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How Long Does It Take a Lawsuit to Get to Trial?

At some point during your lifetime there is a good chance that you will be involved in a lawsuit. Whether you believe it is a good thing, or a bad thing, the reality is that the United States is a litigious society. Disputes are resolved through the court system in the U.S. If you suddenly find yourself as the Plaintiff or the Defendant in a lawsuit you may have numerous questions, such as " How long does it take a lawsuit to get to trial? " There is no easy answer to that question; however, understanding a bit more about the path a lawsuit takes through the court system and the factors that will influence the life span of a lawsuit may provide you with some guidance.

The U.S. judicial system is broadly divided into two categories - criminal and civil. The criminal court system handles criminal prosecutions while the civil court system handles just about everything else. When a dispute arises between parties, a lawsuit may be filed in civil court as a way to resolve the dispute. Some common types of lawsuits include:

  • Contract disputes
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Personal injury claims
  • Divorce
  • Employment disputes
  • Small claims

The path a lawsuit files will vary somewhat depending on the type of case on which the lawsuit is based; however, some of the most basic steps involved in a civil lawsuit include:

  1. Filing the Complaint or Petition
  2. Serving or notifying the Defendant(s) or Respondent(s)
  3. Filing of an Answer by the Defendant/Respondent
  4. Discovery phase
  5. Mediation
  6. Negotiations
  7. Trial

Most courts encourage, or even require, the parties to a lawsuit to attempt to resolve the issues by agreement without the need for a trial. Toward that end, mediation may be required along the way. If a lawsuit makes it to trial this means that the parties were unable to reach an amicable out of court settlement. With the exception of a small claims lawsuit it usually takes several months or longer to complete the discovery phase and an equal amount of time to get through the mediation/negotiation phase. The complexity of the issues involved, the amount of money at stake, and the number of Plaintiffs and Defendants named in the lawsuit will all impact the amount of time it takes to get to trial. A multi-party lawsuit involving complex legal issues will commonly take several years to reach the point at which a trial is scheduled. It may take yet another few months after that to find time on the court's calendar to hold the trial. No two lawsuits involve the same facts and circumstances. Therefore, if you are concerned about the amount of time it will take your lawsuit to reach the trial stage, consult with the litigation attorneys at SIMON & GILMAN, LLP right away.

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