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What Happens Once My Lawsuit Is Filed?

Video Transcript

Many clients ask, okay, my lawsuit has been filed, now what? Well, I’m gonna tell you. Once your lawsuit is filed, it has to be served upon the defendants. They have to receive notice that they’re being sued in line. So a copy of your lawsuit is being sent to them. It could be sent by the sheriff or it can be sent by a special process server. Once the defendants have your lawsuit, they are given by law a period of time where they can respond to the allegations. This is called filing a response of pleading or filing an answer to the lawsuit. Very often, this response of pleading is going to be a denial of the allegations, and then the parties will move on and will proceed with discovery. Sometimes the response of pleading ends up being a motion, and a motion can take various forms. Sometimes the defendants may be saying that there’s something defective or wrong with your pleading. And oftentimes, if they’re right, the judge will give the plaintiff, you, opportunities to fix those pleadings and to move forward. Sometimes the defendants file motions because they think there’s some evidence or some legal principle that defeats your claim. When these motions are filed, the parties then submit briefs to the judge, and the judge sets a schedule as to what the judge wants to hear and when the judge wants to hear these arguments. Once the briefs are fully submitted, the judge will set a date for either a ruling or an oral argument. And, unfortunately, it can take months to get these motions fully briefed and decided upon by a judge. But once the judge makes the decision and your case moves forward, you’ll then be engaging in the discovery process as well. During the discovery process, both sides can exchange written documents. These come in the form of questions and requests. The questions that are exchanged are called interrogatories, and your lawyers may send you a copy of these interrogatories and ask you to review them and to provide some information so that we can begin to answer them and give the defendants the information that they’re seeking. Very often when we get these interrogatories, we will have the information that we need to begin to answer these documents, but information and input from the clients help. And at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to review the questions and the answers and to sign off under oath verifying that these are the true and accurate answers to these questions. When we receive the requests from the defendant, the requests are asking us to produce documents or evidence or material that we have in our possession. Many times, these documents will consist of the materials that you’ve helped us gather at the beginning of your case. They could be photographs. They could be medical records or some other pieces of information that you’ve provided us about you or your loved one’s case. Another thing that’s often requested is medical records. And very likely, in preparation for your case, we’ve obtained a voluminous set of medical records that we will turn over to the defendants. When we then ask them questions and we request information from them, we are very likely asking for documents that they have that might help us prove your case. Often, when the case involves a nursing home or a hospital, these are policies and procedures, incident reports, medical records, or other documents that can help us put the pieces of the puzzle together. Once both sides have exchanged this information, then the parties move on to what’s called oral discovery or depositions. In depositions, the other side, the defendants get to ask the plaintiff questions under oath. This is when you and your lawyer would go to an office or come to our office, and a court reporter would be present. This is the one time that the defendants get to question you outside of the trial of your case. They are allowed to ask questions and permitted to ask questions that touch upon your background, your injuries, and your experiences that led up to this lawsuit. Once your deposition is complete, then your lawyers will have an opportunity to depose the defendants. This may involve deposing their employees or their managers or someone from the defendant that knows something about your case. And we will then get the chance to ask questions of them under oath. When we take these depositions, we’re often trying to ask what happened in your case and seeing whether there are answers that they can provide to us outside of what we already know from our investigation. Once this process is complete, very often, if your case is one that warrants it, the parties move on to what’s called expert discovery. In expert discovery, both sides have hired expert witnesses that have some sort of specialty or area of expertise that is relevant to your case. The plaintiff first discloses their experts by filing a very detailed and voluminous document outlining our experts’ credentials and the opinions that they intend to express at trial in your case. Once these opinions are filed, the other side has the opportunity to then question our experts in a deposition, to ask them questions about their opinions, and to try to obtain information that will be helpful to defending the case. Once the plaintiff’s experts are completed, the defendants then have to disclose in writing the doctors or the nurses or the other experts that they have obtained to defend the case. These opinions will be filed and they will outline the reasons that the defendant’s experts feel the way they do about the case. Then we get the opportunity to depose them, and we get them under oath, and we ask them why they feel the way they do or why they will pine or give an opinions about the subject matters in your case in the way that they’ve set forth in their disclosures. Once expert discovery is completed, there may be an additional period of time where the judge allows both parties to submit motions to try to narrow the issues in your case before trial. If no motions are submitted, the case gets set for trial. If motions are submitted, there may be another period of motion practice where briefs are submitted and a judge makes a ruling. Once all of this is completed, your case gets a trial date. When the trial date is established, your lawyers will likely reach out to you to make sure that you can attend and give you an expectation of what they want you to do to prepare for the trial and to participate in the trial. In many cases, during this process, we may be approached by the other side about trying to enter into settlement negotiations. Many cases settle without the need to go to trial. If your case is one that should be considered for settlement, we will evaluate your case with the team of lawyers in our office and come up with a plan that best suits your needs. We will then tell the other side what we want to settle your case, and the other side will decide whether they are going to make an offer or sometimes whether the party should get together in an informal setting called a pretrial or remediation where the parties can exchange offers and exchange ideas and come to a resolution of your case. If your case doesn’t settle initially, it may still settle before you get to the courthouse steps. And so please be patient when your case is being considered for settlement. We wanna make sure that we get you full, fair, and complete compensation. And often this may take many attempts at settlement. Keep in mind that while I’ve explained this process in several minutes to you in this video, this process often takes several years. Please call us if you have any questions about where your case is in this process and if we can help you better understand any of the steps of this process.

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Steven M Levin

Steven M. Levin

Founder and Senior Partner
Since 1976, Steve Levin has been dedicated to helping people injured by others’ negligence. He is one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to prosecute nursing homes for abuse and negligence. He's also helped write new legislation that governs the operation of nursing homes, including the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Moreover, Levin & Perconti has obtained the top three jury verdicts in nursing home negligence cases in Illinois.