Do you have questions about how a personal injury claim works and what to expect before, during and after you file a lawsuit? There are many variables, but one thing is certain: at CaseyGerry, we will work tirelessly to achieve justice on your behalf. In the meantime, here are some basic questions to consider.
What should I do if I think I have a personal injury case?
The first thing to do is to contact a qualified personal injury attorney. At CaseyGerry, following are the key action items we provide to our clients:
- Keep records – If you or someone close to you has been injured, it is important to keep records of what happened, the symptoms, and treatment received. If possible, keep a notebook with related dates and events noted, and the names and contact info for people who have information. Keep any important documents (like receipts, letters, police reports) and document any injuries with photos or videos.
- Confidentiality – All case-related communications with our office are strictly confidential. If you are consulting our firm for possible representation, this applies even if we do not end up representing you. Because of this confidentiality, it is important that you feel comfortable discussing with us all aspects of your case, including anything that you think might hurt your case. The earlier our office learns of a potential problem with a case, the better we are able to plan to deal with that issue.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions – If your doctors or other medical care providers make recommendations and you have appointments, it is important that you follow those recommendations and keep those appointments. The first reason is for your own health and wellbeing. But also, if you do not, the defense may use that against you and it could hurt your case.
- Be careful about discussing your case – The other side in your case can get information that you’ve shared with other people through investigations. Defendants can take that information out of context, and use it against you in your case. That is why it’s generally better not to discuss the details of your case other than with employees of our office, your spouse (only if married), your doctors, and others with whom we instruct you to discuss it.
- Social media – Be mindful that the other side in a lawsuit will often visit the social media sites of the injured person, and those close to them, to find things to help defend their case. Seemingly minor posts can be taken out of context and used against the injured person years later. Be mindful of this when using social media.
- Statements to insurers – If you have filed a claim with the responsible person or company’s insurance carrier, they may ask you for a statement. Sometimes they will want to record it. In general, we recommend against making these statements if you are considering filing a lawsuit. If you choose to do so, before making any statement, you should consider that your interests are not aligned with theirs, and they can use what you say against you in a future lawsuit.
- Medical treatment – It is important that you keep our office advised of your medical treatment if we are evaluating your case, or if we are representing you in a case.
- Save and send us copies of your bills – It is important that you send copies of all bills (whether or not paid by insurance) to our office. Request a receipt for any expenses that you incur as a result of the incident.
How do you determine if a lawsuit is worthwhile?
We carefully investigate! At CaseyGerry, our in house investigation team gathers information to determine if we believe you have a solid case and are able to represent you. This usually includes interviews of witnesses, visiting the location of the incident, and collecting any pictures, videos, or related documents. This process can take some time because we often need to order medical or government records.
When does the lawsuit officially start?
The lawsuit begins when the plaintiff files a complaint with the court that describes what happened and names the responsible defendant. After the complaint is filed, the defendant then has a limited time to respond to the court with an answer, in which they can admit or deny what is alleged in the complaint. After the complaint is filed, the plaintiff and defendant have the right to demand that each other respond under oath to written questions (called Interrogatories), document requests, inspections, medical exams (related to the injuries from the incident), and make themselves available for depositions. It is important that our office is able to reach you promptly during this period, because there are penalties the can be imposed if a party to the lawsuit does not respond within specified periods. Throughout this phase and the rest of the case, our office works with various experts as needed to understand the evidence related to the incident and any injuries, and to develop the case.
What is Discovery?
This is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the other party or parties. The idea is that both sides should share pertinent information before going to trial, so the trial can proceed smoothly and not be held up parties requesting information and delaying the process.
What is a Summary Judgment?
At the end of the Discovery phase, either party may ask the court to decide the case in their favor if they can prove with what they collected during Discovery that the other side cannot win. In practice, a summary judgment is usually filed by the defendant. If the defendant wins, the case is over (unless the plaintiff appeals). If the plaintiff wins, the case can go forward to trial.
What does a settlement entail and when will you consider settling the case?
To initiate the settlement process, one party usually writes the other an offer letter which outlines the case, calculates damages and proposes a settlement amount. Then the parties begin negotiations to potentially settle the case before it goes to trial. Sometimes an independent mediator may assist the parties to achieve a settlement.
However, we only settle when we are sure of the extent of the client’s injuries and necessary medical attention. We must know the extent of any future medical care as well as the impact of the injury on work and other activities. Only then will we discuss the option of settlement.
What is mediation and when is it an option?
Many cases reach a point where the parties consider settling the dispute through a process called mediation. This involves both sides bringing the evidence they have collected to a neutral party — usually a retired judge or highly experienced attorney — who can help both sides evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case, and facilitate a possible settlement. This is a private process between the parties, that can happen whenever the parties agree the time is right. Usually, it is most effective once both sides have been able to gather enough evidence to understand the strengths and any weaknesses of their case.
When does a case typically go to trial?
If the parties are unable to agree to settle the case, it goes to trial. Most types of cases that go to trial are tried before a jury, but sometimes the judge acts as the jury. Our office often holds live focus groups to understand how potential jurors will view the evidence and see the issues. Our office’s experience, resources, and willingness to take worthy cases to trial are part of what sets us apart from many other law firms.