Metro Detroit Personal Injury Lawyer
This is the second of a series of blog posts detailing the Stages of a Personal Injury Case. See our previous post: What Should I Expect During My First Meeting With An Injury Attorney.
Conducting The Pre-Suit Investigation
After you and your attorney decide to move forward with the case, the next step involves conducting a pre-suit investigation. This step may vary depending on how long after the incident you consult with an attorney. In some cases, you may need additional medical treatment before the extent of your injuries is known. During this stage of the case, you and your attorney will gather the vital evidence that you will rely on in proving your case. This may include obtaining all medical records, speaking with witnesses and visiting the site of the incident or accident.
Depending on your individual claim, the attorney may attempt to negotiate with the insurance company prior to filing a lawsuit. If a settlement that fairly compensates the client is reached at this stage, the client is saved both time and money. In many situations, however, an agreement will not be reached and it will be necessary to file a lawsuit.
Filing the Complaint: Beginning Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
The first document that needs to be filed to begin a lawsuit is the complaint. The complaint contains an outline or summary of the plaintiff's (injured party's) case. Our legal system requires that the person being sued (the defendant) be given sufficient notice of the claims against them. This includes statements concerning:
why the court has jurisdiction to hear the claim;
the amount of damages sought;
the relationship between plaintiff and defendant;
the event that caused plaintiff injury;
why or how defendant is responsible for plaintiff's damages or injuries; and
details of the specific injuries plaintiff sustained.
Not only is the complaint filed with the court, but a copy must be provided to the defendant along with a summons. The summons is a short (usually one page) order from the court where the lawsuit is filed, which notifies the defendant that they have been sued and provides the time period in which they are required to respond or "answer" the complaint.
The Michigan Court Rules have very specific rules about the manner in which the defendant can be served or provided a copy of the complaint and summons. Due Process requires that the defendant be given proper notice of the claim against him or her and an opportunity to be heard. Failing to properly serve the defendant (provide notice) can, in some instances, result in a dismissal of the case.
Not only are there specific rules about the manner in which plaintiff can provide a copy of the complaint and summons to defendant, the plaintiff must also do so before the summons expires (91 days). If the plaintiff is not able to serve the defendant within 91 days, he or she must request additional time from the judge, and must show they made diligent attempts at serving the defendant before the summons expired.
Defendant's Response: The Answer To The Complaint
After plaintiff successfully serves the summons and complaint on defendant, the defendant is required to provide a response or answer to plaintiff's complaint within 21 days (if served personally) or 28 days (if served by registered or certified mail). As to each allegation in plaintiff's complaint, the defendant will either "admit" the allegation, "deny" the allegation, or state that they "lack sufficient information to either admit or deny" the allegation. Along with the answer, the defendant may choose to present any claims he or she has against plaintiff, and does so by filing a counterclaim. The counterclaim is similar to plaintiff's complaint and will require plaintiff to respond or answer in the same manner as defendant. The defendant can also present any claims they have against another defendant in the case (cross-claim) or bring in a new party (third-party complaint).
Filing a lawsuit is complex and requires a deep understanding of the rules and laws applicable to your specific claim. One misstep could result in the dismissal of your case. Don't attempt to handle your claim alone. Contact our office today and let us help you get the compensation you deserve.