A common question we get asked is "how long will my personal injury lawsuit take", and while every personal injury case is different, here are the general milestones one can expect for a personal injury lawsuit.
Milestone 1 - File the Complaint
The first step is to file the Complaint. A Complaint is simply a document which lays out the facts of what happened coupled with the law. A typical Complaint has two parties - the Plaintiff and the Defendant. The Plaintiff is the party/person who has filed the Complaint because of some injury or some error that has happened to them. The Defendant is the party/person who caused the injury or error.
The Plaintiff's lawyer will file the Complaint with the Circuit Clerk and after filing, the Complaint will be assigned to a Judge who will preside over the case.
Most counties in Arkansas allow electronic filing. Here is a picture of the log in screen.
Milestone 2 - Serving the Complaint
After filing the personal injury Complaint, the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff's lawyer will serve the Complaint on the Defendant. In Arkansas state court, the Plaintiff has one hundred and twenty (120) days to serve the Complaint on the Defendant.
Milestone 3 - Responding to the Complaint
Once the Defendant has been served the personal injury complaint, the Defendant will have up to thirty (30) days to respond to the Complaint. The Defendant can respond in three different ways. The Defendant can (1) answer the Complaint; (2) petition the Judge to move the Complaint to another jurisdiction; or (3) petition the Judge to dismiss the Complaint.
Milestone 4 - Discovery
After the Defendant has responded, typically the discovery process will begin. This process allows the parties to discover facts and information about the case in order to find admissible evidence.
The parties can engage in discovery in a number of ways. Some of the most common ways are: (1) serving Interrogatories, which are written questions for the other party to answer; (2) serving Requests for Production of Documents, which are written requests asking the party to share documents with the other party; (3) serving Requests for Admissions, which are written statements that the other party will typically have to admit or deny; (4) serving subpoenas; and (5) conducting depositions, which are interviews in typical question/answer format where the person being asked the questions are under oath.
A party typically has thirty (30) days to respond to written questions or requests.
Milestone 5 - Pretrial proceedings
After discovery is completed, the Judge will usually hold hearings in case either party has filed Motions. Some Motions that the Judge will likely hear at this Milestone include Motions to Dismiss, Motions for Summary Judgment, and Motions in Limine. Motions to Dismiss and Motions for Summary Judgment ask the Judge to declare that either part of a case or the entire case should be dismissed. Motions in Limine ask the Judge to not admit certain evidence.
Milestone 6 - Trial
After all the Milestones have been completed and the Judge has not dismissed the Plaintiff's personal injury Complaint, a Trial by Jury can finally take place.
While it is true that any personal injury case can resolve at any Milestone, Gates Law Firm prepares each client's case for Trial. We have found that this mindset allows us to dot every "i" and cross every "t" so that we are fully prepared to achieve justice for our clients.
You don't have to bear this alone. We got your back. Call Gates Law Firm today to discuss your legal options.