By, Richard P. Hastings, Connecticut Attorney
Approximately 95 percent of all personal injury claims are resolved before trial. Experienced attorneys know that the best way to settle an injury case is to prepare it for trial. Therefore, attorneys for both parties follow a heavily scripted process in which documents are exchanged; questions are posed; witnesses, including experts, are disclosed; depositions are conducted; and evidence is gathered to build a b case. This process can be divided into the following categories: the filing of pleadings, discovery process, pretrial conference, and trial.
Pleadings include a variety of legal documents that state and/or allege the opinions, positions, damages, injuries, or theories of law of a party to a lawsuit, and these documents are filed with the court. The pleadings below are the most common.
1. Complaint. A lawsuit is initiated when the plaintiff, or petitioner, serves the initial complaint on the defendant, or respondent. A complaint sets forth the basic elements of a case, including what happened and the injuries and damages incurred. It also describes the plaintiff’s allegations as to why the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.
2. Answer. The defendant’s attorney has a prescribed amount of time to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint in the form of the answer. This is the document wherein the defendant admits, denies, or alleges insufficient information to respond to each allegation of the plaintiff’s complaint.
3. Special Defenses. These are filed with the answer and allege reasons why the defendant is not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries or claim that the plaintiff is partially responsible for the injuries. Special defenses are unique to every personal injury case. The defendant may claim the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by his or her own negligence, or that the plaintiff’s claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. These are defenses to the plaintiff’s complaint or cause of action.
4. Counterclaims. If the defendant feels that a claim can be made against the plaintiff, then a counterclaim is filed along with the answer.
5. Claim for Jury Trial List. This is the point when the court is informed that the plaintiff is ready for trial.