What Is the Trial Process for a Personal Injury Case?

Lever & Ecker, PLLC September 15, 2022 Personal injury

Dealing with the legal process that follows a personal injury incident can be intimidating, especially if the case goes to trial. With nuanced legal wording and complex structure, the trial process is often confusing and convoluted. As a result, it is imperative to retain an attorney who will support you from start to finish. If your case goes to court, you deserve top-notch representation prepared to take on the courtroom and handle all aspects of your case on your behalf. 

Our experienced legal team at Lever & Ecker, PLLC has over 60+ years of combined experience, so we have the skills, resources, and tools to take your case to trial. We understand that every personal injury case is different. We have taken on all types of personal injury cases, so we are here to help you understand how the New York trial process works. 

8 Steps in a Typical New York Personal Injury Trial

While each personal injury situation is unique, the trial process generally follows a standard sequence of events. The stages of these trials include the following:

File The Lawsuit

To commence a lawsuit, you must file documents with the Court called the Summons and Complaint, laying out the essential information about your case, including the parties involved and the nature of the claim against the wrongdoers, known as defendants. New York also has a time limit (statute of limitations) for these claims, which deadline is typically three years from the date of the accident (although this deadline may be far shorter in certain circumstances, particularly where the wrongdoer is a municipality or a public authority). A critical component of the lawyer’s job is to gather all of the necessary information to then file your lawsuit properly and on time. 

Serve the Papers on the Defendant(s)

The next step after filing the lawsuit is to serve the Summons and Complaint on the defendants, to advise them that you have commenced the lawsuit against them, and in which county, and that they have a certain amount of time – typically 20 or 30 days – to respond to the lawsuit. Service of these papers is typically accomplished through the use of a process server, which understands the important rules of how to effect service on people and entities. 

The Defendant Responds to the Claim

Once they have been served with the Summons and Complaint, the defendants must respond to the allegations, typically by filing an Answer, generally either admitting or denying the allegations against them. The defendants generally assert in their Answer, as a matter of course, that they are not liable for the accident or your injuries.  The defendants can also move to dismiss the action, arguing that the case is insufficient for a variety of reasons, or assert claims against you, called counterclaims.

Discovery Phase

This stage of the trial process consists of exchanging information and documentation about the case so that each party is aware of what the other knows about the facts of the case. This phase includes the following:

Document production: This is the process of requesting, and receiving, documentation relating to the accident and the case, like accident reports, photos and videos of the accident, medical records, lost income documentation, and business records.

Bill of Particulars: The Bill of Particulars is among the most important documents in the case, as it requires the injured party (plaintiff) to set forth his or her claims of wrongdoing against the defendants, and also requires him or her to set forth the nature and extent of the injuries suffered in the accident. Lawyers spend a great deal of time setting forth these allegations properly. 

Deposition: The deposition is the process by which the parties are required to answer questions asked by the other side’s lawyers, under oath and before a court reporter, about the case. Depositions typically last between several hours and a full day. The deposition serves to elicit each party’s version of events, and also allows the lawyers to “size up” the witnesses, as to who may be seen as more credible if the case proceeds to trial at a future date.

Medical examination: Under New York law, the defendant’s lawyers are permitted to send the plaintiffs for medical examinations with doctors of the defendants’ lawyers’ choosing.

These tools are intended to limit surprises at trial They give each party more context and information so they can better prepare for court.

Motion Practice

Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer or the defendants’ lawyers may file a motion with the Court, to seek a ruling from the Court on certain issues on which the lawyers are unable to agree. One example of a motion is a discovery motion, in which one side believes they are entitled to certain information or documentation that the other side has refused to provide. The judge will then resolve the motion by determining whether that information must be provided. 

Another type of motion is called a summary judgment motion. With such a motion, one party asserts to the judge that a certain aspect of the case should be decided in their favor, because the law and facts are so in their favor that the judge, rather than a jury, can decide it. For example, the plaintiff’s lawyer may file a motion that the defendants should be found liable for the accident. On the other hand, the defendants may file a motion to argue that the case should be dismissed against them. 

These motions are obviously incredibly important and require a great amount of diligence on the part of the lawyers.

Trial in New York Supreme Court

Following each of the above phases, if the parties are unable to resolve the case through negotiations, mediation, or other settlement efforts, your case goes to trial. The New York court in which cases are generally tried is known as the Supreme Court, and they are found in every county in the state. Once the jury is selected,  the trial begins with opening statements. Then, the lawyers examine and cross-examine witnesses, including, for example, the parties, eyewitnesses, and experts. The lawyers then give closing statements, and the case then “goes to the jury” to deliberate on a verdict. The jury is typically charged with deciding who is at fault (liable) for the accident, and how much compensation the plaintiff should receive in damages. Damages typically include pain and suffering (past and future); emotional distress; lost income/wages (past and future); medical expenses and other out-of-pocket expenses. Trials typically take three to five days, but if your case is more complicated, it may take longer.

Collect Damages

If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff and awards him or her compensation, the defendants, typically through their insurance companies, pay the amount of those damages, by sending a check for the amount awarded by the jury.

File an Appeal

Sometimes, the party that loses a trial will file an appeal, to the court known as the Appellate Division. There are four different Appellate Divisions in New York. These appellate judges review the appeal to determine whether the trial judge made proper decisions at the trial so that the verdict should be upheld, reversed, or modified.

Contact a Knowledgeable New York Personal Injury Lawyer at Lever & Ecker, PLLC

Dealing with the trial process after suffering a personal injury can be overwhelming, but you do not have to do it alone. Our compassionate legal team at Lever & Ecker, PLLC, puts your health first, by handling every phase of the case on your behalf, from filing the lawsuit to obtaining a jury verdict. 

We have over 60 years of combined legal experience providing successful services to New York personal injury victims. Our award-winning team does everything we can to settle your case outside of court, but we are prepared to proceed with the trial and provide you with high-quality representation every step of the way. Give us a call at (914) 288-9191 or (718) 933-3632, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.