Today I’d like to talk to you about a typical lawsuit arising out of a car wreck. Many times people come and they ask me well what does a lawsuit entail? I was in a car wreck, I suffered injuries and missed some work. What is a lawsuit entail?
A lawsuit begins by filing a petition for damages which simply lays out the facts of the incident that gave rise to the lawsuit as well as lays out what your injuries and damages are. After the lawsuits been filed it has to be formally served on the defendant or defendants whether it be an individual or a company. In response the defendants file what’s called an answer to the petition. And that simply responds to the allegations that we’ve raised in the petition to initiate the lawsuit.
After the defendant has filed an answer and responded to the allegations the next step typically is called written discovery. Written discovery generally consists of interrogatories which are written questions that each side sends to the opposing side to be answered under oath, it’s the first form of sworn testimony in the case the questions are answered and then signed with a sworn statement stating that they are true and correct.
Another form of written discovery is request for production of documents. In the request for production of documents it’s exactly what it says, you’re simply requesting that your opponent produce for you documents and materials that may be relevant to the case. In a personal injury case many times the defendant ask for all of the person’s medical records, medical bills, medical history, employment records and the employment history. The plaintiff in the case typically seeks documents from the defendant relative to their training, education, experience things like that relative to the facts in that particular lawsuit.
Another form of written discovery is request for admissions. And this is simply sending a request to the opposing party that they admit certain statements of fact. Once the request for admissions, if admitted, that is no longer in controversy.
After the parties have conducted written discovery whether it be interrogatories, request for production of documents, or requests for admissions the next step typically is depositions. A deposition is where the parties sit in a typically a conference room there’s a court reporter present sometimes the depositions are videotaped and an attorney has the opportunity to ask the party or witnesses questions under oath. A deposition is generally a question-and-answer format where you provide answers to specific questions that relate to the claims that are made in the lawsuit.
After depositions are taken and the parties have had an opportunity need to evaluate their position, the witnesses in the case, many times the documents that have been exchanged the next step is expert discovery. The experts in a case range from doctors, economists, life care planners, accident reconstruction, depending on what variables are in play in the lawsuit there can be up to five or ten expert depositions taken to determine what the opinions are of the experts.
Mediation is where the parties sit down with a third party and attempt to resolve the case. At that point the plaintiff extends a demand and the defendants extend offers and the parties attempt to resolve the case on mutually agreeable terms if the case is not able to be resolved then the parties move to trial.