Since most people are not familiar with the usual steps in a case such as this one, we have found that this information is helpful in explaining the way these cases are handled. You probably have a lot of questions about the procedures that will be followed, the time involved, your role in the case, and the chances of winning. Let us explain in advance what you can expect and the steps that will be taken in your case.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS IN YOUR CASE?
After getting all the facts from you, we open a file in your case. We then have the case investigated and gather all the evidence and facts that we can. This helps us in knowing the full extent of the responsibility on the part of the other side. Information about the extent of your injuries and losses is needed so that we can determine the value of your claim. Naturally, there is no attempt at an evaluation until we have all of the facts, including the extent of your recovery from the injuries you had and any continuing problems that might be present.
When enough time has gone by for your doctors to fully understand your condition and we have all of the facts, an effort is made to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company for the other side. We try to do this as soon as we can. Unfortunately, in many cases, the insurance company is not interested in settling the case or will not pay a reasonable amount. When that happens, a lawsuit on your behalf becomes necessary.
FILING A LAWSUIT
Your lawsuit is begun with the preparation of a complaint, which is a legal document which describes what happened to you and the injuries and losses which resulted. It must be carefully prepared by our office, as your lawyers, as it is a formal claim against the persons who are responsible, as well as notice to the court that such a claim has been made. Generally, a lawsuit is made in the county where the accident occurred. We make sure that the language is legally correct before we file the papers with the court. A copy is then served upon each of the defendants in the case. Each defendant then has time to have a lawyer file an answer, which usually denies our claim. The other side may contend that the damages you suffered were your own fault, depending on the facts of the accident.
Sometimes there are additional papers or “pleadings” which have to be filed and which take time. Once these formalities are out of the way, the case is then “at issue” and starts working its way up the court calendar along with other cases which all wait their turn for a trial date.
IS THIS LAWSUIT NECESSARY?
Some people feel that hiring an attorney or filing a lawsuit will be interpreted by others as improper – a feeling that you are “being greedy” or attempting to “get something for nothing.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The laws of our land were created to provide justice in the resolution of disputes, and this includes disputes that concern an injury to someone due to the fault of another. One of your most important constitutional rights is to have a jury of fellow citizens from your community decide your case under the law. The United States is one of the few countries in the world with such a system. It is a right that we are privileged to have and should cherish. Those who criticize litigants are usually ignorant of the facts and of our wonderful heritage.
HOW MUCH TIME IS INVOLVED?
The time is takes for your case to come to trial depends on the number of cases ahead of yours and the rate at which the other cases are concluded, so the delay is difficult to predict. We will advise you of the current waiting time if we can get this information.
During the time your case is on the waiting list for a trial date, there will be many developments and things happening in your case. Investigation will be continuing and we will be gathering information about the accident and concerning your injuries and losses. During this time, your deposition will be taken (this is described later) and we will have the right to take the deposition of the other side or their witnesses concerning the facts of the accident.
One of the most difficult aspects of a case like yours is the need to have patience. The conclusion of an important lawsuit takes considerable time. Be assured that the period of time during which we are waiting a trial date will be productively used to prepare your case.
WILL MY CASE GO TO COURT?
Over 90% of all claims that are made are settled without going to trial. We hope that your case falls into this category, but we have no way of knowing at this time.
Even though a lawsuit is started, there is a possibility of settlement at any time. There are various stages while the case is pending that settlement can occur – we always hope that a settlement, in your best interests, can be made at the earliest possible time.
YOUR ROLE IN THE CASE
Full Statement of Facts: Much of the preparation of your case depends on you. We need a full and complete statement from you which describes all of the facts and details surrounding the accident and your injuries. Write down the names and addresses of all witnesses while this information is fresh in your memory. It is only on the basis of what you tell us that we can properly prepare your case. Therefore, it is important that you tell us all of the facts and do not omit anything or we will be unprepared to meet any unexpected problems that may come up. Many good cases have been lost or seriously damaged because the injured parties omitted or concealed such facts.
As your attorneys, we are bound to do everything possible to properly prepare and present your case. Any information that we obtain from you or others about you or your case must be held in the strictest confidence in accordance with legal ethics.
Keep Records: Please listen to your doctor and follow all of the orders and advice that you are given. Keep track of and make a record of all appointments for treatment, therapy, and any time that you lose from work. If you are taking medicines or prescriptions, keep track of your expenses and save all empty bottle or containers of medicine if you can. Keep copies of all bills for medical care, physical therapy, hospital expenses, nursing, or other expenses. Keep track of your mileage to and from hospitals and doctors.
Do Not Sign Anything: It is essential that we see any papers that are presented to you. Sign nothing without first consulting our office. This includes any applications for insurance, disability or unemployment benefits. We should check these before they are submitted. Let us know before you make application for such benefits.
Tell Us of Your Progress: Tell us about any changes in your condition or treatment, recommended surgeries, new therapy, when you return to work, if you decide to retire or leave work on disability or pension. Also, we would like to know if you apply for Social Security Benefits. We know that this sounds like a burden on you, but a simple phone call to our office is well worth it. When we are kept informed, we can do a better job for you.
