Occasionally, personal injury claims cannot be resolved without resorting to litigation. The litigation process is complex and time-consuming. Nevertheless, it can be broken down into several phases: Filing the Complaint, Discovery, and Trial. In some instances, the process involves Alternative Dispute Resolution, including Arbitration and a Mediation or Settlement Conference.
A complaint is a legal document that makes allegations against the defendants. A complaint must contain a statement of facts indicating liability, the legal basis for liability (known as counts), and a prayer for relief, e.g., request for damages. The filing of a complaint begins the litigation process.
Filing a complaint can be a powerful negotiation tool when working with an insurance company and other adverse parties. This is because it begins the litigation process; the actual formal proceedings do not begin until later. Since litigation is expensive, adverse parties are often willing to move off of their previous positions in order to settle the matter before investing a great deal of money in defending an action. However, this is not always the case, and actual formal proceedings must be completed.
After filing a complaint, the plaintiff is required to serve a copy of the summons, which is a legal document requiring a defendant to appear in court, and the complaint on all defendants in the case. Service must be done by a process server or other authorized party; it cannot be completed by the plaintiff. This procedure is called service of process and must be completed within 120 days of filing the complaint. If service of process is not completed properly, the lawsuit is subject to dismissal by the court.
After all the defendants have been properly served, the defendants generally have 20 days to file an answer to the complaint. The answer is a legal document that responds to the allegations in the complaint. Any allegations that are not responded to by the defendants are considered admitted for the purposes of the litigation. In addition, defendants are permitted, and sometimes required, to make a counterclaim against the plaintiff if any of the defendants have potential claims against the plaintiff. This typically occurs when a party is alleging comparative negligence, i.e., both parties share a certain degree of fault.
We represent clients throughout the state of Arizona and are ready to assist you through this difficult time. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, please call the Law Offices of Michael Cordova at 602-265-6700. Our Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyers offer a free, personal, and confidential consultation to answer any questions and to explain your rights.