You’ve been hurt because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, and all your losses won’t be covered by insurance. If you’ve never been involved in a lawsuit before, you may have questions about what to expect. In this series of blogs, we’ll walk you through the typical process for a personal injury lawsuit.
Step One — File Your Claim in a Timely Manner
In an earlier blog, we talked about the statute of limitations on personal injury claims in New Jersey. The law requires that you file any legal action for damages within two years of your injury (with exceptions set forth in our earlier blog), but there are many good reasons to take legal action more swiftly. Once you’ve filed a complaint, you can use the power of the courts to schedule depositions and use other means to preserve evidence. You don’t want to run the risk that key witnesses will die or disappear before trial, that memories will fade, or that physical evidence will be lost or destroyed.
Step Two — The Discovery Phase
Once your complaint has been filed and answered, Discovery will be exchanged between counsel for the litigants. “Discovery” is a legal term that refers to the gathering of evidence. This is done in three different ways—through the depositions of witnesses or parties, through the production of documents, and through written responses to written questions (called interrogatories). The discovery phase can last a few months or more, based on the complexity of the case and the number of witnesses expected to be called. In the American civil justice system, the concept of “open discovery” is the rule, which means that both sides have equal right and access to all evidence, and one party cannot willfully hide or fail to disclose relevant evidence.
To learn what happens next, see our blog on what to expect when you file a personal injury lawsuit, part two.
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