Every injury case has two parts. The first part is called the pre-litigation stage. The second part is called the litigation phase. The vast majority of cases settled during the pre-litigation or litigation period. A tiny percentage goes to trial, which is commonly called “going to court.”

Pre-Litigation Phase

California has a two-year statute of limitations for injury cases. The law requires the filing of a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident. Most cases settle before two years.

During the pre-litigation phase, the injured victim treats with medical providers and attempts to recover. After completion of the treatment, the personal injury attorney tries to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. In most cases, a resolution occurs. The victim signs a settlement agreement, and the insurance company pays the claim.

Litigation Phase

A lawsuit is filed in a small percentage of cases. The person who files the lawsuit is called the “plaintiff.” A trial date is assigned. The trial date is usually about 18 months from the filing. During those 18 months, each side is allowed to conduct an investigation, also called “discovery.”

For example, the defense wants to know all about the injured victim’s injuries and damages and will send questions (called “interrogatories”) to the victim’s attorneys. The defense will also seek documents such as medical and employment records. The defense may also want to take the deposition (sworn testimony under oath) of the victim. There are two reasons to investigate. First, to evaluate the victim’s injury claim and damages. Second, to prepare for trial if the case doesn’t settle.

In turn, the attorney for the victim has the right to investigate the at-fault person’s (called the “defendant”) defenses.

Settlement discussions are typically ongoing during the investigation. Sometimes mediation is used to settle.


A tiny percentage of cases do not settle and end up going to trial, which people refer to as “going to court.” A trial consists of a jury (12 people) deciding the case. The jury will hear evidence and argument by both sides and then resolve the issues. Car crashes involve two essential matters. The first matter is who was at fault. The second matter is what is the amount of the victim’s damages.

Trials for car accident cases typically take about 1-2 weeks.


The majority of cases do not go to trial. Most settle before trial, either during the pre-litigation phase or the litigation phase. Call MCIS for a free consultation about your case.