Slip and fall lawsuits can potentially take months or years to resolve. Generally, they take a standard format with a few distinct phases. If you are considering entering into a slip and fall lawsuit, you should first become familiar with what the process looks like.
The first part of the lawsuit is the complaint and summons. The complaint is the document your lawyer prepares which outlines your claim. This document will be filed with the court, along with a summons, and it will be served to the party you are suing. The summons orders the other party to respond to our complaint within a specific time limit, usually 20 days. The content of the complaint can vary, though it typically includes:
- identification of each party
- a description of the slip and fall incident
- who is allegedly responsible
- what you want as compensation from the defendant
Next, the defendant will file an answer to your complaint. the answer will simply confirm or deny your allegations, or state that they do not have enough information to confirm or deny a certain allegation. The defendant’s answer usually includes “affirmative defenses,” which are legal doctrines that can potentially reduce or absolve the defendant’s liability, if they can prove they apply.
After the answer comes a “discovery phase,” where each party takes the time to learn as much as they can about the case. This phase involves interrogatories, which are questions posed that the other party has to answer in writing and under oath. This phase also includes requests for production, which are simply requests to provide documents and other things relevant to the case. The discovery phase can take a few months or a few years, depending on the complexity of the case and the severity of injury.
During the discovery phase, there is typically another phase involving pre-trial motions. Before the trial, each party can file certain motions with the court, including:
- Motion to Dismiss. A defendant might file this motion if the lawsuit fails on a legal technicality
- Motion to Compel. Either party can file this motion to have the court order the other party to do something they refuse to do, such as produce a document or show up for a deposition.
- Motion for Summary Judgment. If this motion is granted, the entire case is over. Either party can file this claim if they believe there is no facts that support the other party’s claims or defenses.
- Motion in Limine. this motion is a request to keep certain evidence out of trial because it is too prejudicial. For instance, a defendant might file this motion the keep the jury from hearing that they have liability insurance that covers all of the judgement rendered against them, because a jury may be inclined to award judgement based on the fact that the defendant has insurance to cover it.
Next, parties have the option to settle without a trial, either with mediation or settlement conferences. If not, the case will go to court after discovery is disclosed. The case will be set on a “trial docket.” Depending on the case, the judge will usually reach a judgement within two to five days. If you win your case, the losing party has 30 to 60 days to pay a judgement.