How Your Injury Claim Becomes a Lawsuit
Why file a lawsuit? If we can resolve a case without filing a lawsuit, we generally try. However, when the opponent (insurance company) contests responsibility, or liability for your injuries, or when they don’t fully understand the extent of your injuries and lost earnings, we need to put your case into suit. Often, the insurance company won’t take your case seriously until a suit if filed.
Should we meet with our lawyer first? Yes. A lawsuit is public. A lawsuit enables the defendant to obtain significant information about you. We want to review all of this with your attorney before filing suit. Most importantly, the case is about YOU so YOU will need to be and stay involved, and to help your lawyer with information.
What happens when you file a lawsuit? A lawsuit begins with filing a Complaint in the appropriate Massachusetts Superior or District court. Once filed, you have a civil lawsuit against the defendant.
What does the Court do? Nothing at the outset. Well, it officially dockets your Complaint, issues an Order of how the case is to proceed and responds to urgent matters immediately of course, but generally, YOU, or your lawyer, have to take all of the next steps in a personal injury case.
What are the next steps after filing a lawsuit? First, we need to Serve the defendant with the Complaint and Summons; usually by impartial Deputy Sheriffs. Next, we undertake discovery.
What is discovery? Discovery is the process in which each side exchanges information with the other in a civil lawsuit; generally, this means interrogatories, document requests, admissions and depositions. And disclosing expert witnesses.
What are interrogatories? Questions. In most civil cases they are standard questions to help the other side see the big pictures. Some examples: Who are the witnesses to your accident? Who is your expert? Who were your medical providers? What medical providers did you see before the accident? Interrogatories are critical to your case as they give a map of all areas of what you will present at trial; they can also expose weaknesses, but better to review and work through now. They need to be responded to within 30 days and are signed under the pains and penalties of perjury and changing an answer later is not taken lightly.
What are document requests? Requests for documents are formal requests by the defense who are entitled to documents such as police and accident reports, photos, video, and medical records.
What are admissions? Admissions are demands that the other side admit facts. Some examples: Exhibit A is a copy of the accident report you signed; Admit that you were the driver of the Porsche that rear ended the plaintiff’s Toyota. Admissions must be answered within a specific time frame or all of the statements are deemed admitted, which could end a case before you ever have a chance to have your say. Thus, you and your attorney need to communicate during the lawsuit.
What is a deposition and how do I prepare? First, you review all of the answers to interrogatories, documents, and admissions by both sides. Second, you prepare with your attorney. When Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Senate, one afternoon in April 2018, the value of his Facebook stock went up THREE BILLION DOLLARS. You, too, can testify and have the value of your case dramatically increase. How did he do it? Preparation by his “team.” At Burns & Jain, we are your team!
At your deposition, the defendant’s insurance trial attorney will ask you questions for several hours: about your prior work history, your prior medical history, your prior criminal history, your prior accident history, your prior health history . . . now you see why it will take hours? The attorney will ask about the accident, medical treatment and your recovery. Again, your answers are under oath. At Burns & Jain, we have materials on how to prepare for a deposition that we provide to all clients.
What comes after discovery? Generally, the case proceeds towards trial with motions, a pretrial conference, and sometimes a mediation. We discuss the progress of cases with our clients at each step. There are a multitude of possibilities. At Burns & Jain, we work with you to tailor an approach the best for your case.
Will my case actually go to trial? Trials are intriguing for attorneys, but never enjoyable for clients. And you take the risk of losing because of something you cannot control: the Court’s rulings, a bad day of testimony, a sympathetic defendant, etc. Over 90% of all cases settle before trial in Massachusetts . . . but . . . but . . . they only settle if you undertake all of the above carefully, timely and with great preparation.
Call the attorneys at Burns & Jain to discuss your situation, your claim and your case: 617-227-7423. The consultation is free!