Comprehensive Interview and Fact Gathering
At the outset, the questions that the lawyer has are: What happened? What do we have that will prove it?
Your question is: How can you help me?
In some cases, the information needed for the lawyer to answer your question is available and easily conveyed. An auto accident with a police report, coupled with medical records and bills is one such example. In other cases it may take more than one meeting and further effort at obtaining relevant information, and it may be that there are subtleties in the applicable law that require additional attention.
Negotiate or Sue?
Once the facts are in hand, the decision on how to proceed initially must be made. In many cases, the attitude and position of the other side is not known, and it makes sense to present notice of the potential suit, with a demand for payment, and then see if a resolution can be made without litigation. More often that not, this effort is not fruitful and suit must be filed. However, if a successful negotiation does occur, the process stops here.
Suit – Now What?
Once the suit is filed, the defendant or defendants must be served. This involves the issuance of a citation by the Court, which is then served on the other side by an officer, if service is accomplished personally, or sometimes by mail. Once the person sued is served, they have approximately one month to get a lawyer and file an answer. Once that occurs, then the process called “discovery” begins.
There are four main types of discovery that is undertaken as each side gathers information to support its case. Interrogatories are written questions that must be answer under oath. Requests for production are written requests for specific documents or categories of documents. Requests for admissions as that the parties agree to certain facts that are not in dispute. The fourth type of discovery is the deposition, which is oral testimony given before a court reporter. It is much like courtroom testimony, only it is much, much longer in duration and is typically taken in a lawyer’s office or conference room. It may be videotaped.
If the case cannot be settled after the discovery is accomplished, then the parties proceed to trial. Only a small percentage of cases are tried to a verdict, but each case should be prepared by the lawyer as if it is going to be one of the few that is tried.