How Long Does A Car Accident Lawsuit Take?
There are no hard and fast rules on how long a Michigan car accident lawsuit takes. Every case is different, with differing parties, witnesses, injuries and other factors that affect the speed of a case. However, in Michigan most cases conclude within two years of the filing of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit process is rather complex. After a lawsuit, or Complaint, is filed in court, the defendant has approximately 28 days to answer the complaint. When this occurs, a period known as “discovery” begins. During discovery, the parties exchange information and get to understand the other side’s beliefs as to why they are not fault for the accident or why the plaintiff is or is not entitled to compensation for her injuries.
Discovery includes taking depositions of the parties, witnesses and experts. It involves getting written questions, known as interrogatories, answered. It also involves exchanging medical information about the plaintiff’s injuries.
When a lawsuit is filed, every court in Michigan issues a scheduling order, which dictates how long discovery will last. The scheduling order may also give dates as to when settlement conferences will occur. Discovery usually lasts from six to ten months, although the parties can ask the judge handling the case for more time if needed.
Once discovery is completed, something called case evaluation occurs. Case evaluation is when the lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant argue their case to a panel of three lawyers (a plaintiff attorney, a defense attorney and a neutral attorney). The panel is provided detailed briefs with exhibits by the attorneys prior to the case evaluation hearing. The hearing typically takes place in a small conference room.
The attorney for the plaintiff will submit exhibits demonstrating the client’s injuries and why the client is entitled to compensation. The defense attorney will submit documents arguing for the exact opposite. Only attorneys attend case evaluation.
At case evaluation, the attorneys for the party’s involved in the case argue on behalf of their clients for a specific award. Each side gets approximately 10-15 minutes to argue on behalf of their client to the panel. After arguments conclude, the panel will come up with a case evaluation award that day. The award is non-binding, but if both parties accept the case evaluation award, the case settles for that amount. The parties have 28 days after the case evaluation to decide to whether accept or reject the case evaluation award.
If case evaluation does not settle the case (and is rarely does), then typically the judge will order a settlement conference. At the settlement conference, the judge will try to arrange a facilitation or some other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process to get the case settled. Judges are very busy people and would rather see the parties work out their differences than go through a prolonged jury trial. A trial date is usually set at the settlement conference. Trial dates can be anywhere from 2 months after case evaluation to 6 months or more.
The length of lawsuits can vary wildly. Some cases are more complicated than others and thus will take longer. Often, the venue of the case can have a dramatic impact on how long a lawsuit will take as some jurisdictions in Michigan can move quicker than others.