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What happens when a lawsuit is filed?

The very first step in pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is to have the initial meeting with the attorney where you will discuss the particulars of your case and get a better understanding of your options. It's important to ask any questions you have along the way, and your attorney should be happy to provide you with information and counsel. If after this meeting you decide to move forward with the case, the next step is to file the initial court papers.

These first papers are referred to as "pleadings" and include the complaint. There is where you will provide a summary of the facts according to your knowledge and belief, identify all the parties involved — including if there are multiple defendants — and present your argument for why the case is under the jurisdiction of the court. You will also include what the desired outcome as, which in personal injury cases is almost always for the defendants to pay damages.

After the initial complaint is filed, the summons is sent and the other parties are served. This is an extremely important step because the defendants must respond to the complaint in a timely manner. While this is rare, the defendant not responding would mean that the case would likely be given a judgment in favor of the plaintiff by default.

Assuming the complaint is answered, any counter or cross claims will then be filed and answered, and then depending on what happens, the case will be dismissed, settled out of court or move forward to trial. In all of these instances, your attorney can help you understand how the events affect your case and what you may need to do.

Source: FindLaw, "Starting a Lawsuit: Initial Court Papers," accessed June 17, 2015

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