One of the most common questions from our clients is, "How long will a lawsuit take?" There are many factors which determine how long a lawsuit may take to be settled. The first factor is in which court the lawsuit will be filed. In Georgia there are really two types of courts for injury claim, (1) Magistrate Court or (2) State or Superior Court. Magistrate Court at the time of this blog is for cases where the recoverable amount is less than $15,000. The benefits of Magistrate Court are it is a lot faster, usually the case is resolved three to four months after filling, and the work is generally more informal and less complicated. State or Superior Court has no limit on the recoverable amount. The downside of State or Superior Court is this court is more expensive and take much longer. The reason it takes longer is due to the discovery and trial process.
The process begins with a complaint being filed. A complaint is a document that basically says these are allegations and this is what we are entitled to recover. The answer comes about a month later from the defendant. An answer is a response to the lawsuit with a defense, reasons why the defendant is not responsible for paying items to the plaintiff. Once this stage is complete, the case is sent to discovery. Discovery can take six month or sometimes even longer. In this process, the parties share questions, information, documents, and they also take depositions.
Depositions are statements that are often recorded by a court reporter to come up with a transcript that can be referenced later. Depositions help everyone learn what witnesses and parties saw, their opinions, and certain facts about the case. Discovery can also take up to six months or longer. After the discovery period ends, the parties talk about expert testimony if needed. Then the court sets the case for trial. Even though the parties ask for a trial does not mean the trial will happen right away. Trial courts are busy and can have thousands of cases pending especially in State or Superior Court. Often when a civil case gets put on for trial, it gets put on the bottom of the list and then the parties have to wait for their turn as number one. The number can vary greatly. Once it's your turn you show up to court and the trial begins. trials can take hours, sometimes weeks, and even months to finish.
Another factor is if the case is decided by a judge or a jury. Jury cases tend to take longer due to having to finding, picking, and striking the jury. In the end, State or Superior Court is worth it if the case has value that is worth filing. If we can help you with your case, or answer questions for you, please give us a call.