Personal Injury Litigation Process
Hammond, Indiana, Personal Injury Litigation Process Lawyers
Steps in the Personal Injury Litigation Process
How quickly should I act in a personal injury case?
To ensure that the dignity of your claim is preserved, it is essential that you consult with an attorney as quickly as possible. Failing to promptly preserve necessary evidence and conduct a thorough investigation can prove damaging to your claim and your ability to obtain a fair result. You can be assured that the insurance company responsible for your claim will immediately be hard at work to obtain information to reduce the value of your claim. You should not be upset or surprised, but, rather, you should be mindful that the objective of the insurance company is to dispense with your claim upon terms that it chooses.
Should I speak with the other driver's insurance adjuster?
Although not always possible, in some cases, it is essential to obtain and record data from the accident scene on the day of the accident. When necessary, we work hand in hand with experts in accident reconstruction and other fields. Insurance adjusters will often attempt to convince you that there is no need for an attorney. In some minor cases, this may be true. Even in such cases, you are wise to obtain counsel from an attorney so that you can make a fully informed decision. Giving a statement to an insurance company adjuster has often proved the undoing of many injured individuals. The statement is often an opportunity for the insurance company to undercut your claim and obtain "admissions". Unless you understand the full implication of the question being asked, it is possible and somewhat likely that you will have made an "admission" that is a distorted version of the truth.
How long will my case take?
It is simply impossible to predict how long it will take to conclude your case. Unfortunately, we can virtually assure you that the process will frustrate you. You will wonder why the process could possibly take so long, especially when you: have bills to pay; may be experiencing pain; and, are convinced that the other side is liable. Ultimately, it is in our interest to bring your case to a speedy conclusion unless extenuating circumstances, such as unresolved medical treatment, exist. Unfortunately, there are contravening factors that often prevent prompt resolution of your case. First, your opposing party will often be represented by an insurance carrier that has a distinct interest in delaying the process for reasons, including but not limited to: insurance companies hope to frustrate you in hopes that your demands will decrease; insurance companies earn interest on your money; and, insurance companies hope that additional time will permit the discovery of additional facts that may prove damaging to your claim. Second, our courts are overburdened. Due to an influx of cases, our courts are simply unable to provide available dates as quickly as we would like. For example, it is not at all uncommon to be assigned an initial trial setting more than two (2) years after your complaint is filed. It is also likely that your case will not be tried at this initial setting. Because of the numerous hurdles that your case will encounter, it is essential that you promptly respond to any request made of you.
What is my case worth?
Be wary of anyone who will tell you how much your case is worth. No two cases are alike. There are countless variables that determine the value of your case. Without intimate knowledge of the innumerable factors that affect your case, it is simply not possible to put a monetary value on your case. Moreover, it is possible that the monetary value of your case will vacillate during the process due to unforeseeable intervening events. Unless your case is tried before a judge or jury, you retain the ultimate ability to determine the monetary value of your case since you alone determine whether to accept a settlement offer. We will give you the full benefit of our experience and research to properly evaluate your case. Although it is impossible to guarantee any particular result, we encourage you to rely upon the benefit of our expertise, as we are best situated to properly advise you of your prospects for recovery of a settlement or verdict.
What is the cost to me?
While we will happily represent you at our customary hourly rates, we are aware that most clients prefer a contingent fee arrangement. In most cases, we work at a contingent rate of 33 1/3 %. Indiana law requires that any contingent fee arrangement be reduced to writing. An attorney from the firm will present a written attorney fee contract for your consideration.
Insurance Company Investigation and Negotiation
Once we obtain relevant information regarding your case, we will put the defendant or the defendant's insurance carrier on notice that we have been retained represent you in your case. If an insurance carrier is involved, undoubtedly the insurance carrier will wish to gather information about your case. For example, the insurance carrier will likely request medical bills and repair estimates. Also, the insurance carrier may wish to take a statement from you. In most circumstances, we will advise that you, with our guidance, should cooperate with the insurance company since our goal is to bring your case to a resolution as quickly as possible. Once the insurance company completes its review of your case, we will typically enter settlement negotiations with the insurance company. A substantial number of cases do settle at this stage.
Filing a Lawsuit
If we are unable to settle your case with the insurance company, we will commence litigation on your behalf. A lawsuit is commenced by filing a complaint with the clerk of the court. The essential purpose of a complaint is to notify the opposing party of the nature of your claim. Also, filing a lawsuit stops the statute of limitations (time limit to file a lawsuit). Once we file the complaint against the defendant, he or she has an allotted amount of time to answer the complaint.
Once we have initiated the legal process, we will begin the discovery process with the attorney for the opposing party. The discovery process permits us to discover facts about the opposing party and the nature of the opposing party's defense. Likewise, the attorney for the opposing party will likely seek to discover facts about your claim, some of which may not seem relevant to you. You should keep in mind that the opposing party is given great latitude to discover facts at this stage. Often, facts will be discovered that will not be admissible at trial, but are, nonetheless, discoverable under the rules pertaining to discovery. The following methods of discovery may be used in your case:
Once a complaint is filed, the Court becomes an active (or inactive) participant in your case. Each court may observe a different procedure in how a case comes to trial. Typically, within six months after the complaint is filed, a status hearing will be held, either at the request of the Court or upon request by one of the parties. At the status hearing, the attorneys will meet with the Judge to determine how the case is proceeding. The Judge will likely inquire if discovery has begun and if any disputes have arisen. Also, the Judge will often: set deadlines for discovery; set further pre-trial hearings; establish deadlines for filing certain motions; and make mediation referrals. Additional pre-trial conferences will be held periodically to determine if more time is needed to resolve any questions or to discuss possible settlement.
The Judge will likely order the parties to participate in mediation. Mediation is a process designed to bring resolution to litigation without the necessity of a trial. Mediators are attorneys who have undergone specialized training and obtained certification. If the parties are unable to agree upon a mediator, the Court will designate a panel of mediators from which the parties must select a mediator to handle the case. Mediators charge on an hourly basis for their services; and, the mediation expense is customarily divided between the parties. Mediation is non-binding, meaning that parties retain full authority; the only obligation is to participate in good faith. The mediator's role is to attempt to bring the parties to an agreed resolution. Because mediation presents the opportunity to bring your case to a quicker resolution, it is usually worth the effort and attendant expense. Because a good settlement requires give and take, a successful mediator truly succeeds when both parties are equally unhappy. You should keep in mind the old but true adage, "a bad settlement is better than a good trial".
A trial can be an emotionally draining, exhilarating and exhausting experience. Because the trial will be your one and only chance to present your case, preparation is imperative. Prior to trial you will likely spend many hours with us in preparation for trial. Once you receive notification of a trial date, you should reserve large blocks of time at least one week prior to the trial date. Unfortunately, the fact that a trial date has been assigned does not necessarily mean that your case will proceed to trial as scheduled. Courts commonly set as many as 8-10 cases for trial on the same date knowing that many, if not all, of the cases will settle prior to trial. Therefore, it is possible that two or three trial dates may be set before your case proceeds to trial.
Contact our Skilled Hammond, Indiana, Personal Injury Lawyers
If you have suffered an injury or have questions about the personal injury litigation process, please contact the Indiana personal injury lawyers at Efron & Efron. Our lawyers can be reached by phone at  931-5380, by e-mail, or by filling out the intake form on our Contact Us page.