FAQ – How Long Will My Case Take?

Depending on many factors–including the facts of your case, the defendant, the lawyer on the other side, and the judge we draw–your case could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to resolve. Below is a rough timeline setting forth significant events and the timing of those events in a typical case.

Request a free case evaluation.

The first step is to tell us about your legal issue so we can figure out if we can help. The best way to get in touch with us is to use our contact form to request a free case evaluation. Take a few minutes to tell us some basic information about your legal issue, and we will follow up with you shortly, usually by the next business day.

Meet with one of our lawyers in person.

If we think we can help, we will call you to schedule a free in-person appointment where you will meet with one of our lawyers at our office in Minneapolis to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and monetary value of your case. If we decide to work together, we will sign a retainer agreement to formalize the attorney-client relationship. We work almost all of our cases under contingency fee retainer agreements, which means you will not owe our firm any legal fees unless we recover money for you.

Review draft complaint and cover letter: 10 – 14 days after beginning of representation.

We will send you drafts of a complaint and cover letter we would like to send to the person(s) or entity (or entities) that caused you harm (the “wrongdoer”) within two weeks of us signing a retainer agreement, which is a contract we enter into that formalizes the attorney-client relationship.  We will ask you to carefully review the documents to make sure the information contained therein is accurate.  Once we receive your approval, we will send the documents to the wrongdoer.

Initiate a lawsuit and wait for the wrongdoer to answer: About 20-35 days after the wrongdoer receives the summons and complaint; about two months after beginning of representation.

The Complaint is the document that lays out our case and, once served with a Summons, initiates a lawsuit. Once the wrongdoer is served with the Summons and Complaint, it has 20 days to answer.

Unless we are suing a party we know is never interested in engaging in pre-suit communications, we will provide the Complaint to the other side before formally initiating a lawsuit and give it some time, usually three weeks, to dispute liability or, alternatively, to make a settlement offer.

More often than not, the other side reaches out to us pre-lawsuit, and in many cases the parties are able to reach an equitable resolution at this early stage in litigation. In many other cases, however, the parties do not reach an early settlement.

Even if the other side has engaged in truly reprehensible conduct, we’re rarely surprised when they pushback.

Wrongdoers don’t want to make fair settlement offers because they’re in denial about what they did and generally will do whatever it takes to protect their money.

If an insurance carrier is involved, it doesn’t want to make a fair offer because its business model is to collect high premiums and avoid or delay making fair payouts.

If a law firm is involved, these lawyers generally aren’t eager to settle, as they get paid by the hour and want to keep billing their client for their work.

For these reasons, the other side is incredibly unlikely to make a fair settlement offer unless they truly believe the only alternative is going to trial and trying to convince the judge or jury that their conduct was acceptable.

Discovery: Begins after the other side answers the Complaint and lasts up to 10 months; ends about one year after beginning of representation.

“Discovery” refers to the stage of the case where both sides try to learn what facts the other side knows.  In real court cases—unlike in TV legal dramas—information generally does not come out at the last minute at trial; rather, various court rules require both sides to freely exchange information months prior to trial.  In other words, it is a serious offense for us or the wrongdoer to play “hide the ball” regarding relevant information in your case. Accordingly, it is very important that you preserve any and all materials that are even tangentially related to your case.

During discovery we will ask you to provide us with various documents the other side will request, and will ask you to respond to written questions the other side will ask.  We will also request the wrongdoer to provide us with information likely to lead to the discovery of materials relevant to your case.

The wrongdoer will probably seek to take your deposition, which is a formal interview that is recorded by a court reporter and can take up to eight hours, depending on the complexity of your case.  You are sworn in before the deposition begins, so you must tell the complete truth.  We will take the wrongdoer(s)’ deposition(s) as well.

NOTE: At some point during the discovery stage the Court may compel a formal settlement conference, which generally takes place in the judge’s chambers or in a neutral third party’s office.  The conference generally lasts all day, and the judge or neutral will try to settle our case.

Motions for summary judgment: About one year after beginning of representation.

After the discovery stage ends the wrongdoer will likely move for summary judgment.  This means that the wrongdoer will make a legal argument to the judge that even if everything we say is true, we can’t prove our case as a matter of law and that our case should be dismissed.

In most cases it is not appropriate for the plaintiff to move for summary judgment, but in certain cases we will move for summary judgment on our clients’ behalf.

Decision on motions for summary judgment: About 15 months after beginning of representation.

The judge will make a decision on summary judgment about three months after s/he hears arguments from both sides.  If the court grants the wrongdoer’s motion for summary judgment, it will dismiss your case and your case will end. We may offer to help you appeal the judge’s decision, depending on a variety of factors.  If the court denies the wrongdoer’s motion for summary judgment, it becomes more likely that the other side will do the right thing and make a fair settlement offer.

Trial: About 18 – 24 months after beginning of representation.

If the court denies the wrongdoer’s motion for summary judgment and we do not settle your case, we will finally proceed to trial.  The trial will probably last no more than five days, depending on the complexity of your case.

Post-trial motions and appeals: Can last for months and/or years after beginning of representation.

If we lose at trial, your case will end.  You may be held responsible for the other side’s costs (but most likely not attorney fees) if we lose. We may offer to help you appeal the verdict, depending on a variety of factors.

If we win, it is likely the other side will appeal the verdict based on various theories, and the appeal process can take months or even years.  You will not get paid as long as we are still in the appeal process.

Final thoughts

As set forth above, the wheels of justice move very slowly; the legal dramas on TV where the lawyer meets the client on Monday and trial ends on Friday do not accurately depict how the system works.  Thus, if you do not hear from us for a month it is not because we are neglecting your case, but because we’re waiting for the other side to respond to a request or the Court to make a decision.

At certain points during your case, however, we will need to speak with you to get information to ensure that we comply with various court-imposed deadlines, and we ask that you promptly (i.e., within 24 hours) reply to our phone calls and e-mails.  We promise to reply to your communications in a similarly prompt manner.

Click here to request a free case evaluation.