What can I expect from a lawsuit?
If your case cannot be settled at an earlier stage, our Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Attorneys will file suit. Your case will then be assigned to a judge and papers will be served upon the defendant and also , if possible and applicable, the defendant’s insurance company.
The defendant will then, through his attorney, do several things:
- File an Answer — a formal pleading in which they will either admit or deny your claim.
- Send you a large number of written questions — called interrogatories — that must be answered by you, with the help of one of our attorneys if necessary. More detailed instructions concerning this stage will be forwarded to you when needed. These questions generally will ask for vast amounts of information concerning your past life, work ability, the circumstances of the accident and your losses since the accident in money and in pain and suffering.
- File the necessary papers to require you to be present for your sworn testimony to be taken in a special proceeding called a deposition. When this deposition is scheduled, you will receive more detailed information from your Florida Injury Law Group personal injury attorney on how to handle the questions during the deposition — although one of our Fort Lauderdale lawyers will also be present during the deposition to assist you.
- File the necessary formal papers to require you to produce copies of certain documents and evidence possibly in your possession. Traditionally, they will require that you produce your income tax returns for the past four or five years and copies of any bills that you have incurred as a result of the accident. This is a normal procedure that is always followed. They may also require you to produce any photographs in your possession having any bearing on the accident or your losses or damages. A Florida Injury Law Group attorney will contact you concerning these formal pleadings when and if they are received.
On your behalf, one of our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys will take the sworn testimony of the defendant or the witnesses from whom we have not already taken statements. These will include witnesses of the accident for the most part but may also include witnesses with information relating to your damages or losses.
THE DEFENDANT’S EXAMINATION
In almost every case concerning personal injury, the defendant will request that you are examined by their doctor to determine the extent and nature of your injuries. Whenever this procedure has been scheduled, you will be contacted and provided with information concerning how and where this examination is to be conducted.
The defendant probably will also be taking testimony of witnesses from whom they have not received statements, or of your doctor or other persons. An attorney from the Florida Injury Law Group who is familiar with your case will attend these depositions in order to protect your rights.
Our Ft Lauderdale personal injury attorneys may also take testimony of witnesses and conduct further investigation by the formal methods allowed after a case in suit.
We will not be keeping you advised of the conduct of this discovery process since there is really nothing that you can do under the circumstances to assist during that time. If we believe that you can be of assistance to us, one of our personal injury lawyers will contact you. If you are curious as to what is going on, do not hesitate to call and schedule an appointment to come in and discuss your case; we will be doing everything necessary in order to prepare your case for trial properly.
THE WAITING PERIOD
The normal procedures of the court and the procedures involved in the formal pleadings are such that there may be some considerable delay between the time your suit is filed and the time the case is ready for trial. The delay varies with the court, the judge and the case. In many cases, there will be long periods of time during which nothing is actually occurring and we are waiting for the assignment of a trial date. Do not be worried if you do not hear from us for some period of time since we will be in touch with you when there is something that needs your assistance, cooperation or advice. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call and make an appointment to come in and discuss the progress of your case. You may rest assured, however, that everything is being done to bring your case to trial as rapidly as possible in view of the considerations of whether your case is properly prepared for trial and whether your physical condition is such that your case should be presented to the court and a jury.
A Pre-Trial Conference is held between the attorneys and the judge so the attorneys can tell each other their side in the case. At a Pre-Trial Conference the attorneys will have to list the names and addresses of all witnesses they might use at trial. The attorneys will also have to exhibit or arrange to exhibit to each other all documentary or photographic exhibits which they may use at trial. Before the Pre-Trial Conference you will be contacted and requested to provide us with any relevant documents or photographs in your possession and a list of all the witnesses you believe might be helpful in proving your case and the extent of your losses. For example, if you have kept a diary, it will be simple for you to furnish this information to us and it may even be simpler to send your diary or a copy of it to us.
When you receive notification of the Pre-trial Conference you should send this information immediately, or if you prefer, make an appointment to bring us the information. Information not furnished at the Pre-Trial Conference may be excluded from trial.
Since the exact method of trial preparation depends greatly on the specific nature of your case, we will not go into details here. Essentially, we will make appointments with you to review your case and to prepare you to give testimony. We will also make appointments, if applicable and considered necessary, with other witnesses whom we believe to be important to present at trial.
We may request that you revisit your doctors for a follow-up examination before the trial.
