BY DALE GRIBOW
If you or a friend were in an auto accident last week over the July 4th weekend, then you need to know this. Auto accident litigation is confusing for lawyers and for non-lawyers it is a nightmare. Most lawyers, unlike our office, fail to educate their client about what to expect.
There are 4 Steps to an Accident Lawsuit:
Initially a lawyer attempts to settle and may have to file a lawsuit. This is the Pleadings phase where the victim explains in the complaint what the defendant did and how much they are demanding. The defendant files an Answer or Demurrer which claims there is not enough evidence to proceed.
The Discovery phase is next and is the most time intensive. This is where both sides share evidence. It could involve written questions called Interrogatories or Depositions in front of a court reporter.
Discovery should disclose facts and result in a settlement, dismissal or trial in front of an Arbitrator or Judge. At trial, the plaintiffs lawyers tries to present facts allowing the trier of fact (Judge or Arbitrator) to evaluate and rule in their favor. If the lawyer for the injured party (plaintiff) cannot convince the judge or arbitrator that his/her client is entitled to money then the case would be dismissed.
Most cases are settled because trials on a soft tissue case are so costly. Each side presents experts which are usually doctors, who often bill $1000 per hour to prepare a med report, driving to court and waiting to testify.
Unfortunately law is not an exact science and an expert can be scheduled to appear in court at 8 am and the court may be tied up from the day before and thus everyone waits. Sometimes this goes into the afternoon and sometimes the matter is put over to the next day or several days.
The Post Trial Stage comes after the trial. If there is no insurance or not enough insurance the lawyer must try to collect the judgement. The judge’s ruling is just his/her decision and not an order. Now the lawyer has to try to find assets.
This usually involves hiring an investigator to find assets so that the lawyer can levy on the assets of the other party. This judgement can be renewed every 10 years if they cannot find assets initially. Unfortunately if the defendant files for bankruptcy that will wipe out the judgement and the plaintiff does not collect anything nor does the lawyer for all his work……..and all the money spent on the case.
If the defendant disagrees with the verdict he can hire an appellate lawyer to file an Appeal. An appellate lawyer is different from the initial lawyer. This is all done on an hourly basis and not a contingency.
It is often said if you have to try a soft tissue case you have lost because of the tremendous costs involved. In addition lawyers know that the best case can be lost and the worst case can be won. It is not just the lawyer but the luck of the draw with the jurors who may dislike one side or the other.
I once won a case that should have been lost. I asked the jurors outside what convinced them that my client deserved to win. I got answers like The other lawyers nails were dirty: his belt was old and worn: His shoes were scuffed etc. In other words nothing to do with the case…………so a trial is always a potential crap shoot.
If you have any questions regarding this column or ideas for future columns please contact Dale Gribow
760-837-7500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“TOP LAWYER” – Palm Springs Life-(Accidents) 2011-17
“TOP LAWYER”- Inland Empire Magazine Nov 2016
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