How the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process Works

personal injury lawsuit process

Many people think that hiring a lawyer to deal with a personal injury case involves suing someone immediately. While this is true in some cases, the fact is that the process of a personal injury lawsuit is usually long-drawn. Besides, there is no dearth of instances when personal injury cases end up in settlements even before the filing of lawsuits. This, then, begs the question, “What are the stages of an injury claim?”

If you look at a typical personal injury lawsuit timeline, you will notice that a lot happens before an actual hearing in court. Given the complexities involved in the process, it makes sense to seek professional assistance because your lawyer will know how to handle a personal injury case from start to finish.


Initial Consultation/Screening

The personal injury lawsuit process gets underway by getting in touch with a lawyer or attorney who specializes in this realm. During the initial consultation, your attorney will delve into all the details of the accident that caused your injury to understand the merits of your case. This will involve answering any questions presented to you. After this step, your attorney will determine the best way forward.



Upon accepting your case, your attorney carries out a thorough investigation. If you have any documentation such as photos of injuries, other damages, and the accident scene, you should provide them at this stage. You may also expect your attorney to gather other forms of evidence, interview witnesses, and get in touch with the relevant insurance companies.


Depending on the severity of your accident and injuries, your attorney may use the services of an accident reconstruction specialist or a medical expert to get a better understanding of your case and back it up with suitable reports. If your case goes to court, your attorney can get these experts to testify on your behalf.


Demand for Settlement

Your personal injury attorney contacts the opposing party and its insurance provider before filing a lawsuit to determine if there’s a possibility of settling the case without going to court. The process of a personal injury lawsuit can end at this stage if the at-fault party and the insurance company in question agree on a settlement amount with your attorney. If not, the case goes to court.


Filing Court Documents

If the settlement demand fails, your attorney files a complaint or a petition in court, listing you as the plaintiff and the at-fault party as the defendant. The complaint provides details of the accident and your injuries, and explains why you hold the defendant responsible for your damages and the compensation you seek.



After filing the case in court, both parties go through a process referred to as discovery. This is when they gather evidence and any other relevant facts from the opposing sides. The discovery process typically involves written discovery, document production, and depositions. Depositions involve questioning parties and witnesses under oath in the presence of court reporters.

Filing of motions can take place before your case goes to trial. Attorneys of either party may file a motion asking the court to rule on a specific matter. For example, a defendant’s attorney may file a motion to dismiss the case after the discovery stage, suggesting that the case is invalid.

On the other hand, your attorney may file a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there is no disputing the facts of the case and you should get immediate relief. Other common motions include motion for default judgment, motion to compel, and motion to exclude experts.

Both parties may request for mediation during any stage of the personal injury lawsuit process, including the pretrial. This alternate dispute resolution method involves a mediator (a neutral third party) helping both parties reach a settlement without going to trial.

Process of a personal injury lawsuit


In the absence of a settlement, your case proceeds to a trial. This is when the lawyers of both parties present their case in court, showcasing evidence and witness testimony, and carrying out cross-examination, if required. After the deliberations are complete, the jury determines if the defendant is liable. If so, it also arrives at a suitable compensation amount. If the judgment is in your favor, your attorney will guide you through the process of collecting the funds in question.



If you’re wondering how long it takes to make a personal injury claim, know that the process can continue even after a court passes a judgment in favor of either party. This is because you may file an appeal with the proper appellate court if you’re not happy with the ruling or if you feel you were at a disadvantage because of procedural mistakes. Bear in mind that the defendant holds the right to file an appeal too.


Common Questions About the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process

Here are answers to some of the commonly asked questions about filing personal injury cases in the U.S.


How Long Do Most Personal Injury Claims Take?

How long personal injury claims take depends on multiple factors like the complexity of a case, availability of evidence and witnesses, whether a settlement is reached, and the attorney you hire. On average, personal injury cases take around six months to two years or more.


What Is the Longest a Settlement Can Take?

While some settlements take place in a matter of weeks, some can extend for years.


What Is the Compensation for Personal Injury?

The compensation for personal injury includes a gamut of damages like medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, pain/suffering, physical disfigurement/impairment, loss of consortium/companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life. The compensation amount you receive depends on the severity of your injuries and other damages.



Now that you understand how the personal injury lawsuit process works, know that seeking advice from a lawyer or attorney might be in your best interest. After all, the chances of winning a personal injury lawsuit increase significantly when you have an expert by your side. Besides, there’s a possibility that your attorney can get you the compensation you seek at the negotiation table, without having to take your case to court.