What Happens In A Lawsuit?
Filing a Lawsuit
It may be necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain an adequate recovery. This is a legal decision that should be made by your attorney with your input. Before filing suit in your case, we will obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit should be filed.
Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is always possible. Negotiations continue and only a small percentage of lawsuits actually go to trial.
The following are the steps necessary to bring the case to trial.
Pleadings are the documents parties file in court that form the basis of a lawsuit. This is intended to be general information only. Each case is unique.
Complaint: A lawsuit is filed against an opposing party by filing a document in court known as a summons and complaint. The person who brings the action is the plaintiff – you. The person against whom the action is brought is the defendant. The complaint is a statement of facts alleging the names of the parties and alleging why the conduct of the defendant entitles the plaintiff to recover damages.
A “summons” is issued to be served on the defendant by a process server, informing the defendant that suit has been filed and that a response must be made within a given period of time or a judgment will be taken against him.
Answer or Motion. The response filed by the defendant is called an Answer, which is prepared by the attorney for the defendant. Alternatively, if a defense attorney feels there is a fatal flaw with the lawsuit a motion to dismiss the complaint or to strike portions of the complaint may be filed.
Once an action is filed, both sides have a right to “discover” facts concerning the opposing party’s case. Normal discovery proceedings include written interrogatories, depositions, production of records, and sometimes medical examinations.
Interrogatories: Each side may serve written questions on the opposing party, called “interrogatories”. You are required to answer these questions within a prescribed period of time, in writing and under oath. We will serve interrogatories on the defendant in your behalf, and the defendant will serve interrogatories on you, which you must answer. Our staff will assist you in preparing your answers.
Depositions: A “deposition” is an oral and transcribed statement, under oath, which may be used by either side in a lawsuit. It has the same effect as testifying at trial. It is used to learn as much as possible about the other side’s claims or defenses. Those present are the parties concerned, their lawyers, sometimes an additional witness or two, and a court reporter who records the questions and answers.
The lawyers normally agree in advance where the deposition will be held. It is usually in the office of one of the lawyers.
You are required by law to give a deposition. This is not something in which we have a choice. Because of this, we will need your full cooperation. Prior to the deposition, your lawyer will go over the facts of the case with you and answer any questions you might have.
YOUR DEPOSTION IS OFTEN THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR CASE. It is important that you be prepared well in advance of the deposition date.
In giving a deposition, there are a few rules to follow:
Always tell the truth, even if it hurts your case.
Answer only the questions. Do not make any voluntary statements or speeches.
Think before you make any answer to any questions. If it concerns a matter about which you do not know, or a detail you do not remember, you may so state. However, once you have stated that you do not know or remember, it’s hard to change your testimony at trial. Always be polite.
Frequently the other attorney will ask you many questions which will seem to you to have no bearing upon the case. Nevertheless, it is your duty to answer these questions, notwithstanding the fact that they may irritate you. Never conceal prior injuries or prior illnesses. Remember, the other side has the means of obtaining such information.
There are occasions when the parties submit the dispute to “mediation”. The parties meet with an independent third person, usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge, who assists the parties in arriving at a settlement. The results are not binding. It is informal, and less expensive than a trial. If that is an option to your case, your lawyer will discuss it with you.