The basic parts of your lawsuit are:
1. A Complaint is filed with the Court against the party/parties responsible for your accident.
2. Service- all Defendants must be personally served with the Complaint.
3. Disclosures are made by each party identifying witnesses and disclosing documents and evidence to be relied upon at trial.
4. Written Discovery- the parties submit written discovery requests to each other and conduct depositions and other discovery as needed.
5. Defense medical examination of you by a doctor selected by the Defendant’s legal team.
6. Settlement Conference/Mediation.
7. Trial preparation.
To initiate your legal action, a Complaint will be filed in the proper court venue, normally where the collision occurred. The Complaint describes your allegations and claims for relief. Pursuant to the rules of the court, it is required to serve the Defendant through personal service. A process server will serve the Defendant with the Complaint. The Defendant will provide the Complaint to their insurance company. The insurance company will hire an attorney to represent them in your lawsuit and will file an Answer to your Complaint.
Each party is required to disclose the identity of all witnesses who may be called to testify at trial and to identify any and all evidence upon which it may rely at trial. The failure to disclose witnesses and/or evidence may result in a court order prohibiting an undisclosed witness from testifying or the use of undisclosed evidence at trial. A large part of the disclosures will include medical records, not only for treatment for auto injuries, but also for any pre-collision treatment for the same or similar conditions/body parts. If there is a claim for loss of income on account of accident-related injuries, your income and tax records will be disclosed. The parties have an ongoing duty to make additional disclosures throughout the pretrial process as new witnesses or evidence is discovered.
"Discovery" is the term for court-supervised pre-trial investigation by the parties. The Defendant will conduct, on its own, an exhaustive investigation into your background which will include searching court files for civil suits, divorces, criminal charges, bankruptcies, and all social networking or YouTube sites, etc.
A. Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. The discovery process starts with each party serving written discovery requests to each other. The interrogatory answers are normally due within 30 days of their receipt. Discovery requests often ask for information that seems remote, but the law allows requests for information in discovery so long as the request is "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible information."
Generally, the Defendant will ask for the following information: prior litigation and administrative claim history; criminal history; employment history since high school, including your title, supervisor, pay rate, and the reason for leaving each job; your educational history; all documents which establish your claim for lost wages; copies of tax returns; the identity of health care providers and mental health care providers; copies of medical bills and receipts for your out of pocket expenses.
B. Depositions. After some written discovery have been exchanged, the parties will conduct depositions of the parties and key witnesses. The Plaintiff's deposition is usually taken first, and it may take up to seven hours by law, but usually, your deposition will take two to four hours. Deposition testimony will be given under oath. Detailed questions will be asked about the case, and answers will be recorded by a court reporter that will be present preparing a transcript of all questions and answers. The transcript will be sent to attorneys representing both sides. Portions of the deposition may be read aloud in court, especially when the opposing attorney is trying to show possible inconsistencies between your deposition and your testimony in court. This is what is called “impeaching the witness”.
The key purposes of the deposition are to gather further information, tie a witness down as to his/her version of events, judge the credibility of a witness, and obtain admissions from witnesses. Each party has the right to attend any deposition with counsel.
Expert witnesses are witnesses with specialized knowledge who are hired by a party to educate the jury as to a specific aspect of a party's claim. Experts may be retained or non-retained. Retained experts may be accident investigators or accident reconstruction experts. Non-retained experts are typically your medical providers. The rules require the complete disclosure of all expert opinions we might use.
The defense, too, will call expert witnesses. They will likely retain a doctor of their own choosing, and you will likely be asked to attend a medical examination by that doctor. If you are asked to participate in a medical examination, we will spend considerable time preparing you for that event.
The parties and their lawyers will be placed in separate rooms and the mediator will take turns meeting with each party to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the parties' cases and discuss settlement offers. All discussions at the settlement conference are confidential and any offers to settle that are exchanged during the settlement conference cannot be raised at trial. The mediator will not inform the trial judge about any settlement negotiations.
Cases are set for trial shortly after the Defendant answers the Complaint, often nine to twelve months out or longer. In the event the parties are not successful in settling the case, your case will proceed to trial as previously scheduled by the court. In state court, several cases are set for trial each Monday of the week, the oldest case still left when that date arrives is the case that proceeds to trial and the newest cases are either postponed or sometimes another courtroom is found for the trial.
When you are hurt in a serious collision, you need a lawyer who has the experience to represent you against insurance companies. The lawyers at Clawson & Clawson, LLP, zealously advocate for you in court. Take the opportunity of a free consultation with Clawson & Clawson LLP, to discuss your case.
Call us now at (719) 634-1848 or fill out the online contact form below for your free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!