On television and in the movies, people seem to go from getting injured by someone to bringing a lawsuit to going to trial in a matter of days. The reality is nothing like that. When clients come in, they are understandably upset and want a judge to hear them out as soon as possible about what happened. They ask when they will get their day in court, and we have to explain that it may take two years or more to get to trial. In addition, during the time leading up to trial, clients will probably never speak to a judge or enter a courtroom. Finding the right attorney can help move the case forward faster, but the parties also have the ability to speed up or delay the lawsuit.
How Long Do Lawsuits Take?
Lawsuits can take years before a final resolution is reached. This is because at every stage there are documents that must be prepared and strict procedures to follow. One side files and serves a summons and complaint to start the lawsuit, the other side responds with an answer to the complaint, and then, if the defendant files a counterclaim, the plaintiff replies to the answer. There is also the discovery stage, where each side requests information and evidence from the other side and deposes witnesses. Motions may be filed asking the court to intervene in the case on certain interim issues. There will be papers filed to support or challenge the motions and hearings before a judge decides the motions. There are deadlines for everything, but lawyers may seek extensions for various reasons. Then there will be conferences with the judge to discuss the status of unresolved issues but not necessarily to argue the case. In between these stages, the attorneys may attempt to negotiate a settlement. The more complex the case, the more time will be spent on these activities. It is important to keep in mind that all of these preliminary steps do not include what happens once the case actually goes to trial, where additional delays can occur.
How Can You Get to Court Faster?
There isn’t a sure-fire fast way to get to court as discussed above. However, you can expedite matters to some extent by taking or avoiding certain actions:
- Settle as many issues as possible. You may not want to settle your case, but there may be less important issues that you can resolve out of court. The fewer issues to litigate, the faster the case will move.
- Don’t file excessive motions. Some parties will try to harass the other side with unnecessary motions that take time and money to resolve. It’s best to resolve conflicts without going to the judge if possible.
- Avoid unnecessary discovery. Requesting voluminous documents from the other side that are of questionable value, or trying to depose every possible witness, will only drive up costs on both sides as well as delay the case. Focus on getting the documents and deposing the witnesses that are material to your case.
- Discuss litigation strategy with your attorney. You and your attorney must understand and agree on your priorities so your lawyer can act accordingly to move the case forward.
What Is the Quickest or Most Efficient Way to Resolve a Dispute?
In some cases, one side may have no meaningful grounds to support its claim or defense. In that situation, it may be possible to obtain a quick dismissal or summary judgment. However, absent those circumstances, avoiding litigation when possible is often the path we recommend to resolve a dispute.
While you may feel strongly about making your point to a judge, it is never going to be a quick or efficient process, and it won’t necessarily be as meaningful in a personal sense as anticipated. It’s best to put your emotions aside and negotiate with the other side to settle the matter when possible. You may be dissatisfied emotionally but this avoids the time, money, and uncertainty of litigation. You cannot be sure you will win in litigation, but if you compromise, you are guaranteed at least some benefit, such as an expedited resolution, that you have bargained for.
Regardless of whether the settlement is possible, our attorneys are skilled negotiators and litigators who always advocate for our client’s best interests. If you are involved in a dispute, contact us to discuss your matter and learn how we can help.