Client Expectations Concerning Litigation Cases (part 1 of 3)
Litigation is far and away the most complex part of dealing with a client’s case. It commences when a lawsuit is filed in the form of a “complaint” against the negligent party. The complaint is a document that sets out the basis of a cause of action, including relevant factual allegations.
A complaint initiates a lawsuit and must be filed with the clerk of court. The filing of a complaint triggers a series of events that goes unnoticed by the client. Once the complaint is filed with the clerk, the defendant must be served with a copy. Typically (in the context of an auto accident case), the negligent party will notify their insurance company, who will provide an attorney to defend the claim pursuant to the insurance policy (i.e., their contract with the policyholder).
The negligent party is then required to respond to the complaint via an “answer,” followed by a series of other paperwork and motions. An answer allows the defendant to confirm, deny or assert that they have no knowledge of each of the allegations spelled out in the complaint.
After the answer is filed, the parties spend the next ninety (90) days sending a series of information, questions and documents to one another. This process is known as “discovery.” Discovery allows both sides to learn about the other party, build defenses, and gather information to be used as evidence. For most, the process seems extreme and voluminous.
Yet, Discovery must remain a fluid process in order to allow the system to work. The rules and procedures of the court generally guide discovery without incident. However, if either party fails to uphold its obligation or impedes the free flow of information, then the burdened party may file a “Discovery Motion.” A Discovery Motion is a request to the judge to issue an order requiring the impeding party to comply with the other side’s request. Anyone who knowingly impedes the process may be subject to sanctions from the court, including but not limited to fines.
This process continues to run up to the point of trial or when the judge sets a date for all discovery to be completed. Some cases tend to be complicated and require a much longer discovery period. In that time clients have to be patient and allow the attorney to build the value of their claim.
At times, your attorney may need to contact you quickly in order to answer a request from the other side. That’s why it’s important to remain accessible to your attorney and assist in the production of discovery.
While it is true that no two cases are alike, it is also true that no two law firms are alike. The Dolman Law group differentiates itself in that it is licensed attorneys, not unlicensed case managers who manage cases as we see at many other firms. Unlike other firms who tout themselves as aggressive, but have little to no actual trial experience, the Dolman Law Group specializes in litigation. Please do not construe this statement as a generalization of all injury attorneys. We are aware of many experienced and competent personal injury attorneys and law firms in the Tampa Bay area. Rather we simply want to point out the danger of choosing an attorney based simply on an advertisement.
Next, we will discuss the deposition process and what a mediation entails.