What we are going to talk about here is formal litigation in a personal injury case in Utah. We are not talking about the process of settling a case—litigation is what happens after negotiations to settle have been exhausted and the case cannot be reasonably settled without going to court.
Civil litigation refers to the process of resolving disputes through the public court system. They are called “civil” because it is an action brought in court to enforce, redress, or protect a private or civil right. A civil case is usually between individuals or some created entity such as a corporation. A civil case is not a criminal case.
In Utah, there are rules that govern how cases are litigated—these are called the Rules of Civil Procedure. The majority of personal injury cases are filed in state court—not federal court—we are talking here about cases in state court.
Once negotiations to settle your case have been attempted and failed you are left having to file a civil case—here is the process:
- The person or entity bringing the case is called the plaintiff. There may be one or many plaintiffs in a given case.
- The person or entity against whom the case is brought is called the defendant. There may be one or many defendants in a given case.
- All plaintiff and all defendants are referred to as parties to the case.
- The case is begun once the plaintiff files a complaint.
- The complaint must be served on each and every defendant.
- If the defendant does not answer he / she / they are at risk of a default judgment.
- Once the answer is filed with the court, deadlines are set.
- Next is the filing of initial disclosures—first by the plaintiff and then by the defendant.
- Once the initial disclosures are filed the parties may begin fact discovery.
- Fact discovery is made up of essentially two things—written discovery (requests for documents) and depositions (sworn testimony in front of a court reporter).
- Once fact discovery is completed expert discovery takes place. Experts may include medical testimony, engineering testimony—anything out of the realm of common knowledge that will assist the jury in understanding the case.
- Once expert discovery is completed the case is ready for trial. Trial, actually coming to court and putting on your evidence, may be in front of a judge or a jury.
- A “readiness for trial” is filed with the court and the court sets a trial date.
- Then you go to trial—win or lose, this is the first, and usually only trial in the case unless an appeal is necessary.
- At any time in this process settlement may still be negotiated.
- Also, at any time in this process, motions are oftentimes filed. A motion is a written r oral application to the court asking requiring the court to make a specific decision (ruling) about something.
These are only the basics of civil litigation in Utah. In the weeks and months to come, we will get into the discreet parts of litigation on more detail.
George Tait Law practices personal injury litigation in the State of Utah. If you need help contact us for a no-obligation consultation. We will tell you your options and even whether you need an attorney's help. Don't let the insurance companies abuse you—they have attorneys working for them—shouldn't you have an attorney working with you?