Slip and Fall Lawsuit Timeline
If you have been injured in a slip or trip and fall accident caused by someone else’s negligence, one of the first questions you are likely to ask your Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer is, “How long will it take?” Usually, the answer will be, “It depends.”
A sequence of steps must be followed in a premises liability or other personal injury lawsuit. Your case could be settled at any point along the way, or it could go all the way to trial, so the total amount of time required is variable.
First, you will set an appointment for a personal injury attorney to review the facts of your case. If the lawyer feels that you have enough evidence of liability and a sufficient amount of damages to warrant a lawsuit, you can move forward with your claim.
THE STAGES OF A SLIP, TRIP, AND FALL LEGAL ACTION
Your lawyer will often advise you to keep seeing your doctor until you have reached the maximum level of medical improvement, so the value of your damages can be better assessed; but is the statute of limitations ─ the legal time limit for filing ─ is approaching, you will need to file suit before that date, regardless of your state of improvement.
Summons and Complaint
To begin a lawsuit, your attorney will file a summons and complaint against the party being sued, and may also send a demand letter to the defendant’s insurance company. The complaint sets forth the basic facts: when the accident happened, how it happened, why the defendant was negligent or otherwise caused you to be injured, what injuries you suffered, and the amount of damages demanded. The defendant has 20 days to respond with an answer, admitting or denying each allegation of the complaint.
Motions to the Court
At this point, lawyers may file motions with the court, such a motion to dismiss, motion for a change of venue or judge, or a motion for removal to a different court, for example, if the matter at hand involves federal rather than state law and should be transferred to a federal court.
Once these matters are disposed of, Discovery begins. This is where lawyers on both sides investigate the facts by reviewing police reports, interviewing witnesses, etc., and exchange information about the incident being litigated.
- Interrogatories: Discovery usually begins with Interrogatories, a list of questions designed to elicit information in the other party’s possession, which the defendant will answer. You may also receive Interrogatories from the defendant.
- Exchange of Medical Records and Defendant’s Physical: You will need to provide the defendant with authorization for your medical records. The defendant’s attorney will probably insist on a physical exam by a doctor of their choice.
- Depositions: Next, the attorneys from both sides will usually take depositions, under oath, of witnesses and others who may have information about the case. Those being deposed will answer questions by attorneys on both sides, recorded verbatim by a court reporter.
Arbitration or Trial
Depending on the size of your claim, your case will now be ready for arbitration or trial. If damages total less than $50,000 it will typically be set for arbitration; above $50,000 is a matter for trial, which could be a bench trial where only a judge decides the case or a jury trial. Arbitration is a private hearing before a trained arbitrator, acceptable to both sides. A binding arbitration ruling is the equivalent of a verdict by a judge or jury – a final decision on the case. Witnesses usually don’t appear. Their written statements and deposition transcripts are provided for the arbitrator to review.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Very few personal injury cases go all the way to a trial verdict. Your case could be settled at a very early stage, right before the arbitration or trial, or after the trial has begun.
The total duration of your case will depend on:
- How long it takes you to reach your maximum medical improvement;
- How quickly you are able to schedule depositions;
- Whether the case goes to arbitration or trial (Arbitration is faster.)
- The court’s schedule.
Property owners have a responsibility to maintain safe premises and ensure the security of all visitors. If you or somebody you love suffered injuries in Pennsylvania due to the negligence of another party, consider speaking with a skilled Philadelphia personal injury attorney experienced in premises liability cases. Getting a lawyer involved in your injury claim right from the start can help you or a loved one recover fair compensation in the event of a slip and fall accident.