In part one of my continuing series of articles on "Why Should You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer" I focused my discussion on 12 reasons why you should consider hiring an attorney. These reasons focused on general matters which occur prior to filing a lawsuit. In summary, these 12 reasons included what the lawyer should do for you:
1. Handle the case on a contingency fee basis.
2. Determine key issues.
3. Investigate the facts.
4. Secure the documents required.
5. Secure witness statements
6. Evaluate conflicting evidence
7. Help you find the right medical care
8. Plan the best way to proceed with the claim
9. Evaluate the insurance policies or resources available
10. Makes recommendations to settle or proceed
11. Negotiates reductions on costs to be paid for reimbursement
12. Advance costs as necessary for the claim
In this part of the series on why you should hire a personal injury attorney, I want to focus on what the attorney does once the decision is made to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial. Part 3 of the series will deal with the actual trial.
Most cases will resolve at some point in time prior to a case going to trial. It is estimated that about 95% of all personal injury cases are resolved before they reach the jury or judge for a decision. Why do some cases resolve and others do not? There are many reasons for the difference. Some of the reasons claims do no settle include:
The issues of liability are disputed,
The amount demanded is too high for the injuries or the amount offered is too low for the damages suffered,
The adjuster believes his or her client’s version of the story and refuses to compromise
There is a question on the reasonableness and necessity of medical expenses
The losses claimed appear to be unrelated to the accident
The insurance company has a policy sufficiently high that it does not fear exposure to their insured so it decides to fight the claim to "punish" the lawyer for bringing the claim even though it is a legitimate claim.
These are just a few reasons cases do not settle before having to file a lawsuit. Sometimes a lawsuit is the only way the parties, the insurance companies and their attorneys will ever resolve their differences.
Once it is decided that a lawsuit is necessary, what is it that a lawyer needs to do, or will have to face, in order to help you recover your damages and losses from the accident. Below is a sample list of the tasks a law office may go through as that law firm tries to get your case ready for trial or better prepared to settle your case.
This list is in no chronological order and many of these events can occur at any time or not occur at all. As you review this list you will begin to understand the complexity of a lawsuit and the need to have someone capable of navigating the very difficult legal process. Please do not rely upon this list as your guide if you are going to try and handle your case on your own. This list is only an example of some of the steps to be taken to move a case from filing to the trial date.
Prepare a Statement of Damages
Serve Complaint and Statement of Damages
Respond to Demurrer, Motion to Strike or other objection to the Complaint
Respond to Discovery
Take and Attend Depositions
Prepare and Respond to Requests for Production of Documents
Prepare and Respond to Requests for Admission
Have Client undergo a Medical Examination by an Expert Witness
Conduct Investigations and Get Witness Information
Secure Records and Photographs
Investigate the Scene of the Accident
File or Respond to Motions to Compel Discovery
Attend Court Hearings on the Motions
Explore and Conduct Alternative Dispute Resolution Alternatives
Mandatory Settlement Conference
Deposit Jury Fees
Prepare Case Management Conference Statement
Attend Case Management Conference
Obtain Expert Witnesses
Prepare or Respond to Motion for Summary Judgment
Summary Judgment Hearing
Attend an OSC re Mediation
Motion to Amend Complaint or Answer
Prepare and Serve Supplemental Discovery to the Parties in the Case
Dismiss or Add Parties
Coordinate a Medical Examination by the Defendant’s Doctor
Update Trial Status/Evaluation/Budget
Notify Clients of Trial
Notify Experts of Trial
Notify Witnesses of Trial
Prepare for and Attend Final Status Conference
Prepare CCP 998 Offer to Compromise
Organize Evidence for Trial
Statement of the Case
Prepare Trial Brief
Prepare a Request for Judicial Notice
Prepare Trial Notebook
Site Inspection With Experts
Prepare Motions in Limine
Serve Subpoenas for Documents on Third Parties/Facilities
Demand for Exchange of Experts/Documents
Motion to Bifurcate/Sever Issues or Parties in a Case
Prepare a Special Verdict Form
Prepare and Serve a Notice to Attend Trial/Bring Documents
Subpoenas for Witnesses to Appear at Trial
Supplemental Expert Designation
Meeting with Clients/Witnesses re Trial Preparation
Meeting with Experts re Trial Preparation
Trial Exhibits/Demonstrative Evidence
Prepare Presentation for Trial
Develop a Theme for Trial
Voir Dire Outline (Questions for Jury Selection)
Prepare Opening Statement
Prepare Closing Argument
Motion to Exclude Expert Witnesses
As you can see, there is a lot of work to do to manage a case from start to finish. This list does not even include the work done at trial. As the process continues, generally the costs and fees increase as well. The cost associated with a prolonged litigation is something that needs to be seriously considered in balancing the decision to settle or continue through trial. Since in most personal injury cases each side must pay for their own legal fees, and at times their own costs, the effort is made by the attorney to recover through settlement or trial an amount sufficiently large to pay all costs, fees, medical expenses and have funds available to properly compensate the injury victim for his or her pain and suffering and other financial losses. Sometimes it all works out so everyone is properly compensated and sometimes the insurance companies, their adjusters and the defendants are able to prevent proper compensation.
If you have a personal injury claim and you are wondering whether to hire a lawyer to handle the claim for you, look at that list above, as well as the 12 reasons why you should hire a lawyer and decide if you have the knowledge and skill to handle each and everyone of these possible events. If not, consult an attorney and see if he or she can bring value to your case and a sense of relief to you knowing you have a knowledgeable personal injury trial lawyer fighting your battle for you.
About the Author
David H. Ricks is a California personal injury trial lawyer handling matters throughout Southern California since 1987. He operates the pre-litigation injury law firm known as the Inland Empire Law Group in Rancho Cucamonga, California and the litigation firm of David H. Ricks & Associates. David has placed a priority in his career to represent injured victims of accidents and to provide the best legal representation he can to every client he represents. His focus in the injury claim area has been with auto accidents, slip and fall claims, medical malpractice and dog bite injuries. Finally, David provides the added benefit for Spanish speaking clients in that he is fluent in Spanish.
If you have a Southern California personal injury case, contact the Inland Empire Law Group to see if they can bring added value to your injury claim. Or, if you just want to know more about David H. Ricks and his firm, contact him at (909) 481-0100 or go online at www.davidrickslaw.com