Communicating the Litigation Process to Clients One of a lawyer’s primary and most important responsibilities is communicating the litigation process to clients. A lawsuit can be complicated and part of a lawyer’s duty is informing clients about what to expect. Your lawyer should tell you what you need to know about the litigation process and guide you through the entire claim until it is resolved. Hiring a Lawyer We recommend contacting an experienced lawyer as soon as possible if you were injured as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing. Contact a lawyer with a proven track record and set up a meeting to discuss the facts of your case and learn legal strategies to help you get the results you want. Insurance companies and defense lawyers recognize the names of proven plaintiffs’ attorneys and pay their clients more than they do the clients of inexperienced or unproven attorneys. When you hire a lawyer, you will sign a client agreement and the lawyer will begin gathering evidence on your behalf. Your lawyer should arm you with information to protect your legal rights and should begin taking the necessary steps to build your case. Gathering Evidence Here are some practical and immediate steps you can take to protect your legal rights if you were injured in an accident: Take photos of the accident and all vehicles involved. Call the police and obtain a police report. Record the ID of all persons involved (including witnesses). Record the insurance information of all vehicles involved. Immediately seek treatment for all injuries. Keep accurate records of the event and all medical treatment received. Contact a top personal injury lawyer without delay. (*before you contact an insurance company) Gathering evidence begins immediately and may lead all the way up to trial. Gathering evidence typically involves: Composing a written summary of the facts Securing photos, witness statements and police reports Deposing defendant(s) and third parties Hiring technical and medical experts Visiting the scene of the incident to obtain photos and other evidence Obtaining relevant evidence from defendant(s) and other third parties Gathering evidence properly requires the expertise of a skilled lawyer. Your attorney will conduct a formal investigation on your behalf. Demand Letter A lawsuit often begins with an out-of-court demand letter which (1) describes your injuries, (2) describes the facts and circumstances which caused your injuries, and (3) demands that the defendant comply with specific terms to remedy your injuries. From our experience, crafting an effective demand letter requires the skill of a quality lawyer and we recommend having a reputable attorney execute the demand for you. If the defendant does not meet your demands and an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to file a lawsuit in court. Filing a Civil Lawsuit Your attorney will prepare a written complaint, file it in court and begin the discovery process. The purpose of the discovery process is to discover all of the relevant facts of the case. The discovery process may last for years and your attorney will keep you updated periodically as your case develops. At some point you will likely be deposed, which means the defending party’s lawyer will have the opportunity to ask you questions about the incident and about your injuries. Your lawyer should always be there with you during your deposition and should discuss the deposition with you beforehand to ensure that you are adequately prepared. The process of gathering evidence and determining which evidence will be allowed at trial may last all the way up until trial. Out of Court Settlement / Alternative Dispute Resolution An out of court settlement may be reached at any point up to, or during trial. It is likely that you will attend mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution before trial. Mediation is where you and your lawyer discuss your case with a neutral third party, who also discusses the case with the defendant(s) and attempts to reach a resolution. Mediation is typically voluntary, except where required by statute or contract. Mediation is common in personal injury, workplace, and many other types of litigation. If your case cannot be resolved through mediation and does not reach an out-of-court settlement, then the case will proceed to trial. Civil Trials and Appeals Trial will involve presentation of evidence by your lawyer and by the defendant’s lawyer. There will likely be testimony from the defendant(s), witnesses, medical and technical experts, and/or other relevant third parties. Whether or not you will testify at trial will be decided by you and your lawyer, but your personal testimony to the jury is often the most powerful evidence in your favor. Your attorney should spend a significant amount of time with you before the trial reviewing your case with you, explaining the trial process and preparing you to testify truthfully and accurately if you go before the jury. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury will deliberate and issue a verdict. Jury deliberation may take minutes, hours, days or weeks. The jury verdict may be appealed to a higher court by you or by the defendant on the ground that there was a material error in the trial. If the judgment is reversed on appeal, the appellate court may order: A new trial be held The trial court’s judgment be modified or corrected The trial court reconsider the facts, take additional evidence, reconsider the case in light of a recent decision by the appellate court Appeals and subsequent court proceedings may significantly delay the resolution of your case. Even with the care of a skilled lawyer, it may take years to resolve your claim. However, a quality lawyer will make the process easier and more effective for you by guiding you through it with due attention and care from your first meeting until the matter is resolved.