Sometimes, a personal injury case cannot be settled satisfactorily out of court, or the defendant’s insurance company may refuse to offer a reasonable settlement amount. In such situations, an alternative option is to pursue compensation via civil trial, in which a judge or jury will decide what your case is worth. If you are considering filing suit in civil court for a personal injury, a qualified accident attorney could be a reliable source of guidance through all of the necessary Burlington County injury pre-trial steps.
Filing a Complaint
A civil lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint with the relevant jurisdictional court. This complaint outlines and provides a factual basis for the legal claims of the injured party. All defendants known as responsible parties are named in this complaint, and unidentified defendants may also be included categorically. After the complaint is filed, the defendants are served a notice by the court so they have knowledge of the lawsuit and may respond to the complaint.
The defendant(s) will either file an answer to the complaint or a motion to dismiss. If the court does not dismiss the case, the defendant must answer every paragraph in the complaint as affirmed, denied, or insufficient knowledge.
The defendant may also file a counterclaim against the plaintiff in the answer. If there is a counterclaim, the plaintiff must file a reply of their own, using the same responses to the issues raised.
The Discovery Process
Once all answers are filed, the discovery phase—a lengthy process in the Burlington County injury pre-trial steps that can take more than a year to complete—can begin. During discovery, attorneys for both parties obtain and exchange evidence from third parties. This information may include medical records, police reports, and other notarized documents from neutral sources.
Under New Jersey Court Rule 4:24-1, discovery and all other pretrial steps must be completed within 300 days for most personal injury cases. The time limit for product liability, medical malpractice, and other more complex cases is 450 days. If more time is needed, the court may extend discovery if sufficient reasons are presented for doing so.
The plaintiff themselves must answer interrogatories, or written questions. These questions deal with the injuries sustained, how the accident occurred, and any applicable economic damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and motor vehicle damage.
Mandatory Deposition Appearance
The plaintiff must also appear at a deposition, at which they will be asked questions under oath about the incident and their injuries by attorneys. During discovery, it is likely that the plaintiff will undergo a medical examination from a doctor chosen by the defendant’s lawyer.
Once discovery has concluded, the court schedules a non-binding arbitration hearing. This form of dispute resolution is overseen by a neutral arbitrator. Both parties make their case, and the arbitrator decides on an award. The plaintiff’s party can either accept or vacate the award after 30 days. Should the latter occur, a trial date is then set. If a mistake takes place within the subsequent trial, that plaintiff can also make an appeal to the decision if needed.
Role of a Burlington County Injury Lawyer
An experienced injury attorney prepares a case thoroughly before going to trial, explaining the entire Burlington County pre-trial steps process to the plaintiff and making sure every aspect is understood along the way. A qualified attorney could prepare the plaintiff to answer relevant questions by providing them with all necessary information. If you have any additional questions regarding the Burlington County injury pre-trial steps, contact a professional lawyer to learn more.