Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What are we required to prove?
Each case is different and every claim or cause of action has its own elements that must be proven.
Regardless of the claim or cause of action, however, as the plaintiff you and we have the burden of proof. Most people are familiar with the criminal burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. However this standard does not apply to your case. In this civil case, we have the burden to establish that each element of our case is more likely true than not true. The following elements apply:
- We must prove that the other party is liable or at fault for the incident that caused your injuries and damages.
- We must demonstrate that the other party’s fault caused an injury and damages. Causation can be a difficult issue in certain cases and cannot be overlooked.
- We must establish that you suffered an injury and damages. Typically, damages come in two general categories – economic and non-economic.
Damages: Economic vs. Non-Economic
You are entitled to recover for your economic harm. This would include, among other things:
- medical expenses
- wage loss
- out of pocket expenses
- future medical care
You are also entitled to recover for non-economic harm. Most people think of this as “pain and suffering.” This type of harm does include pain and suffering but it is broader than that. All of the following may apply to your case:
- physical pain,
- mental suffering,
- loss of enjoyment of life,
- physical impairment,
- and emotional distress.
What is the process?
At the beginning, you will most likely need to spend most of your time and energy treating for your injuries and getting through the most critical stages of your medical care. During this time, we will be assessing liability and evaluating the potential for recovery.
In all cases, the defense and their attorneys will be looking to escape responsibility whenever possible and to minimize the extent of your injuries. They will be looking for gaps in your medical treatment. It is important that you be consistent with your medical care and follow your doctor’s advice as best you can.
Once you have either finished treatment or we have been able to fully assess the extent of your injuries and future care needs, we will gather all of your medical records, wage loss, out of pocket expenses, etc. and make a demand to the defendants insurance company. In some cases, we will be able to resolve a case with a settlement before we must file a lawsuit. That will involve a judgment call that we will discuss together.
If and when it comes time to file a lawsuit, we will prepare a document called a Complaint that sets forth our causes of action. We will then file and serve the Complaint on the defendant. The defense then files an Answer to the Complaint. This process can take time because a defendant must be personally served and then the defendant has time to answer the complaint.
When we do receive an answer, we begin active litigation and will engage in a process called Discovery. We will serve written questions to the defense and they will do the same to you. We will work with you to answer those questions. Then, depositions commence and we will prepare you for your deposition. Later, we will engage in expert discovery and the expert witnesses will have their depositions taken.
During this litigation process, there are opportunities to settle your case. We will discuss that at the proper times which vary from case to case. If we are unable to resolve the case, the matter will go to trial. In a jury trial, we present your case and explain the true story of all that you have endured. You will testify and so will other witnesses. Evidence is presented to the jury. Many times, your doctor and other experts will testify as well. Ultimately, 9 out of 12 jurors must agree with us on each element of our cause of action in order to prevail.
We will explain this process in detail to you as the litigation progresses. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions should they arise.
What can I do to help my case?
There are certain things that you can do to aid our office in proving the injuries that you have sustained and the damages you have incurred.
- Out of Pocket Expenses Spreadsheet
Start preparing a spreadsheet of all of your out of pocket expenses. These may include many different items including charges for prescription medications, parking for doctor and therapy appointments, co-pays, etc. (sample worksheet attached for your use)
- Lost Wages
We always suggest that you continue working if you are physically able to do so. However, if you are physically unable to work, get a note from your doctor. Keep track of the time you miss and calculate the amount of income you have lost. If you used sick or vacation time, include that as a part of your loss. We will work with you to help you document this loss. If you are a W2 employee, your loss may be easier to document. But, the loss for an independent contractor is just as real. We can discuss strategies to prove the loss.
In order to help us show your physical pain and mental suffering, take photographs of your injuries, any medical equipment you use, and the course of your recovery. These photographs are very useful to show how this incident has impacted your life.
- Summary of Pain and Suffering
Injuries impact people very differently. For some, it prevents them from playing their favorite sports. Others are unable to play with their young children or have difficulty performing their jobs. At some point, we may ask you for a brief summary about this impact on your life. The more specific you can be the better.
- List of Medical Providers
It is important for us to have a complete list of all of your medical providers, including imaging centers, surgery centers, and alternative medicine providers. Please keep a list of your medical providers and update that list whenever you see a new doctor, therapist, or other provider. Periodically, we will ask you to send us a copy of that list. (sample worksheet attached for your use)
How long will it take?
Cases generally resolve either with a settlement or a judgment. In either situation, once the case resolves, there is no going back. If you need a future surgery, you cannot come back and ask for more compensation at a later date. Consequently, we must make sure that you have either properly recovered or that we have fully assessed the extent of your future damages. This can take time and it is very dependent upon the course of your own medical treatment.
It is important that you communicate with us and let us know how your treatment is progressing. We want to hear from you. We pride ourselves on being available to you and on the service we provide to our clients.