Getting injured in an auto accident is stressful enough. Having to navigate the legal process only adds to the stress, especially when you don’t have adequate counsel.
In this article, we’ll provide a general outline for the personal injury litigation process in Ohio.
What Happens First?
The litigation begins with the filing of a Complaint. Filing a Complaint does not mean that you are going to resolve your case by going to trial. For example, 90% of our cases resolve before going to trial.
Serving the Defendant
After your complaint is filed, the Clerk of Court will either serve the Defendant via certified mail or Bailiff service. Once the Defendant is served, the Defendant has 28 days from the date of service to answer the Complaint. In an auto accident case, the negligent driver, upon receiving the Complaint, usually contacts their insurance company. Their insurance company is obligated under their automobile insurance plan to hire an attorney that will represent the negligent driver throughout the litigation process.
Once the negligent driver’s attorney has entered an appearance, the Parties will exchange information that is called written discovery. Written discovery consists of written questions that both sides submit to each other to obtain additional information relating to all of the claims asserted and all of the defenses asserted. The main documents that are used are:
- Request for Production of Documents
- Request for Admissions
Once written discovery is exchanged between both sides, the Parties usually schedule sworn testimony or depositions. Depositions can last anywhere from a half hour to an entire day. The attorneys will ask you questions under oath regarding your personal injury claim.
During the litigation process, the court will request occasional hearings called “status conferences” or “pre-trials.” These are used to schedule deadlines for submitting witnesses and completing discovery along with setting the final pre-trial hearing and trial date.
After depositions are completed, and all of the supporting documentation has been submitted, we always place each of our personal injury cases in mediation in an attempt to resolve them. Mediation is a voluntary process between the parties with the goal of resolving the dispute outside of the courtroom. A mediator, usually a private attorney or non-attorney, acts as a facilitator of negotiations between the Parties.
Preparing for Trial
If the case is not settled at mediation, we continue to aggressively prepare for trial. We will have several discussions with our clients regarding the witnesses we will use, the evidence we will put on, and how much compensation we are going to ask for from the jury. We will prepare all of the necessary witnesses and exhibits for the jury.