Prior Injuries: Tell us in detail about any other accidents that you have ever had, as well as any other injuries that you have ever suffered in your lifetime. If you have ever made a claim at any time against anyone or any insurance company, this will become important and we must be fully advised about it.
Investigation and Possible Surveillance by Insurance Company: Insurance companies do not pay money willingly. You can expect the other side to thoroughly investigate the accident, your treatment and any past injuries or claims. The insurance company can obtain copies of all previous claims, lawsuits, or payments. They have access to your past medical records. You should understand that insurance companies sometimes conduct undercover investigations – they will talk to your friends, neighbors, and co-workers about you, your injuries, activities and general health or take hidden motion pictures of you – there are other methods they may use like this. Be aware of these things and understand that the other side will also be prepared and have a lot of information about your case. It is therefore critical that you be completely honest at all times.
Deposition: You have an active role during several steps in the case. One of the most important is to have your deposition taken. This means that the other side has the right to ask you questions, while you are under oath, concerning all of the facts in your case – the accident, the injuries, the treatment and your expenses. Usually we are able to make arrangements in advance for this procedure and will set up an appointment with you to prepare for it. We will review and discuss the questions that will be asked by the lawyer for the other side. Though the questions are asked in a law office, informally and courteously, your deposition is very important to your case. When we prepare for your deposition, we will cover the procedure and all of the pertinent facts so that you will have a full understanding of what is expected of you. Of course, we will attend the deposition with you as well.
Physical Examination: At some point in the case you may be required to have a physical examination by a doctor selected by the other side. The law gives them this right and we have to agree to such an examination. It will be scheduled far enough in advance so that you can make arrangements to be presented. The doctor who is picked by the other side is often a specialist whose opinions will be given considerable weight by the other side and possibly by a judge or jury should your case go to trial. His or her role will be to evaluate your injuries or condition. Again, we will review this with you before the time of your examination.
Interrogatories: In addition to your deposition and physical examination, you may be called to answer certain interrogatories, or written questions, that are served upon us by the other side. These typically call for background information about you – your residence, education, work record, treatment received, medical bills, and details about your losses. The facts that are asked for are not particularly difficult, but do require your attention and that you take time in working with our office. Usually we are required to answer questions like this within a limited period of time. You will hear from us about the details, once the other side begins this procedure.
Do Not Discuss Your Case: While you case is pending, friends, relatives, or neighbors may ask you about your case, your injuries or details of your case. The best approach for you is to tell them that your lawyers have instructed you not to talk to anyone about your case. The reason for this is that statements that you make can be misinterpreted and used against you. Also, advice that you may receive from well-meaning people is often wrong and it can create needless problems and concern on your part. Any time you have questions about your case, do not hesitate to raise them with us and we will respond, based upon our experience and special training.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF YOUR LAWYER?
As your attorneys, we will pursue your case as vigorously as possible and hopefully obtain the finest results possible for you. As officers of the court we are deeply aware of our professional obligation to you. From the moment we were retained by you, numerous steps were taken and will continue to be taken in your case, which are geared towards bringing your claim to a favorable conclusion. Many of these are technical in nature, but others are not. It is not always possible for us to take the time necessary to advise you about all of the minor details, but rest assured that we will let you know of any and all important developments or significant progress in your case. If you do not hear from us for a period of time, it does not mean that the case is not moving along in normal fashion. If you have questions, please call us.
As your case develops and the other side begins to understand and appreciate the strength of our position, we may have an opportunity to discuss settlement. If not, the court will set a settlement conference at some point before trial. The settlement conference is an opportunity for the lawyers to meet with a designated judge in court in an effort to see if the case can be settled without a trial. This kind of proceeding can be very helpful in concluding the case. We will advise you in advance of the date of the settlement conference.
If the case cannot be satisfactorily settled, we must prepare for trial. There are many things that will be done by our office – getting evidence and witnesses ready, as well as preparing you for your testimony in court. At that time we will review the facts of the accident as well as the details of your injury and treatment. We will explain the details and strategy of the trial so that you have an understanding of what takes place, our chances of success, and your role. This naturally is a long time away and need not concern you this far in advance. You will be thoroughly prepared for your testimony, your appearance, and manner in the courtroom and thoroughly briefed so that you have a better understanding of the technical aspect of the trial and your case.
We hope that this information has answered many of the questions that you have about your case. From time to time, feel free to refer to it when a point comes up, but also do not hesitate to call us if you have additional questions. Sometimes we are not in the office, but in court, taking depositions or elsewhere. If this is the case, please leave a message or discuss the problem with our secretaries who are highly trained and can probably answer many of your questions. If they cannot, please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Keep us advised. It is important that you keep us advised of any changes in your address, telephone number or employment, so that we always know where to reach you. Also, keep us informed about any new information about your case – a new doctor, a change in your condition, any other accidents or any developments. It is essential that we know of any and all facts which might affect your case.
We will be working closely together until the time that your case is completed. Your cooperation is deeply appreciated and will result in bring this case to an early and satisfactory conclusion. Thank you very much.