Conferences, Settlement Negotiations, Mediation, and Trial
The life of a personal injury case is likely not familiar to you unless you are also an attorney. This is why I have taken the time to document the entire process because I believe knowledge is power. If you are confident going into a personal injury case and you understand the ins and outs, you will feel more comfortable every step of the way.
In my last blog I detailed everything from hiring a lawyer and filing a Summons Complaint to gathering documents for the defendant’s attorneys and composing a Bill of Particulars. Keep reading to learn what happens next.
What happens at the Preliminary Conference?
Once all of the documentation that the defendant’s attorney’s requested is prepared, your attorney will compose a written document called a Bill of Particulars. This document outlines the entire case for the defendant’s attorneys, and it is now that your attorney will request an initial conference with the court which is called a Preliminary Conference.
At the conference your attorney will meet with the defense lawyers and the clerk of the court to prepare an order which outlines a timetable for the rest of what has to happen discovery-wise for the case. The biggest items in the discovery order include the dates for depositions as well as the dates by which medical examinations have to be conducted by the other side’s doctors.
The deposition and doctor’s visits
The next step in the life of the case is a deposition where you will be asked questions under oath by the attorneys from the insurance company. During depositions your lawyer will also ask questions of the defendant to try and establish fault or liability on the other party. One of the purposes of a deposition is for an insurance company and their lawyers to better understand what the claims are and what you will testify to if the case goes to trial. In addition to learning the facts and what you will share with a jury, another part of a deposition is for the lawyers to learn more about you.
Once the deposition is done (don’t worry, it’ll be over before you know it!), you will be seen by one or more of the insurance company’s appointed doctors depending on the nature of your injuries. The doctors would testify for the defense if your case goes to trial.
Next steps with the court
The first is a compliance conference where the court checks in to see if everyone is doing their due diligence and completing their tasks in a timely manner / following the timetable. Then comes the certification conference where a judge will ensure and confirm that everything is done. If all depositions, physical examinations, and paper discovery is complete, the parties will “certify” that the case is ready for trial, and the judge will issue an order.
Once given the green light, your attorney can put the case onto the trial calendar. It’s important to note that while it sounds like this means the case is going to trial, that is not necessarily true at this point. This next step in the process simply means that everything has been done and the case is ready for trial if need be. It is at this point that the insurance company’s claims adjuster sits down and takes a hard look at the file. They will dive into everything from the attorney’s report and deposition notes to doctor’s exam reports, all of which they will use to determine their “value” of the case.
Then comes the settlement negotiation
Once the insurance company’s lawyers and claims adjuster have completed their evaluation of the case, they will enter into settlement negotiations with your attorney. If they are unable to come to an agreement at that point, your attorney will advise you of possible next steps which could include mediation, arbitration or a jury trial.
While it feels like the next logical step is a speedy trial, the reality is that it can take quite a while to actually get to that point once the case is on the Trial Calendar. The length of time varies from county to county, but normally it is at least one to two years and in some counties, even longer.
If you have any questions about a pending case that you have that may or may not be moving as fast as you want, you can give me a call at 631-495-9435 and I will be happy to go on the court computer to take a look at what’s been done, what needs to be completed, and give you an honest evaluation.
Remember, if you aren’t happy with your lawyer, you can change attorneys at any time for any reason and it won’t delay your case or affect your recovery in the end.