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Settling A Case Before Filing Suit
It is often possible to settle a legal dispute without having to resort to the process of taking a case to trial. This results in a quicker outcome for the client, and keeps the costs to a minimum, allowing the attorney to take a reduced fee from the recovery, maximizing the amount of money that the client receives. Additionally, the attorney can provide additional value by helping the client negotiate any monies owed to medical providers, ambulance companies, and other third-party providers. Further, in car wreck cases, it is often possible to negotiate with the client’s own insurance company for no-fault insurance proceeds to be tendered directly to the client, rather than for it to be used to pay third-party providers (many Arkansas drivers have at least $5,000.00 of no-fault medical payments insurance, which pays regardless of the circumstances). If the client gets attorney advice early in the case, these proceeds can be used to vastly expand the client’s options, regarding payback of medical expenses or liens. It can sometimes even result in the client being able to obtain additional needed medical treatment, with no out-of-pocket costs.
Filing Your Lawsuit
When pre-suit settlement does not work, we file suit by drafting a formal complaint and filing it in the appropriate court, which starts the process of litigation for you, the plaintiff. The Court issues a summons, and the summons is then served on the defendant(s), forcing them to respond formally to the lawsuit. It is usually the defendant’s insurance company lawyer who responds. In Arkansas, most insurance company lawyers are located in Little Rock, Fayetteville, or other larger cities, and their firms defend hundreds (if not thousands) of these types of cases per year. An experienced plaintiff’s attorney will have built a relationship with many of the insurance defense attorneys in the area, and can tell you a lot about how your case is going to go, simply on past experience with the insurance defense lawyer.
The Discovery Process
The next step is the process of discovery. This usually takes two forms. The insurance defense lawyer will probably start
off with interrogatories, which are written questions, directed to the plaintiff, that must be answered under oath, in writing.
Answering interrogatories in a lawsuit feels a lot like doing a long homework assignment in school. After you finish, your
lawyer has to spend a lot of time putting the answers in the proper format, by following certain procedural rules. The insurance
company lawyer will use interrogatories to get basic information about you, such as your social security number, address,
marital status, and other simple information. They will also request a release to obtain your medical records, to see for
themselves the extent of your injuries. Your attorney will also have the opportunity to request information from the defendant
using interrogatories, as well.
The second part of the discovery process is called a deposition. Depositions usually take place at a central location, with a court reporter present. At a deposition, the lawyer is able to ask questions of the opposing party, no differently than if the judge were present, and the party's sworn testimony is recorded by the court reporter, as a matter of court record. Some depositions are also video-taped. Depositions are perhaps the most critical pre-trial events in any case, as it is the testimony taken in depositions that drives what will be presented at trial. Lawsuits involving complex accidents can involve the taking of multiple depositions; as an example, we recently resolved a case which involved the taking of more than thirty depositions, in multiple locations, over a period of more than a year.
After the discovery process is complete, the case is ready for trial, but there are still some ways the case may be resolved without a formal trial.
View Settling Your Case Before Trial