Anatomy of a Lawsuit

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Attorney Matt Kahn is here to explain each phase of a personal injury lawsuit. Hear what he has to say!

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► Hi, my name is Matt Kahn, I’m an attorney with Butler Law Firm. One question that I always get from my clients is how long is it going to take for me to get a check? Really the answer to that depends on an understanding of the anatomy of a lawsuit. So today we’re going to go through each phase of a personal injury lawsuit.
► Now, the first step in any lawsuit is going to be to file your complaint, which sets forth the allegations in which the case is going to be based. The defendant then has 30 days to respond and they either need to file an answer or a motion to dismiss, which basically just tells the court you need to dismiss this case because it doesn’t state a claim that you can grant relief on. If a motion to dismiss is filed, then the case pauses for 90 days. Or if the court rules on the motion sooner then the case picks up. If the motion is granted, then the parties may appeal or they may resume the case if the motion is denied.
► Then discovery period begins. The discovery period in Georgia is six months and this is the opportunity for both sides to just learn what the case is about and discover evidence. The tools at our disposal for doing that are written discovery requests, depositions in which witnesses are questioned and there are other tools like inspections and site visits that we can use and have at our disposal. Oftentimes the discovery period is extended one or two times, sometimes even three or four times. For that reason cases can drag on for years in some situations.
► Now, once the discovery period is over, both parties have collected all the evidence that they need in their case, the dispositive motion phase and this is where the defense usually will file what’s called a motion for summary judgment. Which is basically another opportunity for the defense to ask the court to throw the case out, arguing that the plaintiff has failed to meet his or her burden of proof. Another motion that’s typically filed at the dispositive motion phase is a Daubert motion, which challenges the ability of one party’s expert to offer testimony.
► Now, sometimes in a case where expert testimony is required, the ruling on a Daubert motion could be dispositive, which is why it’s usually lumped together with the dispositive motions. Now, if a motion for summary judgment is granted, which means the court throws your case out, then you also have another opportunity to appeal. If the motion is denied, then you move forward to a jury trial.
► Now at any point during this process, the opportunity to settle a case can take place. Most often there’s one settlement discussion before the lawsuit is filed and then after discovery, once the party’s have a better understanding of how their case looks and how the jury will react to the issues and the evidence in the case.
► But the important thing for everyone to know who’s involved in the litigation process is that it takes time. You’ve got 30 days for the response, potentially three months while waiting for a motion to dismiss. Another six months at least for discovery and then usually it takes a few months at least to get a ruling on a dispositive motion. So you’re looking at at least a year from the time of filing the complaint before you’re going to likely see a resolution.
► Now that’s not to say that it sometimes doesn’t happen sooner. Sometimes we mediate cases before a complaint is filed and other times we’ll mediate a case after the discovery period. But typically you’re going to have to buckle in and wait a number of months before you see a check, whether it’s from a settlement or a jury verdict.

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