Every case is different. Oftentimes, one of the first things my clients ask me when we first decide to work together is "will we have to file my lawsuit in court?" My answer is a typical lawyer answer – "it depends". I produced a video discussing how a claim developes into a lawsuit – you can view it here. If your lawyer has submitted a claim to the at-fault party or his/her insurance company, and there has been no reasonable offer on your claim, it might be time to file a lawsuit. See my prior post on the topic of pre-suit investigation.
Prior to filing your lawsuit, your attorney will have investigated as much as possible. Your injury attorney will try to locate eye witnesses, people who are aware of how the accident has affected your life, and tried to learn more about the defendant who is responsible for hurting you.
Once you are at a point where your lawsuit has been filed in a court of law, and defendant has "answered" the lawsuit (either admitted or denied your allegations or asked the court to dismiss your lawsuit altogether) it is time for written discovery. As I explain to my injured clients and their families, "written discovery" is just a fancy lawyer term for written questions. I'm not sure why the legal field continues to use such funny language but it does. The defense will send a list of written questions for you to answer with the help of your attorney. You will sign the document with your answers, certifying that they are true and complete. Most of the time, these written questions are standard – asking for your name, address, if you have ever been in a car accident before, if you have ever hurt that same part of your body before, if you missed work because of the accident etc.
Sometimes, the defense attorney will attempt to sneak in inappropriate questions (such as questions about injuries to other parts of your body or questions about your past seeking irrelevant information). If this happens, your attorney will enter an objection instead of having you answer and, if necessary, your attorney will ask the judge if you have to answer the question. Your attorney will also prepare written discovery and send it to the defense. This is your time to find out if the defendant got a ticket as a result of the crash, has ever caused a crash before, or was drinking or texting at the time of the car accident. In Missouri, you have 30 days to answer discovery. In Illinois, you have 28 days to answer written discovery.
Next time, we will discuss party depositions.