You might be wondering what personal injury lawyers actually do. Many people falsely believe that getting money for injuries after an accident involves only filing a little paperwork, then receiving a nice check. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Good personal injury lawyers work very hard on every case to get the highest possible recovery for all of their clients. Understanding the process can help you select the best personal injury lawyer for your case.
Our work begins during the initial consultation when we will explain the things you can do to help your personal injury & car accident lawyer gather and establish the necessary evidence to prove your case. For example, we will explain that you need to attend all of your doctor’s appointments so that we have the medical records needed to prove your case. We may also want some other evidence, like physical evidence from an auto accident scene, or witness statements. We evaluate whatever is needed in any case, during the initial intake. Then we tell you what you need to know, to get anything we might need (like photographs, witness names, or prior medical provider names).
Once you leave our office, we immediately get busy gathering the evidence needed to prove your case. We also notify any insurance companies that we represent you, ask for the policy amounts, and investigate whether there might be any other insurance coverage available.
If necessary, we contact witnesses to the accident, possibly arrange visits to the site of the accident (this is often needed in premises liability or serious auto accident cases), and contact any experts we might need to prove your case. For example, in a negligent security case, which is one type of personal injury case, we might need to hire and consult with a security expert, to help us prove that bad security caused your injuries.
If the extent of your injuries isn’t clear when you first hire us, then we might need to wait until your medical treatment has progressed or concluded, to know how much your case might be worth, and determine whether, or not, we can settle your case without a lawsuit.
If we think we might be able to settle your case without a lawsuit, we will request all of your medical records, then carefully review and summarize them in a pre-suit demand package, which we send to the insurance company on your behalf. In this package, we explain all of the ways that this accident has affected your life. And we explain why the defendant (that is, the bad driver or other negligent parties) is legally responsible for your accident. This might require some case research or other factual investigation.
If we think we need to file a lawsuit in your case, there is much more work involved.
We initially file something called a complaint, which is the document that officially starts the lawsuit. This is something we draft on your behalf, which tells the story about what happened to you, as well as what laws the defendant violated.
Next, we begin something called “discovery.” This is where both sides of any legal dispute seek evidence to prove their case. Through this process, we draft written requests for information and documents. We also schedule depositions, which are verbal question and answer sessions, conducted by lawyers on both sides, which are transcribed by a court reporter. We also reply to similar requests from the defendants (meaning they send us questions and request to depose our clients). We spend a lot of time drafting and responding to these requests, which can be very lengthy, and often require legal research or investigation to give or receive good answers.
We also review your medical records extensively, and any documents provided by the defendant. For example, the defendant in a premises liability case might provide records that could help us prove that they negligently maintained their property. But we have to dig through a LOT of paperwork to find that one critical “needle in the haystack.”
We may need to file lengthy motions or respond to any filed by the defendant, to argue over things like whether certain information must be provided, whether certain evidence is admissible at trial and many other extremely complicated legal issues.
We also prepare for something called mediation. Before every mediation, we study all of the evidence from both sides and prepare a lengthy presentation, which tells your side of the story. This includes a detailed summary of how the accident happened, including why the defendant was at fault, along with your injuries and treatment, including how those have affected your life. We make that presentation before a mediator, who is a neutral third party, the defense lawyers, and either the defendant or his insurance company representatives. The mediator’s goal is to try to have both sides reach a settlement. Our job is to advocate on your behalf, to convince the other side that you should receive more than they want to give.
90% of cases are settled at a mediation, or shortly afterward.
For those cases we can’t settle, we begin preparing for trial. Trial preparation is much more extensive, but includes the same type of work, primarily collecting more evidence. We also prepare exhibits, which might include blow-ups of photographs, quotes from depositions, and parts of the law that apply to your case. And we prepare witnesses, including expert witnesses, by reviewing their prior deposition testimony and helping them understand the types of questions that the defense lawyers will ask.
If we go to trial, we spend many hours preparing our presentation to the jury, including questions we plan to ask the jurors, opening statements, witness questions, expert questions, and closing statements. We also work hard to anticipate the defense lawyer’s likely questions and theories, and help prepare you and your witnesses to answer those in the best way possible.
After hearing all of the evidence from both sides, the jurors ultimately hold your fate in your hands, and their findings can be hard to predict. We always have to remember that jurors are regular people with their own opinion about what is fair and just in our society. This is one of many reasons why 98% of cases settle before trial — both the defense and plaintiff lawyers often prefer the certainty of settlement to the uncertainty of trial. Nevertheless, we prepare every case as if it were going to trial, because, in our experience, preparation is the best way to ensure a fair settlement. And we always want our clients to be positioned to put their best foot forward, should we decide that going to trial is in their best interest.
If you have questions about your personal injury case, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free evaluation of your potential claim.