Every personal injury case is unique but there are common factors each person can expect in most cases.
Any legitimate personal injury case will involve a personal injury and need proof to make it past the summary judgment stage.
If the damages appear to be more than a small claims court, then a personal injury attorney is the best option. After the initial consultation, the attorney will explore the investigation and decide whether or not the defendant has the right insurance and/or sufficient assets. If the case is viable, then the plaintiff will form an agreement with the attorney.
The attorney will then file a personal injury complaint laying out broad details of what the plaintiff claims the defendant did.
The complaint will then be served to the defendant in a way that can be proved later to ensure they receive it. The complaint will include the next date of when the defendant must appear in court.
Once the defendant is aware of the complaint, they will typically look for an attorney before the court date. If the defendant has insurance then they must notify their insurance company immediately.
For the pre-trial process, both sides will go through the discovery phase to collect evidence and witness information. Both sides will also appear before the judge to explain how the case will proceed, agree or not agree to mediation or arbitration and set a trial date. Depositions will be scheduled after the discovery phase for the opposing party and witnesses to examine the case further. This process can take months or even years.
When the case moves toward the trial date, both parties will put more effort engaging in mandatory settlement conferences, make motions to determine what evidence will be allowed at trial and select a jury.
During the trial, the judge or jury will determine if the defendant is liable and how much they are required to pay in damages. Either party can initiate an appeals process after that trial, which can last several months or years. If the defendant loses the appeals process then they will be required to pay the damages.
Personal injury cases typically reach a settlement after the discovery process has gone on for a while. Most cases settle before trial.