In a previous post we discussed the advantages of having a certified civil trial lawyer on your side for personal injury cases.
Today we’re going to expand on arguably the most important asset that a certified attorney brings to your service: preparation.
Here are some of the reasons that strong preparation is so vital to the ultimate success of your case – whether it goes to trial or is settled amenably beforehand.
Trials come with rules, and some of those rules apply long before the trail gets underway.
For instance, during the Interrogatory phase, the defense attorney sends written questions that require you, the plaintiff, to answer within 30 days of receipt.
You’ll need to provide accurate information that includes a bio, date of birth, and address, to name a few of the basics. You’ll also be required to provide details as to how the accident happened, injuries being claimed, medical treatments received, and the cost of each medical provider, among other specifics. But the questions can become more challenging as you must detail your current functioning (in other words, how you’re faring post-accident), whether you’ve been in other accidents, whether you’ve lost wages and how much, insurance coverage, and whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime (and what that was, if applicable.)
The success of your trial depends in large part on your ability to answer quickly, and your trial attorney will ensure that you provide answers within the required timeframe. Failing to do so will put your trial in jeopardy and perhaps void any chance you had of receiving an outcome in your favor.
If you’ve ever read “the fine print” at the bottom of a cell phone contract or car lease, then you know that legalese is a language all its own. A single sentence, phrase or word can alter the meaning of something entirely. Loopholes can be created when there is too little information to effectively describe a situation fully. And conflicts can arise when too much information is provided, creating more questions where there needn’t have been.
This is where your trail attorney can guide you – by understanding how to best represent your situation in writing so that you provide the right type and amount of information.
For example, if you have been involved in a crime, failing to be forthcoming can impair your trial. Conversely, providing too much information can be just as damaging. The key is to understand exactly what you must disclose and how to do so – no more or less – so that you are truthful without casting unnecessary doubt in a way that negatively affects your trial.
Some of the questions you must answer are mandated by the court – otherwise known as “Form A”. In addition to these standard questions, each defendant is permitted to include 10 additional questions.
A trial attorney will ensure that the questions are valid. In other words, are the defendants asking 10, as per court requirements, or have they slipped in extras? Are the questions asked in multiple parts, so that it appears to be 10, but is in fact 20 or more?
Your attorney will vet the questions to be sure that they are fair and valid, and that your answers are timely and complete.
In addition to the timeframes established for submitting questions and answers, there are other requirements that specify the types of supporting documents that you must provide and when you must do so.
For example, you must provide the defense attorney with authorization for each medical provider that lets your provider know that you agree to let them send your medical file to the defense attorney.
If you have an auto case and are subject to limitations, you are required to forward certification from your doctor stating the permanent nature of your injuries or your case can be dismissed.
Whenever documentation is required, failing to provide it correctly and within the appropriate timeframe can either hold your case up or be cause for dismissal. Understanding the requirements and preparing effectively is the role of your trial attorney.
Negotiating In The Spotlight
Most people who go through a trial have never done so before, and may not be emotionally or mentally prepared for what’s to come. Filling out forms and forwarding documents is fairly rote compared to the challenges that can arise during a deposition.
Defense attorneys are prepared to ask you questions – but are you prepared to answer them? Their job is to find a reason to have your case dismissed, and it can be all too easy to inadvertently give it to them, especially as they ask you the same questions about your accident, injuries and suffering over and over again in an attempt to trip you up even in a small way.
Your trial attorney will be prepared to help you prepare, by coaching you on how to answer in the best way, what words or phrases to avoid that can open you up to challenges, and help you be mentally ready for what can be an exhausting and frustrating experience.
While the deposition may be a new experience for you, your attorney has likely seen it many times and will be familiar not only with the process but with the defense attorney and law firm you’ll be facing, and the exact nature and type of questions they’ll be asking.
Seeing The Big Picture
In addition to helping you prepare your answers to written questions, provide proper documentation, prepare for a deposition, and do this all in a timely fashion, your attorney will be prepared to examine the past testimony of any of the plaintiff’s doctors or witnesses.
In a personal injury case, the defense’s doctor may examine you as well. This is not an exam designed to further your case; it is the defense’s opportunity to determine that your injuries are not as severe or that your case is not valid.
Sometimes, doctors who perform this type of exam have done it again and again over time. As a result, their testimony can begin to sound the same from case to case. In some unfortunate cases, doctors may perform only a cursory exam and then expand on it during testimony without facts to back it up.
Your trial attorney will prepare for this by examining the past testimony of doctors, to look for scenarios where the doctors failed to provide an honest or thorough exam, or where their testimony may have become rote rather than relevant. An experienced trial attorney will probably have past experience with the doctors you’re dealing with and will know ahead of time how to prepare.
There are a lot of ways that a trial can go awry, but challenges can be mitigated with good preparation by an experienced attorney. In fact, good preparation can be enough to avoid a trial, since your attorney will understand the case’s strengths and weaknesses and know exactly where to begin negotiations.
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall, auto accident or other scenario, contact us for a free consultation and let us know how we can help.