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How To Proceed With An NYC Personal Injury Lawsuit

Posted in Personal Injury on August 3, 2022

How To Proceed With An NYC Personal Injury Lawsuit

New York City personal injury lawsuits proceed under New York state law, not NYC municipal law. Nevertheless, local court rules can exert some influence on the outcome of a case.

Not all lawsuits proceed in the same manner – legal strategy determines much of what happens. For example, most personal injury lawsuits never make it to trial. Continue reading to learn what you may expect if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York City.

Try Settling Your Case Out of Court First

Most parties, both victims and defendants, prefer negotiated out-of-court settlements to lawsuit verdicts because they are quicker, easier, and (in many cases) cheaper to resolve.

Nevertheless, you might still use the prospect of a lawsuit to pressure the opposing party to offer a generous settlement. In some cases, however, sympathetic juries issue “windfall verdicts” in favor of victims.

How the NYC Lawsuit Procedure Works

A formal lawsuit proceeds according to the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR), although some flexibility is built into the process.

Formal Complaint, Service of Process, and the Defendant’s Response

The first step in initiating a personal injury lawsuit is to draft a formal Complaint. Unless you are litigating in Small Claims Court, your Complaint must comply with specific rules. Ask your lawyer to prepare your Complaint and gather evidence to support your claims.

You must also notify the defendant of the lawsuit through a procedure known as Service of Process. You must provide the defendant with a court summons and a copy of the Complaint. Normally, a third party must personally deliver these documents to the defendant.

The Defendant’s Reply

The defendant must reply and attend any scheduled hearing or risk the entry of a default judgment against them. Two popular responses are a formal Answer to the Complaint and a Motion to Dismiss. A defendant might also ask the judge to drop them from the case because they are an inappropriate defendant (for example, a trucking company in a truck accident case).

Pretrial Discovery

Pretrial discovery is a procedure in which both parties demand evidence in the other party’s possession.

Pretrial discovery includes four main legal tools:

  • Depositions: Out-of-court, under-oath testimony by potential witnesses and other relevant parties. Witnesses could include eyewitnesses and expert witnesses (in a medical malpractice case, for example).
  • Interrogatories: Written questions that the other side must answer under oath.
  • Requests for production: Demands for access to evidence such as documents, physical evidence (e.g., an independent medical examination of the victim), and other tangible evidence.
  • Requests for admissions: Requests that the other side admit the truth of a fact that the requesting party doesn’t want to prove. Frequently, both sides agree to admit specific facts to simplify the case.

You can ask a court to sanction an opposing party that refuses to cooperate with your discovery requests.

Pretrial Motions

When you make a motion in court, you ask the judge to do something for you. Space does not permit a listing of every possible pretrial motion.

Examples include:

  • Evidence suppression motions, where you ask the judge to exclude certain evidence from the trial
  • Motions for summary judgment, in which you ask the judge to decide the case early, on the basis that the evidence so overwhelmingly favors your side that no reasonable jury would decide against you

The parties might also have to attend one or more pretrial conferences with the judge.


Most cases settle before trial.

If you do make it to trial, however, the process includes the following phases:

  • Jury selection, where both sides participate in the selection of members of the jury
  • Opening statements, where each side states their arguments
  • Calling and questioning witnesses who can support each side’s case
  • Cross-examination of witnesses, where each party engages in the questioning of the other side’s witnesses
  • Closing arguments, where each side argues their case based on evidence already presented to the jury

You can still settle your case at any time before the jury announces their verdict.


If you want to appeal an adverse decision, you have 30 days to do so. You need grounds for appeal to have any chance of winning, and the higher court will give a certain amount of deference to the lower court’s verdict.

You Probably Need a Lawyer To Help You Navigate Your NYC Personal Injury Lawsuit

Unless your claim is small, your case will probably be complex enough to require a lawyer to maximize your chances of adequate compensation. This is especially likely if the other side has hired a lawyer. The odds are good that a lawyer can secure a much larger verdict or settlement than you would be able to secure on your own.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in New York, NY

If you need legal assistance, contact the New York City personal injury lawyers at Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation.

We have two convenient locations in New York:

Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers – New York City Office
450 7th Ave #409
New York, NY 10123
(212) 564-2800

Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers – Brooklyn Office
26 Court St Suite 2511
Brooklyn, NY 11242
(718) 802-1600

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