Personal Injury Litigation ND

Just Like TV .. OR Not

March 12, 2020

I’m first to admit that it’s easy to get caught up in TV shows like Law & Order, Bull, and Suits. What’s not to love about courtroom drama and discovering a key witness at the last minute to win the case? As addicting and even heartwarming as some episodes can be, the reality of being involved in a real-life lawsuit is typically lost in the mix. More often than not, we as watchers are led to believe that the discovery in the case, any necessary hearings, and most importantly the trial itself, all happen within a month or two from the start of the initial claim. If you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit in North Dakota, it’s important to have a practical understanding of the timeline for your case.

I Hired My Attorney.. Now What?

By the time you’ve hired an attorney for your case, you’ve more than likely asked a number of questions about what to expect throughout the process. In the midst of these conversations and questions, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose track of just how long litigation can take. Of course, every case is different, but in the ballpark of personal injury litigation, here is a rough idea of what to expect after the lawsuit itself starts:

Discovery Process – Usually 4 To 12 Months, Maybe More

  • The term “discovery” is a term used to describe all the investigation and fact-gathering throughout the course of the case. Discovery consists of taking depositions, written interrogatories, and requests for documents from the opposing party, etc.
  • In relation to TV shows, the discovery process is usually portrayed when the lawyer or paralegal finds the hidden law or fact that changes the whole course of the case. (Usually, this happens at 2:00 a.m. or ten minutes before the trial begins for dramatic purposes, of course.) Although it’s highly unlikely that these findings happen overnight, discovery is a critical part of any case, so it’s important to make sure you have all of the relevant and necessary information you need.
  • Depending on the complexity of your case and the number of people involved, this process could take longer so it’s important to be patient and remember that time is on your side.

Getting A Trial Date – Usually 9 To 18 Months

  • Setting a trial date usually depends on the venue in which you’re bringing your claim. Certain jurisdictions have court schedules that are backed up more so than others, meaning it might be sooner, or later than you think to get a date on the calendar.
  • It’s frequently shown on TV that trial begins a few weeks to months after the initial incident or consultation. This might be one of the most misleading representations of the civil justice system. Unfortunately, the “wheels of justice” happen to turn slowly and the reality is that your case might take a while to be heard before a judge or jury. Not to be deterred, your time will come to tell your story!

Length Of Trial – Who Knows!

  • Again, it depends on what type of personal injury case you are bringing. It will be determined by the attorneys and/or court how long that it would take to try the case if necessary. It could be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks!

What Happens If Things Don’t Go To Plan?

It’s very common for a personal injury action, whether it be a motor vehicle collision or medical malpractice, to take anywhere from 1 to 3 years after the lawsuit has started. It’s not uncommon for something unexpected to pop up throughout your case. Whether that be a delay in receiving records, unavailability of witnesses, or just a busy court schedule, it’s important to not be discouraged if a setback happens. There is (typically) only “one bite at the apple”, meaning there is only one opportunity for you to bring your claim, so it’s vital to take the time to ensure the case is being done right.


If you have any questions about the personal injury litigation process, or if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured or worse through the fault of another, please do not hesitate to reach out to our personal injury team here at SW&L Attorneys. This article is for informational purposes only.