Protecting Miami Residents Since 1998
The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary are committed to helping injured victims in every possible way. This is why in the following we offer 10 important steps of a legal process to help you understand more of what happens in these situations.
Before any lawsuit is filed, attorneys need to gather all the available facts. The medical records of the plaintiff will be examined by a physician working with the attorney, to determine the actual extent of the injuries and their cause. Accident reports will be gathered, available photographs will be examined and the attorney will speak with potential witnesses.
Before filing the actual lawsuit, the attorneys of the plaintiff and the defendant will try to reach a settlement acceptable for both parties, outside the courtroom. Such settlements might be reached in less severe cases. However when the plaintiff suffers serious, life threatening injuries or even wrongful death it is less likely that the insurance company will offer an acceptable award and thus the attorney will prepare the case for trial.
A lawsuit begins by filing a Complaint with the court. The court issues paperwork that has to be delivered to the other party. The defendant has a certain limited number of days to respond to the lawsuit by filing a document known as the Answer.
Both attorneys have the right to obtain information, documents and materials from the other side. The depositions of the plaintiff and the defendant are typically taken in one of the attorney's offices. The depositions of expert witnesses and other witnesses are also taken. After this stage the lawyers know how the case looks and can decide whether to settle or go to trial.
Usually courts require that parties try to reach a settlement with the help of a neutral mediator, before the case goes to trial. Plaintiffs, defendants, their lawyers and the representatives of their insurance companies take part at the mediation. Although parties cannot be forced to settle, most cases are settled at mediation.
If mediation does not result in a settlement, the case will be set for trial. The waiting time for the trial varies; however, it could be anywhere from six months to three years or sometimes more. Once the date has been established both lawyers can request that the court hold a pretrial conference where certain legal issues can be clarified.
The trial is the phase of the case during which guilt or innocence (in civil cases this is referred to as ?liability?) of the defendant is established. The trial can take from one day to several weeks depending of the complexity of the case. There are two types of trials: bench (which means trial by the Judge) and jury. Plaintiffs and defendants are required to be present, although the defendant can decide whether to testify or not.
The judge or jury has the responsibility to determine how each party contributed to the incident and the amount to be paid. At the end of the trial the jury will present its verdict and plaintiffs will know if they won or lost and the amount of compensation awarded, if any. The losing side is usually required to pay the court costs of the other party.
Either side has the right to appeal the jury's decision to a higher, appellate court. In general, the appellate court?s function is not to retry the case but to instead look for possible legal errors that may have occurred at trial. The appellate court will issue a written decision either affirming or overturning what happened in the trial court.
Once a judgment has been obtained, the victorious party has the right to examine the assets of the losing party. There are various ways to execute on a judgment. The awarded amount can be collected from bank accounts, wages, assets, including cash reserves, cars, boats or other equipment, and real estate.