- Initial interview with the client, getting a basic understanding of how the injury occurred and what medical conditions have followed from it.
- Gathering all of the paperwork associated with the injury, including police reports, accident reports, medical records and bills, weather reports, and any witness statements taken by the police or other investigators.
- Examining the client’s insurance policy to determine whether there are any clauses in the insurance policy to pay current or future bills of the client. This also means examining the Uninsured or Under-insured Motorist provisions of the client’s insurance policy.
Marshaling the Evidence
- Making a list of other evidence that must be obtained, such as photographs, recorded witness interviews, and official government records.
- A good trial attorney will begin drafting jury instructions early in the case, helping to focus on what must be proved at trial.
Researching the Applicable Law
- Conducting any research needed to clarify the legal issues that will arise at trial or before trial. A good trial lawyer has a subscription to up-to-date computer research databases.
Obtaining the Full Medical Picture of The Client’s Condition
- As the client’s medical condition begins to stabilize, it is important that the attorney obtain copies of all pertinent medical records.
- If it is likely that the insurance company will argue that the client already had pre-existing health conditions, it is important for the attorney to obtain past medical records in order to demonstrate that the client’s condition has significantly worsened because of the accident. The attorney may need to schedule an interview with the client’s treating physician to clarify these points.
Dealing with the Client’s Insurance Company
- Analyzing the client’s health insurance policy to determine whether money paid by that insurer must be repaid.
- Putting the insurance company “on notice” of the claim and also notifying the client’s UIM insurer (Underinsured Motorist).
Exploring Settlement Options
- After all of the pertinent factual information has been obtained, and the legal issues clarified, meeting with the client to discuss settlement options.
- Presenting a settlement “demand package” to the insurance company, with a deadline for response.
Filing the Lawsuit
- If the case does not settle, filing a lawsuit and having a process server properly serve the Summons and Complaint upon the defendant.
- As soon as possible, obtaining a trial date from the court.
- Conducting any necessary “pretrial discovery.” Discovery tools available to the trial lawyer are interrogatories (written questions), depositions (sworn testimony of witnesses), and requests for production (obtaining the opposing side’s documentary evidence).
- If the insurance company attorney wishes to take depositions of the client, doctors, and other witnesses, it is important that the client’s attorney make sure they are prepared for the depositions.
- The client and witnesses must again be prepared, this time to testify at trial. An attorney may not ethically tell a witness what to say. However, the attorney can help the witnesses by letting them know the types of questions they will face so they can reflect carefully so as to give the most accurate answers.
- Filing the required pretrial briefs and motions, as well a set of proposed jury instructions.