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The Lawsuit

The actual lawsuit may or may not be immediately filed after our first meeting with you. Each case will be thoroughly prepared for trial, even though a settlement is possible after you have been released from the doctor or reach maximum medical improvement. The general litigation process is normally as follows:

  1. The Petition. A lawsuit begins by the plaintiff filing a piece of paper called the "petition." We will send you a copy of it when it is filed.

  2. The Answer. It is a formal response from the defendant. It’s rare that liability and damages are admitted in the answer. This period is the time when the defense can make any counter-claims they feel they have against you and allege that you may have in some way contributed to the cause of your injuries.

  3. Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. These are written questions and requests for case-related material to be answered under oath. When we get them from the other lawyer, we will send them to you. All we ask is that you write down the answers in rough form and do your best to gather the information requested. We have 15 days to supply your answer to the lawyer who submitted the questions and requested case-related material. Therefore, please be as prompt as possible in returning them to our office. We will proof them and prepare them in finished form for your review.

  4. Deposition. After the complaint is filed, the lawyers can take just about anyone’s statement under oath in front of a court reporter, which is referred to as a "deposition." We will send you some special instructions when your deposition is scheduled. On the day your deposition is to be taken, come to the office at least 30 minutes to an hour early so that we have time to talk beforehand.

  5. Independent Medical Examination (IME). The court rules provide for your examination by a doctor other than your treating physician. The idea is to promote fairness by letting the defense obtain a second opinion from their doctor. The same rules we discussed about your own doctor apply here. If you are unhappy about this additional examination, don't take it out on the doctor who examines you. The defendant does not always request independent medical exams.

  6. Pretrial Order. This legal document allows each party and the court to know what evidence the plaintiff and the defendant intend to use and what witnesses will be called at trial. The pretrial order often prevents trial by surprise. The courts generally will not give a trial date until A-E above are completed by both parties. A court date will normally be assigned within six weeks to eight months from the Pretrial Conference depending on the length of time the trial will take and the judge’s docket. Pre-trial procedures such as depositions, interrogatories and requests for production of documents, and IMEs are called "discovery." They are often the source of delay. For example, a doctor's deposition may only take an hour or two, but getting all the lawyers and the doctor together can take months.

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