What to Expect
It's not unusual to feel somewhat nervous and possibly confused when you begin legal action. We believe that it helps greatly to have the process described for you, step by step, so you know what to expect.
Here are the main steps in the process of bringing a claim:
Preliminary interview by an attorney
During the preliminary interview you will be asked specific questions to help determine if you have a case. The questions will include:
- Specifics about your diagnosis (the why, how, when and where of the diagnosis);
- The circumstances that lead to your condition (the why, how, when and where of the exposure); and
- The impact that your condition has had on your life, physically, financially and emotionally.
Formal Agreement of Representation
Once you decide to retain an attorney as your legal counsel, you must enter into a written agreement that documents the terms you agree on with the law firm. You may also need to sign certain release forms. These release forms authorize the law firm to access personal records, such as medical and social security, that may be needed to support your case. In cases where an attorney feels it may be helpful, he or she may call upon strategic partners to assist with the case.
Follow-Up Interviews and Conversations
As your case is developed you will be called on for additional information. For example your law firm might need your help identifying people (doctors, family members, friend and co-workers) who can provide information to support your case.
File the Lawsuit
Once steps 1 - 3 are complete, your attorney will analyze all the available information in order to make a strategic decision about where to file the case. Sometimes the location in which a case is filed can have a critical impact on its outcome. Once the decision is made, your case is filed with the courts.
Discovery is the formal legal process for collecting evidence about your case. It begins after the case is filed and is conducted under the rules of Court. Discovery includes research and an exchange of information and testimony between the parties involved in the lawsuit.
During this step your attorney develops a game plan. The plan, or case strategy, includes identifying the required evidence, the witnesses you need to give depositions (testimony) and the negotiating strategy your attorney will use to try to negotiate a settlement of your case. At the same time, your attorney is also preparing your case for trial. Even though most cases settle before going to court, the better prepared for a trial you and your attorney are, the better result you are likely to achieve.
During the discovery phase, you may periodically be asked to provide more information or to verify information already provided. Your attorney should also give you updates on the status of your case. You and any witnesses you have decided to use may be asked to give depositions during this phase.
Settlements or Trial
Most cases are settled outside of court because a negotiated settlement is usually better than the uncertainty of a verdict for both sides in a lawsuit; however, if your case does go to trial, you can expect the trial to take two weeks or more.
The entire legal process can often take two to three years from start to finish. It may take weeks or months to coordinate depositions, attend hearings, and obtain evidence during the Discovery process. In addition, Court dockets (schedules) can be a factor, sometimes requiring that trials be scheduled two years or longer in advance.
Though the process can be lengthy, you do not have to feel lost or alone. If you choose to have Hendler Lyons Flores represent you, everyone on our staff will be there to support you - providing information, assistance and counsel - through each step of the process.