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Personal Injury Trials: Pretrial Matters

The Steps Leading Up to a Personal Injury Trial

law books & scale of justiceIf you have been hurt by the careless or negligent actions of another person, there’s only a one in 20 chance that your claim will actually go to trial. But whether your case goes to trial or not, your attorney will still be inclined to take all the steps necessary to prepare for litigation.

The Initial Investigation and Filing

Before filing a lawsuit, your attorney will typically conduct an investigation and gather evidence in order to determine the merits and strength of your claim. Counsel may also need to evaluate where to file the lawsuit if circumstances permit filing in different jurisdictions.

Once your lawsuit has been filed, the defendant has a certain number of days to respond. If the defendant fails to do so, your attorney can file a motion for a default judgment. However, if the defendant files an answer in a timely manner, the court will typically schedule an initial conference. At this conference, the judge will likely gather a little information about the claim, and may encourage the parties to consider settlement.

The court will also establish what is known as a “discovery” schedule. Discovery is the legal term for the gathering of evidence. The judge will typically limit discovery to a specific period of time, and may even put a pretrial conference, pretrial motions and a trial date on the calendar.

The Discovery Phase

The next stage of the trial is the discovery phase. Typically, discovery occurs one of three ways — through depositions, interrogatories or the production of documents and hard evidence. A deposition is the questioning of a witness under oath with a court reporter present. Either party may seek to depose any witness, but counsel for both parties must be notified of the deposition and must have the opportunity to be present and ask questions. Interrogatories are written questions to which a party must respond. Requests for production refer to items that are relevant to the claim.

The Pretrial Phase

During the discovery process, evidence may be disclosed that will not be admissible at trial. Once the discovery phase is done, the court will typically hear pretrial motions, which may address the admissibility of evidence at trial or may seek either to dismiss the claim or ask the court to grant summary judgment based on the evidence gathered.

Contact Our Office

For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 973-993-8787. We have office locations in Morristown and Newton, but will visit you in your home or the hospital if necessary.

We take all personal injury claims on a contingency basis. You will not incur legal fees unless attorney Popper recovers compensation for your losses.