What to Expect: A Sample Timeline for a Typical Slip and Fall Lawsuit
Day 1: Contract You or your loved one has slipped and fallen and suffered an injury. After speaking to a few attorneys who handle slip and fall cases you select an experienced slip and fall lawyer. He or she sends you a contract, medical authorizations and typically a questionnaire to complete. Once you complete this information, your lawsuit begins.
Day 5: Ongoing Medical Care Your attorney likely recommends that you continue any needed medical treatment, physical therapy or doctors visits. Often your slip and fall attorney will work closely with a few medical professionals in your area and will recommend that you see these individuals. If you have insurance (private or government provided) you will often continue to receive medical care under these insurance plans. If you do not have insurance, however, or your attorney simply prefers otherwise, you will typically be provided a Letter of Protection to give to the treating medical professional. This will make sure that the medical professional is paid out of the proceeds of your lawsuit, and therefore does not need to be paid on the date the service is provided.
Day 30: Medical & Billing Records Your medical care now completed (extend timeline if not yet completed) your attorney will now order your medical and billing records so that they are able to begin to construct an initial understanding of the case and the harms you have suffered.
Day 60: Understanding the Records Medical and billing records arrive. At this point your slip and fall attorney will spend some time understanding the records so that he / she can present the case to the defense.
Day 65: Initial Settlement Opportunity At this juncture your attorney may call you to let you know that he / she is going to attempt to negotiate the case for settlement with defense counsel. At this stage, the case is far from mature, so initial efforts to resolve the case at this stage are often unsuccessful. Assuming that, we move on…
Day 90: Case Filing The attorney files your slip and fall case with the appropriate court. This is the first formal start of your case, and it begins the discovery process. That consists of your attorney asking for answers to a number of questions as well as for the defense to provide him / her with any evidence that they have. The defense will have an opportunity to do the same, so at this stage expect to receive a list of questions and requests from your attorney which he / she will need to properly respond to discovery.
Day 150: Plaintiff’s Depositions Your attorney will call you to schedule plaintiffs depositions. This will be the defense’s opportunity to ask you questions under oath. Typically this takes one day, and anywhere from two to eight hours. If there are any family or friends of the plaintiff with relevant information to the case, they may also be deposed at this time.
Day 155: Second Settlement Opportunity Your slip and fall attorney may attempt to resolve the case via settlement negotiation again at this juncture. The defendant will face a number of costs in presenting their witnesses if they proceed past this point, so this often presents a good opportunity to resolve the case. Assuming no settlement is reached, we move on…
Day 180: Defendant’s Depositions Your attorney will now take defendants depositions. As the client, you are typically not involved in this process. Your attorney will question their defendants and begin to learn additional facts he / she needs to construct the arguments that they will use in trial.
Day 195: Expert Depositions Both sides will then present their experts if any exist in the case. Sometimes your attorney will present his experts shortly after his client’s depositions, in which case only the defense expert witnesses will be deposed at this time.
Day 250: Mediation Parties attend court ordered mediation if it exists in your jurisdiction, otherwise the parties may voluntarily attend mediation. In many cases mediation may have already occurred as an additional tool to assist the the settlement negotiations at one of the prior discussed case settlement junctures. At a mediation your attorney will present your sides best case, and the defense will present their sides best case. Then both parties, in the presence of a mediator, will attempt to negotiate and resolve the case. If the case has not settled prior to this date, most cases will settle at this juncture. Trial is extremely expensive and risky for both sides, so this encourages settlement.
Day 365: First Trial Setting First trial setting. This is your first scheduled trial date. In most jurisdictions, this first trial date is usually moved back either because one of the parties isn’t yet ready for trial, the parties want a different date, or the sides think there is the possibility of settlement and therefore want to abate the trial.
Day 460: Second Trial Setting This is the second scheduled trial date. This one is more likely to actually occur. Assuming it does, an average slip and fall trial takes anywhere from two days to two weeks at trial. At the end of the trial the jury will decide whether they find the defendant liable and if so, the amount of the damages. If you, the plaintiff, have won, and there was a bifurcated trial, you may at this point begin the punitive damages phase of the case. The specific process involved here depends a great deal on what state your case is taking place in.
Day 500: Appeal Approximately 30 days after the trial, the defendant either has to have paid you, or filed an appeal. An appeal can add another full year to the process.