Of the Cecil County and Maryland Auto Accident cases that my office handles, not all of them become lawsuits. Many of my clients initially come to me concerned about not wanting to sue anyone, or the concerns that go into such an undertaking. Roughly speaking, no more than 25% of the claims handled within my office require the filing of a lawsuit. Of those, even less actually go to trial. Most of these claims resolve via settlement prior to a lawsuit being filed, or resolve via settlement through the litigation process, but before trial. In Maryland, I believe around 3 or 4 percent of injury claims are actually resolved by a trial.
If your case does require litigation, there are usually two reasons this will happen:
- There is a dispute or disagreement as to who is at fault for the accident
- There is a disagreement as to the extent of injuries and/or value of the claim
The reason a case becomes a lawsuit is somewhat irrelevant to the litigation process to follow. Here are some tidbits as to what one would expect, should their case go to suit, as the process is usually new for most clients, and can be somewhat complicated and confusing:
- The attorney or law office will file the lawsuit, known as the ‘complaint’ with the appropriate court. Maryland has trial courts for each of the 24 counties(including Baltimore City) and each county has 2 levels of trial courts for these cases, District and Circuit Court. The court usually sets an initial trial date at this time, but that date often changes as the case proceeds.
- Within a few weeks, the court will return to the attorney a ‘writ of summons’ to be served onto the defendant(at fault party) in the case.
- The law office will usually contract a private process server to serve the writ of summons onto the other party.
- Once served, the other party should be communicating with their insurance company, who will assign an attorney to represent the defendant in the proceedings. If you have been sued for an auto accident, you should forward the documentation to your insurance company immediately.
- The parties, through their attorneys, will exchange information involving the claim through a process called discovery. Depending on which level of court and the value of the case, this process can be simple and quick, or long and drawn out.
- If the matter is not resolved through the early stages of litigation, some courts will schedule a settlement conference or some sort of mediation to attempt to resolve the matter.
- If all else fails to resolve the matter, trial will commence as scheduled (or re-scheduled).
Each county is different as far as timeframe and scheduling is concerned. Generally speaking, a district court lawsuit should go to trial within 4-6 months of the initial filing. Circuit Court trials can be quite different from county to county, and can go to trial anywhere from 9 months from filing to as much as 18 months in the more busy jurisdictions. More complicated cases with multiple parties involved, such as medical malpractice or wrongful death cases, can take even longer!
No matter what the scenario is, if a case you’re involved in is part of a lawsuit, it is incredibly important that you are available and accessible to your lawyer or their staff. Often times there are deadlines associated with aspects of these cases.