In a high percentage of personal injury cases, there may be no need to file a lawsuit. Competent legal advocacy can lead to favorable settlement out of court in most cases.

However, sometimes this is not possible for various reasons. Here are some reasons why it may sometimes be necessary to go to court:

  • The insurance company denies the claim
  • The insurance company does not offer a sufficient settlement
  • The insurance company engages in bad faith handling of your claim

You may be wondering how the process will work if your lawyer does need to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Here are the basic steps.

Steps in Filing a Lawsuit

  • Settlement negotiations fail
  • Your lawyer files a complaint on your behalf against the defendants.
  • The defendants file an answer responding to these allegations.
  • The discovery phase starts. This is where information is exchanged between all parties about what happened. Many documents will be needed, and you may be asked to have your deposition taken. Depositions are where you answer questions under oath for the insurance companies’ lawyers. Your own attorneys will be there to defend you if the opposing lawyers attempt to exceed their boundaries.
  • Motions may be filed, such as efforts to dismiss the case by the opposing lawyers.
  • Once all motions are defeated and the discovery phase is complete, the lawyers will schedule a mediation with the opposing lawyers and insurance company adjuster.
  • Mediation is where we meet in person and present each side’s position on the case.  There is a neutral third party there (the mediator) who is an experienced attorney who has usually worked on both sides of these kinds of disputes. The attorneys on both sides choose the mediator mutually.


After opening statements, the parties go into separate rooms and the mediator relays messages and offers of settlement back and forth between the rooms. Once everyone has made their final offers, if those offers coincide, the case will settle at mediation.  Over 90% of cases settle at mediation.

  • If mediation fails, assuming the case is still going to proceed, your case will be set for trial. It can take many more  months to get on the court’s trial calendar.
  • Trial proceeds, and a decision is made by a judge or jury.
  • Assuming the decision is favorable to you, payment proceeds…slowly. There may be a lot of paperwork to complete before the money is available to you. If an individual is paying out, it may take some time to actually get the money from him or her. Insurance companies will have some “red tape.”

The settlement check, when it arrives, will go through your lawyer’s trust account.  Passing settlement money through the firm’s Trust account is standard practice.