What does a lawsuit look like? We hear a lot about people suing for injuries in car or truck wrecks. We see many commercials for personal injury lawyers dressed in capes promising that they can get you a settlement quickly. What exactly does a personal injury lawsuit look like and what should you know before you get started with a lawsuit?
Before you call any law office, try to have an elevator pitch for your case ready. (We love clients who can succinctly describe their case to us.) Most often when you call a lawyer you will reach a paralegal or a legal assistant who will ask some preliminary questions about you and your case. Your information helps the firm’s lawyers decide if they can take you on as a client. You’ll be disappointed if you’re hoping to get advice over the phone; Alabama law forbids any office from giving legal advice to someone who is not their client.
You should, and will probably have to, call a few different law offices before choosing an attorney. Some attorneys won’t be interested in your case and others will be too busy to take on new clients. Eventually one lawyer will call you back and may ask you for more details or ask you to come in for a consultation. At this point, it’s important that you know the details of your wreck and be able to talk about them. If you have a copy of the police crash report and your medical records from the wreck, those are helpful, too. Your attorney will let you know what they need from you. You’ll meet with an attorney and tell your story. The attorney should take the time necessary to explain the applicable law and how it could impact your case.
Once the attorney and client agree to move forward, it’s a slow process of collecting documents from your doctors and the defendant and then sending some of your documents to the defendant, back and forth until both sides are ready for trial. This back and forth exchange of information is known as “discovery” and typically takes several months. Ultimately, your case may go to trial, or it may end in a settlement out of court. Every case is unique and no attorney can guarantee that you will receive a good settlement. They also shouldn’t and can’t guarantee you will win in court. Your lawyer will provide you with updates as your case progresses, but it can sometimes take years to be ready to argue a case. The law is more tortoise than hare; progress is slow!
Some cases may settle out of court as a result of your attorney’s direct negotiation with a claims adjuster from the insurance company or its lawyers. Other cases may go to mediation, where an impartial mediator encourages the parties to reach a mutually agreeable compromise. Mediation is really just a non-binding meeting of the parties to a lawsuit. Each party presents their case to the mediator, who conveys offers and counter-offers between the parties. Often the parties are separated from each other in different rooms, and the mediator goes back and forth between them. Mediation gives each party an opportunity to explore the strengths and weaknesses of their case in advance of trial. Mediation is quicker than a trial. One key benefit to mediation is control. The client decides, with the advice of counsel, whether or not to make, to accept or to reject a settlement offer. If the client rejects whatever offer is put on the table, he or she can simply walk away at the end of the mediation and continue preparing for trial. If enough money is put on the table, you could accept the offer, and the case will be over. Compare that to a trial, where a jury comprised of as many as twelve strangers decides whether and how much money an injured person will receive to compensate them for the damages they have suffered. Jury awards are completely outside the control of the parties to the litigation.
If all of that sounds a little less than exciting, that’s because it is. In reality, cases often do not have a clear-cut sense of right and wrong, and your lawyer will be working hard to make sure that you come out with the money that you deserve. Mastando & Artrip believes that you are smart and deserve to know the truth about your case, which is why the only guarantee we make is the guarantee that we will work hard for you. If you have been injured in a car wreck, give us a call at 256-532-2222 and we’ll be happy to talk to you.