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Personal Injury Law: Things You Need To Know About Filing A Case

What You Need To Know Before You File Your Personal Injury Case

Filing a personal injury case is pretty much a straightforward process, however, non-lawyers may find it overwhelming. Hence, knowing the basic information about filing this specific type of case is important so you can make a sound legal decision.

In this post, you’ll learn about the essential matters concerning filing a personal injury case.

Preparing And Filing A Petition

First and foremost, a petition or complaint should be filed to the court, then served to the defendant or the person you are suing. It’s a formal legal document that states the factual and legal basis for the personal injury lawsuit.

Bear in mind that your complaint or petition is the first official and legal document in your personal injury case. It lays out in detail what you’re alleging, how you were harmed, and what the at-fault person did. Choosing the best injury lawyer will help you go through the entire process, from preparing and filing your petition up to court trial.

Here are the things you need to know when preparing and filing a petition:

  • Caption: The first part of the petition or complaint should identify the plaintiff (you), the defendant (the person or entity you are suing), and the court to which you are filing the personal injury lawsuit.
  • Court Jurisdiction Explanation Section: It consists of several sentences or paragraphs explaining the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case. Explain your petition in detail and what relief you are seeking (e.g., amount of compensation for the damages you’re demanding for settlement). It identifies the legal theories, such as negligence or recklessness, behind your allegation. Also, it should include the facts that are related to your lawsuit.
  • Signatories: The last section of your petition should contain the signatories, including you and your attorney.

Filing Summons

Many jurisdictions require the plaintiff to file summons. It’s a document identifying the litigation parties and explaining to the defendant that they are being sued. This document contains the seal of the court, as well as the court clerk’s signature.

Here are the things you need to know about filing summons:

  • When you file your complaint and summons, you’ll have to pay a filing fee. Although the amount varies depending on the type of lawsuit and court, it typically ranges from $100 to $400.
  • After filing the complaint and summons, a copy should be served to the defendant, which is critical to the court. The court, then, will have the right jurisdiction over the defendant and impose judgment.


Serving The Complaint

Serving the complaint means that the complaint should be physically delivered to the defendant. It ensures that the at-fault party cannot later claim not knowing about the lawsuit.

The service papers, along with the summons and complaint, will indicate the next date the defendant must appear in court. Serving of complaint is completed when the defendant receives a copy of the required legal documents. Law enforcement officers, court officials, and professional process servers usually complete this process.

Here are the important things you need to know about service of process:

  • In some jurisdictions, service of process can take place via U.S. mail, which would require the defendant’s proof of receipt.
  • Service of the process takes place within 30 days or a set period of time after filing your complaint and summons to the court. The court usually grants time extensions if you encounter issues serving these documents to the defendant.

Defendant’s Response To Your Complaint

Once the complaint and summons have been filed to the court and served on the defendant, the defendant should respond to your complaint. An “answer” (admitting or denying) can be filed for each of the allegations.

Also, the defendant can neither deny nor admit the allegation and file a motion to dismiss. If ever the court grants the defendant’s motion, a portion of the entire complaint will be dismissed. The defendant has a month or so to find a lawyer before the first court appearance. That’s why hiring a personal injury lawyer is highly beneficial if you’re planning to file a case in order for you to know your best legal options.

Pre-trial Process

In the pre-trial litigation, both sides will ask for witness information and evidence in the “discovery” phase. During the early stages, each party needs to appear in court, so the judge is properly informed of the progress of the case, whether or not both parties agree for arbitration or mediation. By then, a trial date will be set.

Here are the things you need to know about the pre-trial process:

  • Scheduling of depositions and question-and-answer of witnesses will take place, which could take months to years because the trial date is frequently set back.
  • Once the discovery process has proceeded far enough, the defendant can ask the judge to make a “summary judgment”.
  • Once the personal injury case moves closer to a court trial, both parties will undergo mandatory settlement conferences and make motions to identify the pieces of evidence that will be allowed at trial.

Statute Of Limitations

Before the deadline expires, you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Statute of limitations restricts the amount of time of filing a personal injury lawsuit. Every state has set deadlines, but personal injury cases usually have a two-year time limit.

Here are the important things you need to know about statutes of limitations:

  • The “clock” begins from the time that the personal injury occurs or the time when you discovered your injury.
  • Failure to file a personal injury lawsuit before the deadline’s expiration would mean permanently barring you from ever bringing the personal injury lawsuit to court.
  • If you’re running out of time due to the statute of limitations, there are alternative court documents available that you can file to best protect your right to file a lawsuit. Also, it would best to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.


Filing a personal injury case entails creating a complaint or petition and summons, which should bear all important details of your complaint, as well as the essential signatories. You have to make sure that you file the lawsuit before the expiration deadline of the statute of limitations in your state. Once you have served the complaint and summons, the defendant should respond within 30 days; afterward, you’re off to the pre-trial or discovery stage.