If your case has not settled, and we have been forced to file suit, your case is in litigation. This post is designed to provide a roadmap of what to expect as your legal case moves forward. I will provide a brief outline of the litigation process and tell you what you need to do during the process.
The purpose of this is to give you a reference article you can read and re-read if you want to know what to expect during your case. This post cannot possibly answer all questions or provide details of your specific case. If you ever have any questions or concerns, or need to discuss the facts of your particular case, please don’t hesitate to call me.
District Court vs Circuit Court
If we filed your case in District Court, the process is largely the same – but it is much easier and shorter. District Court gives you a trial before a Judge – not a jury. That trial date will probably take place in a couple of months. The trial will probably take 1-2 hours total, and we will have to be there one half of a day – either morning or afternoon depending on when the court sets our case in. It will be relatively easy for you to have this trial.
Circuit Court is where we filed if we want a jury trial. That is a longer and more involved process. It can be up to a year before we have the trial. There will be a lot of prep work before trial. The trial will probably take 2 days.
Either way, we will prepare you for everything and be there every step of the way.
Filing Suit & Serving the Summons
The first thing we have to do is file the lawsuit, which we either have done or will do soon. Once the clerk gets the lawsuit, they prepare a summons. This is a formal legal document directing the Defendant to file a response to our lawsuit. In a District Court case, the clerk sets the trial date in the summons. I will send you a copy. In Circuit Court, the trial date is not set until the other side answers the lawsuit.
The summons is returned to my office, and we have to serve the summons on the Defendant personally. In a personal injury case, the insurance company will represent the Defendant. But we still have to serve the Defendant (the person who caused your accident) with a lawsuit personally under the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure. They must turn it over to their insurance company. I give them a cover letter advising them to do just that.
When we get service on the Defendant, they have 30 days to file an “Answer” to our complaint. This is simply a formal legal document saying they will contest the case. I will get a copy. When they file this Answer, the Court will set the trial date. The Court will issue an Order setting deadlines for various things we must do in the case.
Discovery – Written
The first thing we do is a process called discovery. Each side sends the other side a list of questions (called Interrogatories), and a request to produce any documents or things you want to submit at trial (called Request for Production of Documents). They must be answered in writing and under oath. That means you have to be sure they are accurate when you sign your formal answers.
We will send you a copy of these questions, and my paralegal will work directly with you to answer the questions. We can answer many of their questions from the information in the file. But there will be some that we need to ask you. My staff will contact you when we get the other side’s written discovery. The questions are pretty standard and they will not be hard to answer.
In a Circuit Court trial, the next thing that happens is depositions. There are no depositions in a District Court case. You probably know what a deposition is. You sit in front of a court reporter and answer questions from the other attorney. It will probably be in my office. I will be there to defend your deposition. I will normally depose the other driver as well.
Deposition preparation is the subject of another post. I will send you that one at the right time, and we will meet in my office to prepare for the deposition before it happens.
The one thing I want to tell you now is to NOT be nervous about your deposition. They are a serious legal proceeding to be sure, but they are a lot easier than you are probably thinking they are. They are NOT like what you see on TV. The other attorney will usually be very nice and polite, and the whole thing will be rather conversational. You are not being asked any trick questions. You lived through this event, and the pain and medical care after the fact. That is all you have to talk about.
The insurer has the right to send you to an Independent Medical Exam during the case. They will hire a doctor to use as an expert witness. They will send you to that doctor to be examined. A report will be made, and that will form the basis of their doctor’s testimony at your case. IME’s are the subject of another email and post. I will send you that one and we can discuss at the right time.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
After your deposition and IME, we may explore alternative means of resolving your case. This may include arbitration, mediation, or a number of other creative processes. The Courts love to push alternative resolution. We will talk about this when the time comes. I just want to tell you to expect it.
If we do not agree to alternative dispute resolution, we will start preparing for trial. There will be a lot more to do at that time, and we will talk about it then. The weeks leading up to your trial are relatively busy. Be aware of that if planning any major events in that time period. Feel free to talk to me about things if you get an opportunity for some time off close to your trial date.
As always, feel free to call me if you have any questions or concerns.
And always remember to refer to our Free Legal Consumer Guide on Car Accident Cases in Maryland if you have other questions.