How Does the Legal Process Work? Part 2: Investigating the Case and Filing Suit
In part 1 of our three-part series on the legal process, we talked about telling your story – contacting our law firm and explaining what has happened. That action started a process that takes you from first steps to our privilege of being able to call you our client.
Once you’re a client, what happens next? The next step is to take action by investigating the facts and then filing the lawsuit.
INVESTIGATION AND ANALYSIS
The first step is to thoroughly investigate your case.
Our firm has access to a number of highly-trained investigators. Depending on the facts of your case, one may be assigned to take witness statements and photographs while securing evidence supporting your case.
Your attorney’s job is to analyze the facts and evidence acquired during the investigation, then develop the legal concepts and strategies we intend to apply in your case.
Please remember: It is extremely important that you do not talk to anyone about your case once you have engaged us to represent you. Just as we use investigators to gather evidence, opposing firms may use investigators to gather evidence against your case. Be mindful of your words and actions at all times, including your social media posts.
FILING THE LAWSUIT
Once we have gathered enough evidence to determine liability, we will prepare a “complaint” which briefly summarizes the legal and factual basis of your case. The complaint gets your case into court, securing a trial date for you at the earliest availability.
Before your complaint can be filed, the law requires your attorney to certify that it is well-grounded in fact, under the appropriate law, and not filed for improper purposes – such as to harass the other side, or cause needless increases in the cost of litigation.
The discovery process begins after a complaint is filed. Discovery is the exchange of information through various means so that each side can learn about the claims, potential defenses, facts, and damages that have been suffered. Discovery is conducted by both sides to determine what the other side is likely to say in court. We will begin conducting our discovery as soon as your case is filed.
The following sub-sections explain what you can expect from the discovery efforts of the other side.
Interrogatories are written questions which you must answer under oath.
Once we have received the defense’s interrogatories, we will mail you a copy to give you several days to study the questions and make notes. It is important that we answer these questions fully and accurately. We will be sending the defense appropriate questions as well.
We will then contact you to discuss the answers. At that time we will give you any assistance you need in preparing your final answers—which will be typed, signed under oath, and then provided to the other parties to the case.
Request for Production
The defense may ask us to produce certain documents relevant to your case, which we are required by law to furnish. If this includes anything we have not already received, we will make arrangements to obtain copies from you. Likewise, we will make document requests of the defendants then analyze and organize those responses as we move forward with your case.
Depositions are routinely taken in most cases by both sides. One purpose of a deposition is to give you the opportunity to relate how your claim occurred. If your case involves personal injury, you will have the opportunity to describe the extent of your injuries and the losses you suffered.
Depositions usually last a few hours and are normally conducted in either the plaintiff’s or defense attorney’s offices. The attorney who schedules the deposition normally determines where they will be taken. It is always our goal to work with opposing attorneys to schedule a date convenient for all parties involved.
Before the deposition begins, we will need to meet with you to help you prepare and to explain in detail what you can expect during your deposition.
During your deposition, the opposing attorney will ask you questions in person. Your attorney will also be present. You will be under oath and a court reporter will record what is said.
After discovery is complete, the trial process will begin.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The rest of the process will be covered in part 3, where we’ll talk about the trial process itself plus the two alternatives – settlements and mediation – that may happen before your trial gets underway.