Your MichiganLawsuit.com lawsuit attorney will guide you through the Michigan lawsuit process.
Step 1: Gathering Evidence & Filing the Complaint
The first step of any Michigan lawsuit is gathering evidence that will provide information necessary to draft the complaint. Some examples of evidence used to draft the complaint includes medical records, employment records, police reports, photographs, and witness statements. In terms of medical and employment records, it often takes the records holder several weeks from the date of the order to fulfill a request for records.
Once the evidence is gathered, the Michigan lawsuit may be initiated by filing the complaint. You, as the person filing the complaint, are the “plaintiff,” and the party against whom the complaint is being filed is the “defendant.” When the complaint is filed, the court in which the complaint was filed will return a summons and a stamped copy of the complaint to your attorney. The plaintiff’s attorney must then serve the complaint on the defendant.
Serving a summons and complaint is often referred to as “service of process.” Attorneys typically refer the job of service of process to professional process servers. In Michigan, service of process must be completed within 91 days after the complaint was filed. Once service of process on the defendant is completed, the process server completes a proof of service form and returns it to your attorney, who then files the proof of service with the court.
Step 2: Service of the Complaint & Receiving an Answer
Within 21 or 28 days (depending on the method and location of service) following the service of the complaint and jury demand upon the defendant, the defendant is required to file an answer or otherwise plead with the court and serve a copy on the your attorney. The answer will typically deny all of the allegations contained in the complaint and is considered by the court to put the case “at issue,” meaning ready for litigation in the court.
It is not unusual for the attorneys for the defendants to ask for an extension of time to file the necessary papers. This means that the answer or other responses by the defendants may not be filed exactly within 21 or 28 days, but with an extension, the answer is almost always filed within 60 days of service.
Step 3: Discovery
Then follows a period known as “discovery” in which all parties to the lawsuit have an opportunity to explore the issues and determine what evidence the opponent will attempt to use at trial. During this period, the defendant’s attorney will usually send your attorney some written questions called “interrogatories,” which you answer with the assistance of the your attorney. The interrogatories are mostly simple questions regarding your background and the reasons why you filed a lawsuit. The answers to the interrogatories are due within 28 days from the date the questions are sent to your attorney.
At some time during the discovery period, the defendant’s attorney will likely request to obtain your testimony in a question-and-answer session with the attorneys and a court reporter present. The testimony you give at this time has the same weight and effect as if the plaintiff gave the same testimony in a courtroom in front of a judge. This is called a “deposition” and, while it is generally simple and easy to prepare for, it can be a critical turning point in the lawsuit. Your attorney will notify you when and where the deposition will take place, and spend some time with you beforehand helping the you understand what to expect.
Generally, the discovery period takes 180 days to complete. Because the interrogatories, depositions, and information from you are all extremely important, you should keep in touch and notify your attorney promptly if you change your phone number, address, or if you see a new doctor. Also, always notify us immediately if you have any diagnostic images (i.e., x-rays, MRIs, etc.) taken or surgical operations performed.
Step 4: Alternative Dispute Resolution (i.e., attempts to resolve your lawsuit before trial)
After discovery has ended, the Court will assign the lawsuit to a process called Alternative Dispute Resolution (i.e., ADR), which consists of a facilitation, case evaluation, or settlement conference; sometimes all three. Below is a brief overview of these processes. Notably, a substantial proportion of civil lawsuits are settled at this stage of the litigation.
With regard to a settlement, no one can settle your lawsuit without your consent and we will certainly consult with you on any significant settlement offers made by a defendant.
a. Case Evaluation
Case evaluation is mandatory for Michigan lawsuits unless the lawsuit settles beforehand. Case evaluation is a process where a panel of three court-appointed attorneys hear oral arguments and read written briefs that describe each party’s theory of the lawsuit and damages. The panel will then issue a suggested award that they believe will settle the lawsuit. It is not an offer to settle, but merely the panel’s suggestion. If all parties accept the panel’s number, the lawsuit is settled for that amount, but the lawsuit continues onward if one or both parties reject. Notably, the Michigan Court Rules prohibit clients from attending case evaluation. You will be informed of the panel’s proposed settlement by your attorney, and your response to the panel’s award will be submitted to the court by your attorney when you make the decision.
Facilitation consists of each party submitting written briefs to a single attorney who attempts to settle the lawsuit by discussing it with each side. Typically, each party sits in a separate room with their attorney and the facilitator visits with each party and tries to bring them together to a settlement. You must attend facilitation if one is scheduled.
c. Settlement Conference
Your lawsuit may proceed through both case evaluation and facilitation. If those alternative dispute resolution methods do not resolve the lawsuit, the judge will assign settlement conference and trial dates. You must be present at the settlement conference; it will take place in the courtroom. The judge will attempt to settle the lawsuit by discussing the lawsuit with both sides and using his or her experience to give advice. If the judge is unable to settle the lawsuit, it will proceed toward trial.
Step 5: Trial
Trials are extremely rare in Michigan: approximately 2% of lawsuits proceed to trial. This is attributable to the unpredictability of juries and the high costs that both sides must incur during the trial process. If your lawsuit proceeds to trial, you must remain in close contact with your attorney as your attorney prepares the lawsuit for presentment to a court and jury.
This whole lawsuit process may take one to two years to come to a trial, though lawsuits are resolved before trial the vast majority of the time. During this process, you can see that your attorney will be doing a number of things, including investigation, record collection, discovery, depositions, legal motions, technical consultation, and, perhaps, settlement negotiations and trial. This means that even though you may not hear from your attorney over a period of time, your attorney is working on your lawsuit.