Case investigation, evaluation and strategy.
After investigating the accident and reviewing all your medical records, your attorney should have a strategy to resolve your claim with the insurance company. Your attorney will help you evaluate your case and the insurance company’s best offer and compare it to what you may expect at trial after deducting the additional costs and expenses for trying the case.
Your attorney should also explain to you that juries are unpredictable, and any case can be lost at trial, even if the case is seemingly clear cut. In addition, even if you prevail at trial, the losing party has the right to appeal the verdict, which at the very least can delay a monetary award.
Beware of deadlines!
Many times, negotiation with the insurance company before filing suit is not worth the effort. Insurance companies often use the pre-suit negotiation only to try to find out as much about you, your attorney and your doctor as they can. Many attorneys waste precious time attempting to negotiate with the insurance company before filing suit. If we accept your case it is because we believe that it has legal merit and that you deserve a trial if we are not able to reach a settlement.
It is a dangerous practice to wait until the last minute before the statute of limitations expires to file suit. We have seen other attorneys do this only to find that the defendant they sued is either not the correct defendant or is now blaming someone else. This can ruin the case.
While there can be legitimate reasons for waiting to file suit, an attorney should not wait until the last minute with the hope that the insurance company will settle your case. Unfortunately, we have seen attorneys not licensed in Missouri or Kansas attempt to represent people with claims in those jurisdictions. When the claims do not settle, they try to find an attorney to file the case on time. This is one reason why it is dangerous for a client to hire an attorney who is not licensed in the jurisdiction where the suit must be filed.
Filing the lawsuit.
If negotiations are not fruitful, your attorney should file suit as soon as possible to avoid your claim being barred by the applicable statute of limitations. To initiate a lawsuit, he or she will need to prepare or file a pleading in state court, which is a document that sets out all relevant facts that are sufficient to assert a claim under applicable law.
This pleading is called a "Petition" in state court or a "Complaint" in federal court. After it is filed, the defendant will have a certain amount of time to respond by either admitting or denying each allegation in the pleading. The defendant may also assert any defenses to the suit.
Defenses in a injury suit may include issues related to comparative or contributory fault, which is based on theory that you, the plaintiff, was also at fault for causing the accident.
Discovery and trial preparation.
After the suit is initiated, both sides begin what is called “discovery.” Discovery is the process in which both sides attempt to discover what the evidence will be and what the other side will present at trial.
The defendant will be allowed to review your medical records, work records and income tax returns. You may be required to give a deposition under oath and/or submit to a medical examination by a doctor hired by the defendant.
We are also allowed to conduct discovery upon the defendant. The defendant will have to answer written questions called interrogatories, produce documents and be required to answer questions under oath in a deposition. Discovery helps both sides evaluate and prepare the case for trial or settlement prior to trial.
Still have questions about your injury claim in Missouri or Kansas? For more information, please download a free copy of my book, Crash Course, which includes the 9 mistakes that can wreck your injury claim.
You can also contact our firm by calling (816) 203-0143 or by filling out a form below. Contacting us is FREE and confidential, and there is no obligation to hire our firm. We would be happy to try to assist you.