What happens after my lawyer files a lawsuit?
After a lawsuit is filed, the lawyer receives what is called a Tracking Order from the court. This document assigns the new case to a court session and sets forth a schedule for the case including several deadlines by which different phases are to be completed.
Once the court issues a Tracking Order, it is time for the personal injury attorney to serve the defendants to put them formally on notice that a lawsuit has been filed against them. This involves delivering legal papers to the defendant, which is typically done by the Sheriff in the county where the defendant is located. With formal notice of the lawsuit, the defendant files an Answer to the Complaint, defense counsel becomes involved, and the parties begin discovery.
What is “Discovery”?
Discovery in a lawsuit is the period of time during which each party learns about the opponent’s case, their claims, positions, and defenses. Early in discovery, the parties exchange two important pleadings: interrogatories (pursuant to Massachusetts Superior Court Rule 33) and requests for production of documents (pursuant to the Massachusetts Superior Court Rule 34).
Interrogatories are written questions that are posed to each party and must be answered under the pains and penalties of perjury. In personal injury cases, standard interrogatories deal with how accidents happened, what injuries claimants have suffered, and how those injuries affect plaintiffs’ lives.
Documents exchanged pursuant to Rule 34 usually include medical records and bills to show exactly what treatment the plaintiff has received as well as other documents supporting expenses and losses the plaintiff has suffered.
Next Phase – Depositions
Usually, after written discovery is complete or substantially complete, the parties begin taking depositions. Depositions are formal testimony taken of parties to lawsuits and other witnesses. Conducted in conference rooms (and since the COVID-19 Pandemic, frequently conducted on Zoom), depositions are a series of questions and answers under oath that are recorded by a court reporter or stenographer who types out everything that has been said and creates a transcript. Those transcripts can be important evidence at trial.
Final Phase – Pretrial Conference and Trial
Following the completion of discovery, parties to lawsuits consult with their expert witnesses in preparation for what is called the final pretrial conference. The final pretrial conference is normally held once each party has a full understanding of the case and is ready for trial. At the conference, which is held before a judge, the parties exchange additional information, and a trial date is assigned.
Between the final pretrial conference and the trial date, the parties exchange additional information and may conduct depositions of the expert witnesses involved. They exchange final motions and prepare to present the case to the jury.
The above is a broad overview of the litigation process and our clients’ involvement in it. It is not an exhaustive analysis of everything that happens from the filing of the complaint through to trial. During each phase, issues and disputes may arise that require motion practice and other communications between opposing counsel and the court.
SUGARMAN attorneys have decades of experience helping clients through every phase of bringing a claim, filing a lawsuit, preparing for trial, and trying cases. If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury or wrongful death as the result of an accident, we may be able to help. Send us an email today at email@example.com or call (617) 542-1000 to speak to a SUGARMAN principal.