As we continue with this series about navigating a personal injury claim, we have come to an outline of the legal process that your injury case might follow if we take it to court. Although no two cases proceed precisely the same, below is a general overview of the usual steps in an accident case.

1. INITIAL INTERVIEW. The first time we meet with you, we gather basic facts, explain the process of the lawsuit, and answer any questions you may have. Then, we provide you with our instruction sheets and questionnaire and have you sign the necessary papers.

2. INVESTIGATION. We then interview witnesses, secure and review employment, medical, and other records, and locate expert witnesses if required. This may take time, depending on the case’s complexity.

3. RESEARCH. We study the applicable law, examine similar cases, and read medical articles if appropriate to represent you properly. We spend as much time as necessary seeking answers to all the potential defenses and preparing the required briefs to explain the relevant cases and statutes to the court.

4. SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS. In some cases, it is appropriate to open negotiations at this point in the case process. As a matter of strategy, we sometimes let the defendants open negotiations. Each case is very different and depends on many factors, such as the strength of proof, theory of liability, defendants, insurance companies, lawyers on the other side, etc. 

Our usual approach is that once your medical condition has stabilized, we will sit down with you to get a complete picture of how your injuries have affected you since the accident and how we expect those injuries to affect you in the future.  

Once we have your input, we then write to your doctors, asking them for a complete narrative report setting forth your injuries and any expected permanent impairments. 

Once we have those reports from your doctor, we assemble a detailed demand package for the adjuster. To make the adjuster’s job easier, we assemble the demand package in a bound book sent to the adjuster.  

I can’t tell you how many times adjusters have complimented me on the bound books that my office uses. Most attorneys throw a disorganized collection of medical records in an envelope, hoping that the adjuster will take the time to read through all of the information.  

I believe that anything I can do to assist the adjuster in making a higher evaluation of our case ultimately results in higher settlement offers for my clients. Let’s face it. We all have a lot of work to do. If someone can make our jobs easier, then we will move that case to the top of the stack and shuffle the disorganized mess from some other lawyer to the bottom of the pile.

5. FILE THE COMPLAINT. The Complaint is the document that officially commences a lawsuit. The Complaint notifies the defendants that you are seeking damages (money) because of their conduct. Under NY law, the Complaint does not include a demand for a specific amount of money. After the Complaint is served on the defendants, the defendants are then required to answer your claim by admitting or denying each statement that we made—this document is called an Answer. 

6. WRITTEN DISCOVERY DEMANDS. Written demands by each side are then filed. Usually, these demands must be answered under oath. They include background information, education, expenses connected to the incident, etc. Each side has either 30 or 45 days to respond to these demands.

7. REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS. Another tool for learning about the other side’s case is to ask that they disclose relevant documents. We can make those requests at any time. As we proceed, we will often learn of many different documents or pieces of physical evidence that we will wish to examine. The other side may, of course, file requests for production of our evidence. The usual time for answering these pleadings is 30 days.

8. DEPOSITIONS. After the written discovery demands are answered, we will want to ask the defendants questions in person, and they will want to ask you questions. A discovery deposition is how each side learns the facts and contentions of the other side. Fact and damage witnesses may also be deposed. This is sometimes the lengthiest part of the pretrial procedure because of the difficulty of scheduling enough time for several busy people to get together for these depositions.

9. FILE TRIAL NOTE OF ISSUE. After completing depositions and other pretrial discoveries, we will file a document in court that indicates that we are ready to proceed to trial.

10. PRETRIAL CONFERENCE. A pretrial conference is a meeting of the attorneys for all parties before the judge presides at the trial or some other judicial officer. These conferences, which occur two to four weeks before the trial, are routinely held in all lawsuits filed in federal district courts and are optional in state court proceedings. The upcoming trial is discussed, and the parties advise the court as to the trial’s expected length. In addition, the parties generally will be asked to submit trial briefs, requested jury instructions, exhibits, pretrial motions, and a list of witnesses at this conference.

11. TRIAL. Before we get to this point, we will have attempted to settle your case for an appropriate amount. However, we are always preparing for the possibility that such a settlement will be impossible. Therefore, we will consider what kind of jurors we will want to hear your case. We will also think about what we will say to them at the beginning of the case and what witnesses and other evidence we will need to prove your case. Finally, we will ask the judge to tell the jury about the law and what we will say to the jury in our closing arguments. You will have several opportunities to discuss this process before it begins.

Schedule a free consultation if you have sustained a serious injury in a car crash

As experienced New York and Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys, we shepherd each client through this complex process of coming to a fair settlement or a trial. We are here to help you win. Contact us today for your free, no obligation consultation to discover whether Ziff Law Firm is a good fit for you. Contact the Ziff Law Firm now by calling (800) 943-3529 or emailing us at info@zifflaw.com