When the carelessness or negligence of another person causes you to suffer loss, either through personal injury or property damage, you have a right to pursue monetary compensation (known as “damages”). Often, you need the compensation soon, as you may be unable to work or to afford the costs of medical care. Unfortunately, recovering full and fair compensation for personal injury is a process that can take time. In this series, we’ll take a look at the steps along the way to trial.
Commencing a Personal Injury Action
A personal injury lawsuit starts when you file a complaint. The complaint tells the court what happened, as well as what you need to be made whole. The complaint must be filed in the appropriate court and all defendants must be properly served with a copy of the complaint. The complaint should be filed as soon as practicable after the accident, as memories can fade and witnesses can disappear. When you file the complaint, your attorney can use the power of the court to compel witnesses to testify, and to obtain other relevant evidence. You must file the lawsuit within a specific period of time set forth by statute, known as the “statute of limitations.” In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for personal injury is two years from the date of injury or discovery of injury, whichever is later.
Once the complaint is filed, the defendants have a specified period of time—usually 30 days—to file an answer to the complaint. If a defendant fails to do so, you can pursue a default judgment.
The Discovery Period
If the complaint and answer have been filed in a timely manner, the judge will typically schedule a first meeting with the parties. The function of this meeting is to allow the judge to learn a bit about the case, to determine the likelihood of a settlement, and to establish rules and a timeline for discovery. Discovery is a legal term that refers to the gathering of evidence. It’s typically done in three ways:
- Depositions—Oral examination of witnesses, transcribed by court reporters
- Interrogatories—Written questions submitted by one side, which typically must be responded to in writing
- Requests for production of documents
Contact the Law Offices of Gregg A. Wisotsky
I offer a free phone consultation to every prospective client. For a complimentary evaluation of your case, contact my office online or call me at 973-898-0161. I will come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary. All major credit cards are accepted.