Have you watched enough Judge Judy, People’s Court and Law & Order that you think you know what goes on in a civil lawsuit? Not so fast. We at the Baird Law Group would like to inform you about the “real deal” behind real life personal injury litigation; explaining the steps in a routine court case. We believe the better educated our clients are, the better we can advocate for you.
Step One: The Right Court. Civil cases can be filed in one of three courts. The court that is chosen depends on what remedy you want. Cases can be filed in Small Claims, County or Circuit Court. Our attorneys will discuss this with you fully before filing your claim. Normally personal injury claims are filed in Circuit Court.
Step Two: Discovery. Before the actual trial, each side trades information about their position. This is called the Discovery stage. For instance, you will be asked to produce your medical records showing your injuries, proof of your lost wages, statements of witnesses to the accident, and any other documents that support your case. During this stage, you may also be asked to give a deposition…..a statement by you under oath where you will be questioned by the attorney for the insurance company. You, too, will be able to take similar statements from witnesses on the other side. During all of these statements, our attorneys are with you to prepare you and protect your rights and interests.
Step Three: Mediation. Prior to filing your lawsuit, our attorneys will do their best to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. If that is not successful, we will file your lawsuit. Either at the request of both sides or by order of the Court, the parties are given a second chance to settle the case. This is called mediation. Mediation is an informal, confidential, non-adversarial meeting of the parties to discuss a settlement. Unlike the pre-lawsuit talks, mediation is overseen by a certified Mediator. The Mediator is a neutral third party who sits down with each side and discusses the strengths and weakness of their case and what it would take to settle the claim. Sometimes the parties are in the same room during these discussions, but most often they are in separate room. Again, our attorney will be with you throughout the mediation.
Step Four: Pre-Trial Conference. This is often called the “housekeeping” step. At this stage, the parties get together and come to some agreement on issues and evidence to make the trial run soother. Some things that may be discussed are the issues to be decided by the jury and the documents that can be introduced in the trial without objects from either party. Our attorneys attend this stage and your attendance is typically not required.
Step Five: Trial. This is the most formal step in the process and when you “get your day in Court”. Trials have four basic parts. The first is jury selection. With some limitations, our attorneys will strive to select jurors that we feel are best suited to hear your case. The insurance company will try to do the same. Once the jury is selected, the presentation of evidence begins. You, as the plaintiff, get to go first. Through your attorney, witnesses (including you) will testify under oath and documents will be presented. Your witnesses will also be asked questions by the insurance company’s attorney. That is called cross examination. After your side is presented, the insurance company, known as the defendant, will have a chance to present their side in the same way. Lastly, after both sides present their cases, the jury will go into a secluded room to decide the case.
While this process may appear intimidating, at the Baird Law Group we will be with you at each of these stages protecting your rights and interest. We understand that your injury maybe the most traumatic event in your life. We are committed to thoroughly and professionally advocating for you.