objections
To begin a lawsuit, your attorney will file a document called a Complaint. This document includes all the allegations supporting your case, such as:
- What happened
- Who is involved
- What injuries you suffered
- How your injuries are affecting and will affect your life
Your attorney will then serve this Complaint on the defendant, which can be completed by the Sheriff or another process server. After this, the defendant will respond with a document called an Answer. Usually, the Answer denies most or all of the allegations included in your Complaint.
In some cases, the defendant may file something called Preliminary Objections. The Preliminary Objections usually allege there is some kind of technical problem with the Complaint. If this occurs, your attorney should be able to make a few changes and file a new copy of the Complaint. In some cases, a judge may decide the issue.
STEP 2 (Months 3-15): Discovery – Exchange Documents, Written Questions and Answers, Oral Depositions, Exchange Expert Reports, Possible Referral to Arbitration
Your case will enter a long period of time called “Discovery.” This is usually the longest part of the personal injury litigation timeline. Here, both sides will exchange documents or other items that relate to your case. Each side will also send and receive written questions and answers about the following:
- Your accident
- Medical treatment
- Personal history and more
Once those are completed, your attorney will conduct oral depositions. These are question-and-answer sessions where a court reporter makes a record of the conversation. Sometimes, these depositions will be videotaped, as well.
Your attorney may choose to hire one or more experts to help support your case. The defendant’s attorney may do the same. If experts are hired, they will conduct their inspections or evaluations. They will also provide written reports about their findings and opinions. The parties will then exchange these expert reports.
Finally, many cases are referred to arbitration once these steps are complete. Arbitration is like a mini-trial, except it does not involve a judge or jury. Instead, either a single person or a panel of people conducts the arbitration. The people running the arbitration are commonly other attorneys who practice in the area where your case is in court. Sometimes, they may even be retired judges. There is also usually an agreement between the parties about whether the outcome of the arbitration will be binding on the parties. If it is binding, then everybody has to live with the outcome of the arbitration. If it is not binding, then the parties can file an appeal if they are unhappy with the result of the arbitration.
STEP 3 (Months 15-18): Motions Practice, Possible Referral for Mediation
After Discovery, the attorneys may file Motions with the court. A Motion is, basically, the attorney asking the judge to make some kind of ruling regarding your case or the evidence before a trial. For example, your attorney may ask the judge to prevent the defendant’s attorney from bringing up certain pieces of evidence that are not really important for the jury to know. The defendant’s attorney may ask the judge to find that you don’t have enough evidence to support a certain part of your case. In any event, the judge will then tell the attorneys what is, or is not, permissible if your case goes to trial.
Also at this stage of the personal injury litigation timeline, many cases go to a mediation. A mediation is much different than an arbitration. A mediation is a formal conversation that aims to see if the parties can reach a settlement agreement. Sometimes, the judge assigned to your case may run a mediation in the courthouse. In other cases, the parties may choose another lawyer or retired judge to run the mediation.
The person running the mediation has no interest in the outcome of the case. In other words, they are simply there to see if they can help the parties come to a settlement agreement. Neither side is required to settle, so the goal is to help the parties come to a compromise agreement.
STEP 4 (Months 18-20): Expert Depositions, Case Likely Going to Trial
If your case goes through all the other stages and you have not yet reached a settlement agreement, there is a high chance that your case will go to trial. Your attorney will then arrange to take depositions of any experts that have been hired for your case. These depositions will then go onto a videotape. Your attorney may show the video to the jury during your trial.
STEP 5 (Months 21-24): Trial & Verdict
At this stage in the personal injury litigation timeline, you are typically getting pretty close to a decision.
Most cases usually have both a judge and jury. If your case has only a judge, then the judge will control the manner the evidence is presented and make the final verdict. If your case has both a judge and jury, the judge will control how the evidence is presented, but the jury will make its own decision regarding the verdict.
Every trial is different. Cases with more routine issues or limited evidence may last a single day. Cases that are more complicated or have lots of different types of evidence may last several days or weeks. Once the attorneys on both sides present the evidence, the court gives the jury time to discuss the case and come to a verdict.
STEP 6: Resolution or Appeal
You’re almost at the end of the personal injury litigation timeline. Once you complete a trial, the result is out of your hands. You need to hope that the judge, or jury, issues a verdict in your favor. Unfortunately, you can never control the outcome, so there is always some degree of risk in going to trial.
If the verdict is in your favor, that’s great! If the verdict is against you, then your attorney will discuss with you whether an appeal is likely to be successful. It is also possible that the verdict is in your favor, but not for the amount of money you were hoping for. But if everything goes your way, the verdict should fairly compensate you for the damages you suffered due to your personal injuries.
Meet your Personal Injury Litigation Attorney; William P. Mansour, Esquire
William (“Bill”) P. Mansour, Esq. is one of the most skilled lawyers in Pennsylvania. Among Bill’s many talents is his ability to analyse each and every detail of a client’s case. Additionally, he always looks beyond preliminary findings to develop a winning strategy. He understands the personal injury litigation timeline, and puts you in a strong position to win your case!
You can reach Bill by calling 888-KITAYLAW.