Step by Step Civil Process
The Process of a Personal Injury Case
Unlike a criminal case, civil cases typically do not involve the State and there is no risk of incarceration. Rather, civil cases (and in particular personal injury cases) typically involve one citizen suing another citizen or a corporation. Some of the most common forms of civil personally injury cases involve work related accidents, car accidents, customer injuries, and injury of one individual to another as a result of intentional acts or negligence. It is important to note here that “injury” does not always refer to physical injury. An injury can be anything which harms another individual. While physical injury is common in these types of suits, an injury could also be loss of work, failure to fulfill a contract, wrongful discharge from employment, damage to property, or another detriment.
In the event that you have been injured by an individual, a company, or another entity, you may be unsure of what you should do next. At Boland Arrab, PLLP, we recommend consulting with a lawyer as soon as possible so that they can better inform you of your potential options, whether or not your case is economically feasible (this involves determining how much you have to gain or lose from bringing a civil claim), and how much time you have to file a claim (this refers to the statute of limitations which is the amount of time you have to file a claim before you are barred from bringing it).
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Initial Meeting with your Lawyer
During your first meeting with a lawyer, the lawyer should put you at ease by taking the time to explain how legal proceedings work, how attorney-client privilege works, and answer any basic questions you may have about the process. The lawyers at Boland Aarab PLLP pride themselves on their client communication skills. One of the most frequent complaints they hear from new clients is that their former lawyers failed to adequately explain things to them or would never answer the phone when they called. That’s why our lawyers make communication with their clients a priority. We will not ignore your calls, we will never fail to address your question and legal concerns, and we will be with you every step of the way to ensure that you understand what is happening with your case and what next steps need to be taken.
After a lawyer explains the initial steps involved in a case, they should next sit down with you and give you the opportunity to explain the circumstances in which you were harmed, discuss what you hope to achieve from bringing a claim, and explain what you should expect from the first step of filing a complaint to after the eventual verdict or settlement. At the end of the day your case is about you. This is likely a highly stressful time in your life, and you should leave your first meeting with your lawyer feeling that they understand your legal issues, they care about getting you the outcome you deserve, and that they will be there for you to guide you through this complex process. This is an area in which the lawyers at Boland Aarab PLLP excel at. The testimonial section of our website includes some of the many positive reviews from our satisfied customers. One of the most common reviews we hear from customers is that they felt the lawyers at Boland Aarab PPL actually listened to them and truly cared about helping them. We recommend that if you leave your first meeting with a lawyer feeling confused and unsure whether they care about your case, shop around until you find a lawyer that you feel comfortable with. Cases can sometimes take months to years to resolve and you want to be confident that your lawyer will work with you every step of the way and continue to communicate with you so that you are not left feeling confused or unsure of what the next step will be. Legal issues are stressful enough as it is, don’t make the mistake of picking a lawyer who you do not feel comfortable with as this will just make things even more stressful later.
By the end of your first meeting the lawyer should have a general idea of your specific case and whether or not they wish to take you on as a client. If they wish to take your case, they will give you the option to “retain” them meaning that they will now be your lawyer for this claim and will walk you through any payment arraignments and fees for their services. However, the lawyer may feel that they need to obtain more info or research your case further at which point they should give you a timeframe in which they will look into your case, obtain the required info, and will notify you whether or not they decide to take your case. While it may seem odd if a lawyer informs you that they need to do additional research, this is actually a good sign. It means they take their job seriously and want to do their due diligence to ensure that they are the best lawyer for your particular legal issue. However, if the lawyer fails to get back to you within a reasonable time, or appears to be uninterested in your case, we again recommend that you search around for another lawyer. Remember that hiring a lawyer is like forming a partnership. You and your lawyer should both be working together in order to obtain the best result for you.
Filing a Complaint
Once you have retained a lawyer, the lawyer will work with you to file a complaint. A complaint is a legal document filed with the court that outlines your injuries and damages, details how the defendant is responsible for your injuries and damages, shows the court why they have jurisdiction over your claim (meaning why that specific court should be the one to oversee your case), and seeks relief from the defendant(s). The filing of a complaint is the official start of a case. It puts the other party on notice that there is a forthcoming suit and the discovery process begins.
Discovery refers to the process in which each side obtains and shares information with the other party. The information often comes in the form of evidence which can include documents, videos, photographs, witness statements, medical reports, and other relevant information. During the discovery process your lawyer should be requesting all of the information they think they will need in order to better understand your claim and effectively advocate for your needs. Depending on your type of claim and your potential damages, your lawyer may decide that you will need to hire an expert witness.
Expert witnesses are paid witnesses who specialize in a particular field of study. For example, a doctor may be a witness in a medical malpractice suit who is called to testify that your injury was a result of medical negligence. An expert witness could also be an expert in economics who will testify that your injury has negatively impacted your ability to earn money and that based on your injuries you will need a certain sum from the defendant in order to be made whole again. While some claims require an expert witness, other claims do not and the choice to hire an expert is based on whether or not benefit will outweigh the costs. In the event your lawyer elects to hire an expert witness, they should take the time to explain their reasoning behind their decision to hire or not hire an expert and you should leave that conversation feeling confident in their choice. The lawyers at Boland Aarab PLLP have years of experience working with expert witnesses and can help guide you through the process of finding the right expert for your case.
Similar to a criminal case, in the event that your case goes to a trial it will likely be a jury trial. At the beginning of a jury trial both lawyers will conduct what is referred to as voir dire. During this process the lawyers will ask potential jurors questions to help them determine who they wish to be on your jury. Once the questions are completed and the correct number of jurors have been selected, the jury will be sworn in, and the actual trial will begin. The next stage of the trial process is opening statements. During this time your lawyer will give an opening statement explaining the harm you have suffered, indicating that the defendant is responsible, and outlining the legal theory that supports your claim(s). Opposing counsel will also give an opening statement which either claims that the defendant was not responsible or that if they are they should not have to pay for your injuries.
Once both sides have completed their opening statements, both sides will begin to call witnesses to the stand to ask them questions. Each side will have the opportunity to ask each witness questions. Also, during this time both sides will begin to introduce evidence which they will show the jury to either strengthen their claims or weaken the claims by the opposing party. Once all of the witnesses have been called, and all of the evidence has been presented to the jury, each side will make a closing argument during which time they will summarize everything as best they can for the jury and will ask them to either find in your favor or find in favor of the defendant. The jury will then leave the courtroom in order to deliberate and once they are done will come back into the courtroom to deliver their verdict. Depending on the number of claims that your bring, the jury can find in your favor on all claims, find in your favor on some and in favor of the defendant on others, or find in favor of the defendant on all claims.
After the Verdict
If a jury finds in your favor, then you will have another courtroom meeting where the judge will outline what the defendant must do. Depending on your claims this could be an order to pay you for your damages, an order to fulfill a contract you had with the defendant, or some other claim which you sought relief for. In the event that the jury does not find in favor of you, you may be able to appeal the decision to the next highest court. Our attorneys at Boland Aarab PLLP are experienced appellate attorneys and will be able to guide you through the necessary next steps in the event that you elect to appeal you decision.