Over the course of several blogs, I explained the process in a criminal case and now want to take some time to go over how a civil case works. While there are variables in the process depending on the jurisdiction the case is pending (magistrate court, federal court or in a state or superior court), many of the same general principles apply. Rather than to try to cover what can happen in every type of civil case (divorce, contract dispute, personal injury, patent infringement, civil rights violations, etc) I will focus my analysis on what typically happens in a personal injury case since that is one of my areas of expertise.

Car Accident


Once the event that caused the injury occurs (a car wreck, slip and fall, etc) and the injured person hires an attorney, here are the general steps that follow:

  1. A claim is made against the person responsible for the injury with a demand that the person turn over any available information relating to insurance that may cover the injury. In some cases, like car wrecks for instance, the insurance information is available through the police report and the attorney can contact the insurance company directly.
  2. The attorney will investigate the case in an effort to determine whether the injuring party is indeed liable for the injury and that liability can be proved.
  3. The attorney will obtain all available information relating to medical treatment the injured party received including all medical bills relating to that treatment.
  4. The attorney will determine what he/she believes is the appropriate amount for the settlement of the case and will discuss that with the client and reach an agreement about that.
  5. The attorney sends a well-crafted demand letter to the insurance adjuster handling the case.
  6. Negotiations will take place in an effort to settle the case short of litigation.
  7. If negotiations fail then the lawyer will draft a complaint and file it in the appropriate jurisdiction.
  8. Once the defendant (party responsible for the injury) answers the complaint a six month discovery period begins.
  9. Once discovery is complete, the parties file any motions they deem necessary for the court to consider including motions for summary judgment, which if successful can end the case (or that can be appealed).
  10. If the case is not lost on summary judgment, then the parties proceed to the trial of the case before a judge or jury.
  11. The losing party often appeals the verdict of the court or jury.
  12. The parties can mediate the case at any time during the pre-litigation phase or during litigation.


Over the next several blogs, I will discuss each of these steps in more detail. There are many other things that can and often do occur in litigation but these steps provide a general overview of what can be expected.


If you have been injured by the actions of another person or entity, please feel free to give me a call at 404-474-2531 for a free and confidential telephone consultation.


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