Most importantly, you should advise us of anything that comes to your attention that might prevent you from attending trial or might prevent any important witnesses from attending trial.
The trial may last three full days or as much as two weeks, depending upon the nature of your case and the extent of damages and problems of proof. We will attempt to discuss this feature with you before trial but you should be aware that you and your immediate family are required to be present during the entire trial, if not in the courtroom, at least in the courthouse or in the office.
At any stage, whenever the other side presents an offer of settlement to us, we will attempt to advise you of the receipt of the offer of settlement and try to advise you whether the settlement should be accepted or rejected. Your lawsuit can be settled at any time from the day it first comes into our office until the moment before the jury returns from deliberation. We will attempt to work closely with you in advising you concerning settlement proposals, but in the final analysis, it will be up to you to decide whether or not to settle.
It is almost impossible to summarize what will take place during a particular week or two-week period. If your case is scheduled to be the first case for that period, we will be able to plan specifically when you and your witnesses will be needed trial. If your case is scheduled as the second, third or perhaps even the fifteenth case for that period, then it will be more difficult to plan exactly when you and your witnesses must be present. Usually, all cases scheduled for trial during any particular period must be prepared to go to trial on the first day of the week although occasionally the court will release the parties from being prepared for trial on the first day and require only that they be prepared some day later in that period. We will be working with the court and with the attorneys in other cases to give you advance notice as to the exact day and time you will be required to be present and when your witnesses will be required to testify.
When the trial starts, the first thing that will take place will be the selection of a jury, if applicable. After the jury has been selected, we will present to the jury all of the witnesses we feel are necessary to win your case and receive proper compensation for your losses. The defendant will then have the opportunity to present witnesses in an effort to defeat your case or reduce the amount of compensation that you will receive. We will then have an opportunity to present any additional witnesses to rebut any new testimony brought out by the defendant.
After all the witnesses have been presented, the lawyers for each side will present their final argument to the jury. We will argue to the jury that you should win and will explain why we believe the evidence presented justifies a verdict on your behalf. The defendant’s attorney will then argue why, in their opinion under the law and with the evidence, you should lose or why your verdict should be for a smaller amount of money if you win. We will then have an opportunity to rebut the arguments of the defendant’s attorneys.
The court will then advise the jury of the law which governs your case and the jury will then retire and consider all of the evidence. The jury must agree unanimously on the verdict and in most cases, they have the choice of returning a verdict either in your favor or in the favor of the defendant. If they return a verdict in your favor, then they will have the additional duty of determining how much money to compensate you for your losses.
Prior to the trial and during the trial you will be given more detailed information concerning all of the above procedure.
From reading newspapers, watching television or viewing movies, you may have reached the conclusion that if you or the defendant are not satisfied with the result of the trial, all you have to do is “appeal.” Unfortunately, it is not that simple. In almost all cases, the court’s decision is conclusive and cannot be reversed by an appellate court. The appellate court in almost all cases is limited to deciding whether the judge did anything legally wrong at trial and if so, whether what he did wrong materially prejudiced the case. If he ruled certain testimony inadmissible that should have been presented to the jury or if he allowed testimony to be presented to the jury which was objected to and which should not have been presented, then the appellate court will consider whether that materially prejudiced the case. If the instructions given to the jury at the conclusion of the trial were wrong, the appellate court will also consider this factor.
If the judge did not make any mistakes in the trial of the case, then the jury’s decision is binding upon the parties. If the jury believed the wrong witnesses or chose not to believe other witnesses, an appellate court cannot reverse the case. You can see, therefore, how important it is to convince the jury that you should win and that you should win a substantial amount of money — for their decision will, in most cases, be binding upon you.
If the judge did make a mistake and if the appellate court does find that the mistake was prejudicial to the losing party, then the appellate court can give the losing party another trial and allow another jury to consider all the evidence again. The appellate court itself, however, cannot increase the amount of money awarded to a plaintiff.
The above has obviously been a quick summary of the events that will or may be important in the handling of this case by our Ft Lauderdale personal injury attorneys. Some of the above information may not apply to your case. Your case may also involve some or perhaps many events not referred to or described in this information. The Florida Injury Law Group wants you to feel confident that we are doing everything possible to ensure that you win but also that you obtain the most compensation allowable under the law.
If you have any further questions or if you have been injured in an accident and would like to speak to one of our Fort Lauderdale Attorneys, please call us or contact us here.