Posted on August 26, 2010 in Personal Injury
In this final part of showing you how The Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya works to settle your personal injury case, I’ll explain taking your case to trial. This is the option of last resort, as it is time consuming, stressful and expensive. Sometimes it’s necessary to go to trial because of a genuine dispute over facts. More often, though, an insurance company is only looking out for its bottom line – and that’s when we file a lawsuit to force them to compensate you fairly for the injuries you suffered in a car accident caused by their negligent policyholder.
The first step to start litigation is filing the lawsuit. We do that with a document called a complaint, which lays out the claims you have against the defendant. The law is a little different in Colorado than it is in other states. Here, you are not allowed to sue an insurance company but must sue the other driver who caused the auto accident. His or her insurance company then defends them with its attorneys. (In Colorado, the only time you can sue an insurer is when the other driver is uninsured and your insurance company refuses to settle the claim you file under your uninsured motorist coverage. If this happens, you can sue your insurer.) The defendant has 20 days to respond to your complaint, offer defenses against the allegations in your complaint, and possibly file a counterclaim against you. If they file a counterclaim, you have an opportunity to respond.
Once the complaint and answers are filed, the judge will set a date for a trial. Then the next phase of litigation begins, called discovery. This can be a time-consuming process that involves a lot of paperwork, investigation and preparation. There are three main components to discovery:
? Both parties give the other side a set of written questions, called interrogatories, that must be answered under oath.
? Both sides make demands of the other party for production of evidence, such as medical records, a complete copy of the insurance company’s file on the matter, photographs, transcripts of recorded statements and the like.
? Both sides hold depositions of relevant parties, including you. A deposition is a formal meeting where attorneys for both sides ask questions that must be answered under oath. A court reporter creates a transcript that becomes part of the court record, and sometimes the deposition is videotaped.
Then it’s time for the trial. It’s important to note that very, very few cases actually go all the way to a jury trial. While filing a lawsuit is becoming more common for the car accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya, it’s rare when a defendant’s insurance company will take the risk of trying to make its case in front of a jury.
If you do go to trial, the first phase is jury selection, a process called voir dire. (You can choose to have only a judge hear your trial and make a decision – a process called a bench trial – but it’s almost always better to allow your peers to hear your story and decide.) Then we present your case, the evidence and exhibits we’ve gathered, and witnesses who will speak on your behalf. The defendant then gets their turn to do the same.
During both processes, each side can cross-examine the other side’s witnesses. Each side makes its final argument before the jury, and the jury decides the case. In civil trials no one is “guilty” or “not guilty,” as they are in a criminal trial. Instead, the jury either “finds for” the plaintiff (you) and assesses an amount of compensation to be paid you, or finds for the defendant (the other party).
The jury’s decision is final, and if a jury finds you were injured and deserve compensation, the judge enters a judgment and orders the defendant to pay you. The defendant and his insurance company have the option of appealing the matter to an appeals court, but that doesn’t often happen.
So these are the many ways we work to settle your personal injury case: negotiating a settlement, mediation, arbitration and trial litigation. Whichever method we use, each has the same goal – to get you fair and reasonable compensation for your injury.
For more information, give me a call at (303) 758-4777, email me at DLS@dlslawfirm.com, or check our website, www.dlslawfirm.com.Litigating your case at trial is the option of last resort. It’s time consuming, stressful and expensive. Sometimes it’s necessary to go to trial because of a genuine dispute over facts. More often, though, we go to court because an insurance company cares only about its bottom line, and not about compensating you fairly for the injuries you suffered at the hands of their negligent insured.