1. Why we file law suits
We often find insurance adjusters make unreasonably low offers hoping you will give up on your personal injury case and take a low settlement offer. We find that law suits keep the insurance companies honest. They are forced to retain a law firm that specializes in insurance defense that can advise the adjusters on the strengths and weaknesses of our case and the amount of liability the insurance company is opening itself to if the plaintiff is success at a jury trial. We find dealing with insurance defense attorneys
2. Costs of the law suit and service requirements
The steps in filing a law suit is paying the filing fees and then serving the opposing parties.
The filing fees vary on which court we are filing our law suit. Magistrate Court is $54 and State Court the fee can be as high as $245. Then we need to pay for service as well.
Service can be done by the county Marshall's or Sheriff's office, but we also find it prudent to hire a process server in many instances to make sure service is timely and proper. Once the defendant is served they have a period of time to respond to our complaint.
4. Discovery Phase
Once the defendant has responded - usually through the insurance defense attorneys - the personal injury law suit moves into the discovery phase. In this phase both sides have opportunities to learn more about the case by asking the other side for evidence. This evidence can take the form of admissions, documents, photographs or videos, and deposition testimony from witnesses.
The discovery phase of a car accident law suit can last months and is often extended by consent between parties. It is in the best interest of both parties to completely understand the case so they can make their best judgment on the likely outcome of a jury trial.
This part of the law suit may drag on for some time but it is important to be patient so we can come up with the maximum settlement offer.
5. Depositions and what to expect
In most car accident injury law suits the plaintiff is asked to sit for a deposition. This is an examination by the opposing parties' attorneys outside of the courtroom. They will have to opportunity to ask you as many questions as is reasonable while a court reporter records your responses. This will typically be done at our office but can also be scheduled over zoom in some instances.
In our experience, the insurance defense attorneys are hoping to test your ability as a witness. Many of the questions they ask at a deposition will not be allowed at trial for evidentiary reasons but they are allowed to ask almost anything.
Depositions can be exhausting marathons at times. The insurance defense attorneys want to see if there are holes in your story that they can take advantage and to learn in general what they can expect from your testimony to be like at trial. We find that a calm matter of fact demeanor is best. The deposition can be an important moment in allowing the insurance company's representatives to understand that you are a human being and not merely another file they are handling.
In many jurisdictions, mandatory mediation is required. Judges find that mediated cases often settle prior to trial and avoid using the court's limited resources. Even in jurisdictions that mediation is not required, we will often suggest it as a tool to facilitate a fair settlement offer.
The mediator is someone that both sides agree to use and hire themselves. They are a licensed professional in the State of Georgia that has been trained in mediating cases. Typically they are attorneys or former judges with experience in the practice area of your personal injury case. Mediator rates vary widely and we need to be conscious of those rates because they will be partially paid by you.
At mediation, you can expect to have an opportunity for both parties to explain their version of the case and why they think it is worth a certain value. As plaintiffs, we typically go first and the defense follows. At that point the mediator may have questions for both parties before we break out into separate rooms.
The mediator then goes between both parties relaying offers back and forth while making legal and factual arguments challenging each sides view of the case. The mediator goal is to find a value of the case that both sides can agree upon.
We find mediation to be a powerful tool in resolving cases and recommend participation in almost every instance.
8. The Trial
Once we get to the trial many months and possibly years have passed since your auto accident. We have gone through the discovery phase, and possibly mediation and pre-trial motions. At the trial, both parties will select a jury in a process known as voir dire. Voir dire varies in different jurisdictions, but is our first chance to speak to the potential jurors and begin to figure out who is appropriate to hear your trial.
As the plaintiff, we go first to present the elements of your tort claim and prove your case. You will almost certainly testify during this phase.
Once our case is made, the defense will have an opportunity to counter our argument. In some cases they may merely be arguing that your injuries were not severe enough to merit the cash value we have placed on it. In others, they may argue you contributed to the liability of the car wreck.
9. On Going Negotiations
Negotiations never stop. We willingly engage in negotiations at every stage of the law suit - even sometimes in the middle of trial. We find that a willingness to work out issues with opposing counsel is the fastest most efficient way to a fair settlement. Trials can go against us for strange reasons and if we can negotiate a value on your case that is fair and just while saving you time and mental stress is often a better outcome.