Lawsuits take a long time because they are so involved in what is required for each side to prove its case.
There are many steps involved in a lawsuit. Even though each side thinks they are right and the other side is wrong, it is not always that simple. In order for someone to recover damages, certain key elements or rules must be met. If they are not, the party suing is not entitled to recover any damages.
While laws are different in each state, most civil case laws are similar. It takes a number of steps to happen before each case can go to court. Some cases never go to trial. This is often because the parties reach an agreement before that happens, called a lawsuit settlement. Another reason may be that the suit is dropped and never brought back.
The party that files a suit or complaint against another is called a plaintiff or, in some cases, a complainant. The person they have filed it against is called the defendant, or sometimes the respondent. Both parties should have lawyers to protect their interests and make sure that all procedures are properly followed. When individuals try to represent themselves, this rarely happens.
Lawyers for the parties will talk to their own clients and then speak to counsel for the other side. A schedule of deadlines is set for of all the important steps the lawyers must take in the case. These are 30 to 60 to 90 days apart, one following after the other.
One of these steps is exchanging questions and answers with each other, often called interrogatories.
Once these have been answered, the lawyers can speak to witnesses for the other side. Since they are not allowed to contact these people directly, it is done in a formal setting with both parties present, called a deposition. There is stenographer present that records the entire proceeding and transcribes it into a booklet. This transcription may take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the service.
At any point along the way, the parties may try to reach an agreement to money or other terms and settle the case. Sometimes, a judge may intervene and order the parties to go to a settlement conference because he or she thinks they should be able to come to an agreement without a trial.
Sometimes lawyers disagree with each other and must go before the judge to ask questions on procedure. These are called motions and must be scheduled usually 30 to 60 days in advance, causing a time delay.
If the case has still not settled when the trial draws near, the parties will go to a pretrial conference to discuss how things will proceed. After that, there is the trial.
Winning money in a lawsuit is not guaranteed. The attorneys must be paid and it takes a long time for the legal process to work. Sometimes plaintiffs must get lawsuit financing in order to pay for it. This is paid back at the end.
After the trial is over, if the plaintiff recovers money from the defendant, there is a certain amount of time that passes before they receive their money. Sometimes it is paid immediately. Other times, the money is received in installments. On occasion, the verdict may be appealed and the plaintiff cannot receive their money until the appealed case goes back to court.