One of the things clients may not realize when they consult with a personal injury lawyer is that a lawsuit typically isn’t commenced the moment they sign up (with rare exceptions).
Why? Because there is a considerable amount of time that goes into researching and investigating their injury claim, as discussed in Part One of this blog post.
Additionally, once your lawyer has determined that you have a viable claim and files your lawsuit, a lot of work goes into your case that you can’t see.
The Things You Don’t See During the Litigation Process
Once your personal injury lawyer meticulously crafts the Complaint for your lawsuit that raises the allegations concerning the accident and your injuries, it needs to be served on the defendant with a Summons. Typically, they have 30 days to answer.
Once the defendant answers the Complaint, they can ask for a lot of information, called “discovery.” They might request details concerning the accident, and any document or record that is remotely related to the case. Your lawyer then has a certain amount of time to respond to the defendant’s requests.
Importantly, if the case goes into suit before the relevant medical records and details regarding liability are obtained by your lawyer, they won’t be able to respond to the defendant’s requests in a timely manner. This would not make a good impression on the judge assigned to your case or to your adversary, who might even argue that your lawsuit should be dismissed.
Ideally, a personal injury case should be put together before a lawsuit is filed so that when the sparks start flying during the litigation process, your lawyer will be able to quickly respond to the deluge of discovery demands they will receive — and refute any arguments raised in a motion to dismiss.
It’s crucial to be aware that discovery demands are not a one-way street. Your lawyer has the right to make requests for information in order to prosecute the case effectively. Demands should be made for all information germane to your lawsuit. A good personal injury lawyer will spend a great deal of time carefully contemplating what discovery they need from the defendant to win your case.
The rules of discovery are complex and highly nuanced. The discovery phase of litigation can involve a substantial amount of legal research to establish what needs to be turned over and what information is irrelevant or protected. Multiple motions are usually made during this stage of a lawsuit, and the research and drafting that goes into these papers can be extremely time-consuming.
Preparing for Depositions
Part of discovery is conducting depositions — this is when out-of-court testimony is taken of the parties and witnesses involved in a case. But a good lawyer doesn’t just walk into a deposition and start firing off questions. There’s a lot more preparation that goes into a deposition that you might realize.
First, a personal injury lawyer has to determine who they will ask to testify. While the plaintiff and defendant in a case must be deposed, there may be non-party witnesses whose testimony could help prove your case. Then, your lawyer will consider what information is needed from that witness and spend hours reviewing the case file to prepare strategic questions.
After the testimony has been taken, your lawyer will review any prior records and testimony to determine whether there are any inconsistencies with what the witness said at the deposition and what they may have asserted before.
Your lawyer will also spend time preparing you for your own deposition. It may have been some time since the accident occurred, and your memory might need refreshing — your attorney will also give you an idea of the types of questions that will be asked of you. Understandably, you may be feeling nervous and overwhelmed about your deposition, but your lawyer will help to ensure you are confident and ready when you walk in. Remember, they will also be by your side the whole time to protect your rights if the defendant’s attorney attempts to ask any questions that aren’t permitted by the rules.
Critically, cases can be won or lost at the deposition stage. But it’s the preparation, rather than the deposition itself, that makes all the difference.
The Work That Goes into Preparing for Trial
If your personal injury case doesn’t settle after depositions, it will proceed to trial. This is where an enormous amount of “behind the scenes” hours are spent. Although a trial might last anywhere from a day to several weeks or sometimes longer, months of effort go into its preparation — and there are no shortcuts.
Trial preparation includes legal research on every issue that could arise in court, including anticipating all of the defendant’s requests and objections. Since there can be countless issues that come up at trial, a lawyer needs to be as ready as they can possibly be.
One of the most essential components of trial preparation is conferring with experts who might testify such as engineers, accident reconstructionists, doctors, economists, and vocational experts.
Your lawyer must also prepare to cross-examine any of the defendant’s expert witnesses, which can include dozens of hours of exhaustive research into their credentials, previous testimony, and published works. To read 20 previous trial transcripts — each hundreds of pages long — in preparation to cross-examine just one expert witness is not unusual.
In addition, your lawyer will create a compelling presentation for the jury. Often, this will include the use of video, medical illustrations, PowerPoint, overhead projectors, and other media. Many hours of work go into developing these exhibits to ensure their accuracy and effectiveness.
Significantly, the many hours of preparation don’t just end when the trial starts. New issues pop up every day that need to be researched and addressed at “downtime” during a trial.
While a good personal injury lawyer doesn’t get much rest when they’re on trial, the sleepless nights and endless hours of work are all worth it when the jury returns a substantial verdict for their client.
Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have sustained injuries in an accident due to another’s negligence, you need a personal injury attorney on your side who knows how to prepare your case for the best possible results. Due to our dedication, commitment, and experience, we regularly obtain settlements and verdicts in the millions for our clients.
The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of accident victims to ensure they get the maximum compensation they deserve for their injuries. Located in Manhattan, our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.