The first procedural step of filing a slip and fall lawsuit is the preparation of a complaint, which sets forth the details of your case including the facts and circumstances surrounding your accident, the damages or injuries you sustained, your legal claim (i.e., negligence, etc.) and why you believe the property owner or business owner is responsible for your injuries. Once the complaint is completed and signed by your lawyer, it is filed with the clerk of court.
After the complaint is filed, the clerk issues a summons. A summons is an official notice that informs the defendant (property owner or business owner) that a slip and fall lawsuit was filed and now he or she must respond to the lawsuit within 20 days of being served with the lawsuit.
Once the summons is issued, it is served on the defendant along with a copy of the complaint. This means that either a certified process server or a sheriff must hand deliver the complaint and summons to the defendant. The defendant then has 20 days to answer the lawsuit or he or she can file one of a variety of motions, like a motion to dismiss.
If the defendant fails to respond within the 20-day timeframe, they may be subject to a default judgment in which case the judge will enter a judgment in favor of the plaintiff without having to go through a trial. However, often times default judgments are set aside for a variety of reasons, including mistake or excusable neglect. If the defendant does timely respond, both parties will engage in discovery where evidence is gathered and shared between both sides. Discovery includes depositions, requests for the production of documents, and interrogatories.
Following discovery, there may be settlement negotiations (perhaps, during a mediation) where both parties attempt to reach an agreement outside of court. If no agreement can be reached, then there may be a trial where a judge or jury will hear arguments from both sides and make a decision based on the evidence presented.
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