In every case, the anticipated goal is to have the case settle quickly, meaning that each party is able to reach mutually agreeable terms and conditions of an agreement that resolves the legal matter in its entirety without the need for protracted litigation.

Where settlement is not possible, you will need to know what litigation means in the context of your personal injury case.

It will be apparent that your case has entered litigation once certain activities begin. Here, we examine 5 elements that are encompassed in the meaning of litigation in a personal injury case.

The Elements of Personal Injury Litigation

Typically, there are five elements of litigation in a personal injury case. These are explained below.

1. Discovery

In the beginning stages of a legal action, the parties involved in the case may not have all of the evidence they need in order to support their claim in a court of law. By conducting discovery, parties or their attorneys can serve discovery requests on the other party to the litigation, which requires the other party to respond and/or produce written responses or documents which you may need to support claim. For example, top causes of distracted driving accidents and personal injury cases, are caused by drivers using their cellphone while driving. In this case, a litigant can conduct discovery to obtain the driver’s cellphone records at the time of the accident or injury.
During the discovery stage of litigation, parties can subpoena witnesses to hearings and depositions. During initial settlement discussions, discovery is usually stayed or delayed in an effort to work on settlement negotiations, but if your case is currently engaged in active discovery this means that your case is in litigation.

2. Motions

Another sign that your case has entered litigation is when either side of the case is compelled to file a motion with the court for temporary or permanent relief pending final resolution of the case. Usually, if parties or their attorneys are actively engaging in settlement discussions they will usually be able to workout an agreement among themselves without court involvement in an effort to avoid the need of a court hearing. If either side is compelled to file a motion with the court, this means that your case is in litigation.

3. Expert Witnesses

Once your case has taken shape and discovery is either complete or being undertaken, it may be necessary to engage or retain expert witnesses that can testify at hearings or trial in support of your claim or version of events. Experts are usually any professional, including, but not limited to doctors, CPA’s, or private investigators, that have sufficient knowledge and expertise in their field. Experts can be a critical component to the success of your case. For example, in cases involving a distracted driver, an expert can testify to the accuracy of the top causes of distracted driving injuries or other elements relevant to support their client’s position. If expert witnesses have been engaged or retained in your case, this means that your case is in litigation.

4. Preparation for Hearings or Trial

Ultimately, as your case progresses through litigation you and/or your attorney will be preparing your case for hearings or trial. Preparation for hearings can take the form of meeting with witnesses, preparing witnesses to provide testimony at hearings or depositions, and filing and responding to motions. If you or your attorney are preparing for court hearings or trial, then this means that your case is in litigation.

5. Trial

Every case that is involved in litigation will ultimately have it’s final day in court when a Judge as a fact-finder, or a jury will decide the fate of the case. At the trial, you or you’re attorney will be able to present evidence that you gathered during the discovery process, and you will present it in a light most favorable to your position or claims. For example, if your expert witness will present a written report that supports his or her expert opinion regarding the top causes of distracted driving, he or she will be able to provide the court with oral foundation or basis for the court to accept the opinion has sound. A trial will presumably put an end to the litigation by making a final Order or Judgment.

Although the ideal resolution to any legal action is to have it settled at the earliest stages of the claim, however, that’s not always possible. If your personal injury case has entered litigation, the elements discussed above are either currently or will be present in your case when litigation begins. Knowing what litigation means in your personal injury case will help you better prepare and prevail.

Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.