Although we strive to settle claims without the need to file a lawsuit, our heart is in litigation and fighting for fair compensation for each client. Alyson George has focused her career on litigating personal injury cases. Many people are hesitant to go through the litigation process and we are certainly understanding of that hesitation. We are hopeful that a brief overview will ease your concerns. We also encourage you to make an office appointment or set a telephone conference to discuss how the litigation process would likely play out in your specific case. Each case is different, but generally speaking, similar things occur during litigation regardless of the facts of the case. We are here every step of the way to keep you updated on what is happening in your case and what will happen next. Litigation can be time consuming, but is often the only choice when the insurance company does not make a fair settlement offer. We want you to be comfortable with the process before we begin and realize that just because we file a lawsuit, does not necessarily your case will have to go to trial.
Let’s start from the beginning of the process. First, we file a Complaint on your behalf against the at-fault party or parties. “Complaint” is just another word for lawsuit. This is the official legal document that we have our process server serve on the Defendant or Defendants. The Complaint states the legal causes of action against the Defendant or Defendants. Stated another way, the Complaint tells the Court and the Defendants what the Defendants did wrong to cause injuries and other damages. The injured party is called the Plaintiff. After we serve the Complaint, each Defendant has 20 days from the date they are served to file an Answer. Sometimes there are other motions filed by either side to attack the Complaint or the Answer, but those are specific to each case and are not filed in every case. If a motion is filed in your case, we will discuss with you what it means and how it affects your case.
When we serve the Complaint, we also serve Interrogatories, Request for Production, and Requests for Admissions. Together, we refer to those documents as the initial discovery. Interrogatories are written questions that allow us to gather more information from the Defendant or Defendants. Request for Production is a document that lists documents and other items we are requesting the Defendant or Defendants give us copies of or allow us to inspect. Requests for Admissions are statements that we ask the Defendant or Defendants to admit or deny in an effort to narrow the legal issues. The Defendant or Defendants have 45 days to answer the initial discovery when it is served with the Complaint. You should anticipate that the defense will send you initial discovery as well. Our office works with you to answer the written questions. Generally, we have many of the documents the defense is requesting, but we make ask you to send us copies of items you have that we do not. We are usually able to answer the Requests for Admissions, but we may need some input from you to complete those answers.
Once we complete initial discovery, the defense lawyer will want to take your deposition. A deposition is your testimony under oath. The defense lawyer will ask you questions and a court reporter will type all of the questions and answers. Before the deposition, we will meet to prepare you for the deposition. To prepare the case for mediation and trial, we also generally take depositions of the Defendant or Defendants and any key witnesses. During this stage of litigation, we also usually hire any additional expert witnesses to review and evaluate your case to help bolster our position, especially when the defense is disputing who is at fault or how badly you are injured.
The defense almost always requests the Plaintiff attend a Compulsory Medical Exam (CME) with a doctor chosen and paid for by the insurance company. Attorney Alyson George and a videographer will attend the exam with you. Clients find this process very invasive, but the defense does have the right to have their doctor examine you, within some limits, so the best thing to do is to be honest and cooperative with the defense doctor. If your case goes to trial, this is likely one of the doctors who will testify against you. Typically, these doctors conclude that your injuries existed before the accident or that you only suffered mild, temporary sprain/strain injuries. Attorney Alyson George has spent years learning the art of cross-examining these doctors and exposing their bias.
Once we’ve completed the initial discovery and depositions, the Court requires the parties to participate in mediation. We try to agree on who will mediate the case with the opposing attorney. The mediator is usually an attorney who has many years’ experience handling cases like yours. At mediation, Attorney Alyson George will not decide the outcome of your case. Instead, he or she will try to get the parties to come to a settlement agreement. At mediation, your attorney will make an opening statement on your behalf. Although mediation is confidential, we often speak strategically and do not lay all of our cards on the table. The Defendant’s attorney will also make an opening statement. Although it is often difficult to listen to their side of the story, it is important to hear what they have to say, because they will likely be making similar arguments to a jury. The Plaintiff is not required to say anything during the openings in mediation and in most cases it is best if the Plaintiff simply listens to the attorneys. Once the opening session ends, the parties separate into different rooms and the mediator goes between the rooms in an effort to try to get each party to compromise and reach a settlement. If no settlement is reached, we continue moving forward to trial. If we get to the trial phase of your case, we will spend a lot more time discussing how the trial will work and getting you prepared for every aspect of trial.