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How Does a New York Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

What is a lawsuit? Our Syracuse personal injury lawyers are happy to explain.

But before we tell you what it is, let us tell you why it is. If your case is being put in suit, it's because we haven't been able to settle the case at a figure that your attorneys deem fair and that you deem fair. And if, with your consent, your personal injury lawyers put your case in suit, it means – if they know what they are doing -- they are going to get the case prepared for a trial. It doesn't mean it's always going to go to trial because it may settle before trial, but your personal injury lawyer – whether in Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State -- is starting the process of getting it ready for trial.

Now, what is a personal injury lawsuit? There are three parts of any lawsuit: a beginning, a middle and an end.

The Beginning

The beginning part is simply filing the lawsuit. Your personal injury lawyer, whether in Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State, will file a summons and complaint in the county clerk's office (or electronically if permitted by the county where it is filed). After it is filed, your attorney will pay someone – maybe a deputy sheriff, maybe a “process server” – to physically serve it on the defendant. That usually means handing it to them at their home or place of work.

The “complaint” itself lays out what your allegations are against the defendant. How was he or she negligent and what harm did he or she cause? Within 20 days of the service of the complaint upon the defendant, the defendant must serve your lawyer with something called an answer in which they deny or admit the allegations of the complaint and also set forth some defenses. So the beginning of the lawsuit is now done.

The Middle

The second part of the lawsuit is called discovery and that's where each side gets to explore the information that the other side has in its possession. To get this information from the other side, each side can serve something called a “demand for a bill of particulars” and “a notice for discovery and inspection”. In response to the demand for bill of particular, each side gives a “bill of particulars” with more details about what their allegations and more facts about their defenses, damages they are claiming, etc. In response to the notice for discovery and inspection, the other side provides insurance information, photographs they might be relevant, documents that might be relevant to the case, etc.

The last part of this middle part of the case called discovery is a “deposition”, which is also called in New York (and only in New York) an “examination before trial”. This is when the lawyers and their clients sit down at a table in a law office and ask the other side questions under oath. So if you are the plaintiff, your personal injury attorney, whether in Syracuse or elsewhere, will ask the defendant questions under oath with you present to hear the responses, and the defendant’s lawyer will ask you questions with the defendant present. There is a “court reporter” (also known as a “stenographer”) present who writes everything down on a funny little machine. Later she produces a transcript which has recorded, in writing, showing all the oral questions and their answers as well as the objections the lawyers might have raised.

After depositions are done, generally your personal injury attorney will be ready for trial. He or she then files something called a “note of issue and statement of readiness”, which essentially informs the judge that the case is ready for trial. The court then sets up some kind of a meeting called a pre-trial conference where he or she tries to get the parties to settle the case, but if they won’t settle, the judge will give them a trial date.


The last part of a lawsuit is the trial itself. To learn more about a trial, click here. If you think you have a New York personal injury claim of any kind, anywhere in New York State, don’t hesitate to contact our Syracuse personal injury attorneys for a free consultation by phone or in person.

Client Reviews
He is one of the top lawyers in central New York & has the accolades to show for this, but in my book he's the top lawyer in the country. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Bersani & to have had him on my team! Matthew
I admire the amount of background work he did which was instrumental in getting me a very good settlement. Also, having never been involved in a personal injury lawsuit, Michael was very patient explaining the legal issues. You're in good hands with Michael Bersani and the firm of Michaels Bersani Kalabanka. Richard
Dave took over my wrongful death case after it was badly messed up by another lawyer. He was dogged in his pursuit of all the information needed to make a solid case, and he succeeded in bringing it to a very satisfactory settlement. He was honest and straightforward, kind and compassionate through meetings, depositions, court appearances. I highly recommend him. Christine
Dave has handled our legal matters for over 20 years. Always there when we needed him. We were so happy with his professionalism and results that we referred him to several friends. If we ever need this type of service again, Dave will be the first and only call we make. Jackie