When an injury case cannot be settled, you file a lawsuit. At Holland & Usry, we sometimes feel it's in our client's best interest to file a lawsuit without extensive negotiation with the insurance company—but we never make this decision without a long, detailed talk with you about what that means and then allow you to make that decision.
After a lawsuit is filed, the case is considered to be in “litigation,” which is just a fancy word for the lawsuit process. This is what generally happens in the litigation process:
- We file the lawsuit, called a Complaint. It's a legal document that states the basic reasons why we're suing the wrongdoer who hurt you. You are called the plaintiff and the wrongdoer is called the defendant. The lawsuit asks for money compensation called damages.
- In response, the defendant files an Answer. This document will often deny the defendant did anything wrong to hurt you. It will state a lot of defenses that the opposing side thinks excuse the defendant from hurting you. Many times these excuses are just smokescreens to avoid paying you enough for the harm you suffered.
- Next, discovery begins. This is a process where the parties exchange the evidence they have about the case. It has two basic parts—written discovery and depositions.
- The discovery process shouldn’t be attempted without an experienced attorney. Discovery is a landmine for the inexperienced, wide open for opportunities to get taken advantage of. Questions you get asked can be complicated. Misunderstood questions, incomplete responses, or wrong answers can destroy your case. And there’s vital evidence that could make or break your case that you’ll never know about if you don’t know how to ask for it the right way.
- Written discovery” involves documents called “Interrogatories” and “Requests for Production of Documents”. Interrogatories are written questions to answer. Requests for Production seeks evidence in any form, like pictures, emails, and documents like witness statements, accident or incident reports, anything as long as it might lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. One highly important document I look for in cases like trucking accidents or slip or trip and fall accidents is training materials or policy manuals that can be used to show you got hurt because a company broke its own rules. That can be powerful evidence of fault, or liability
- Depositions are out-of-court testimony. Witnesses are put under oath, just like in court, but you’re in a lawyer’s conference room. It’s a critical part of the case where parties get a preview of what key witnesses will testify to at trial. It helps us build our case by getting testimony to make our case, often from you and your witnesses. But sometimes we get admissions from the other side’s witnesses, which can help our case enormously. Depositions also help us evaluate your case’s strengths and weaknesses to help figure out a good settlement amount.
- Later, in many cases, mediation occurs. Mediation is a process where the parties hire an experienced lawyer not participating in the case to help them try to settle it
- Trial depositions of doctors. In a South Carolina personal injury trial, your doctor must testify to link your injuries and treatment to the crash or fall or malpractice. We usually do this by videotaped trial deposition. We wait until right before trial to do it because it is generally the most expensive evidence—doctors charge for their time (as they should, since we're taking them away from their other patients), and we have to pay both a court reporter and a certified videographer to do it right.
- If the case cannot be settled earlier, we usually go to court for a trial about 14-24 months after we file suit. No matter how long your case goes on or how hopeless settlement might seem, settlement can occur at any time. Some cases even settle as the jury deliberates.
We Help With the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
At Holland & Usry, we help personal injury victims throughout South Carolina, especially in Spartanburg, Cherokee, and Union counties. If you have a personal injury case you think might involve a lawsuit, feel free to call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 for a free meeting to talk about it with us.