- Refusing to Settle: What Happens When a Personal Injury Case Goes to Trial?
Refusing to Settle: What Happens When a Personal Injury Case Goes to Trial?
“I’ll see you in court!” is a phrase you never want to hear. It’s certainly one that can make some people’s skin crawl – especially if they hear it from a Mike Morse Law Firm attorney.
Fortunately, in our thirty years of service to injured people throughout Michigan, we’ve been able to settle most lawsuits out of court by negotiating tough pretrial settlements for our clients. But there are also times when the people or institutions who caused our clients’ injuries simply won’t take responsibility for their bad actions. Sometimes, insurance companies that our clients have paid premiums to for years refuse to pay for medical treatment and other benefits after a crash… and in those instances, the case must go to trial.
So, what happens then? That’s what we’ll cover in this article, so you’ll know exactly what to expect if your case must go to court.
Getting Ready to Set a Litigation Date
As noted, most personal injury cases are settled before they go to trial. When an insurance company or other responsible party receives notice of a lawsuit, they typically negotiate in good faith knowing that – if they don’t – one of our dedicated attorneys will intervene. But sometimes, they simply won’t do the right thing. If the party who caused your injuries is unwilling to accept responsibility and compensate you for the pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, property damage, or other losses they’ve caused you, it’s time to go to court. And we can assure you that when this happens we’re always ready to litigate.
But what exactly does that term mean? What’s the litigation process? How do we prepare for it? And what steps do we take to ensure we’re ready to hold the person who caused our clients’ injuries legally accountable?
Let’s take those questions (and a few more) one at a time.
What Does “Litigation” Mean?
Litigation can be understood as “the process of resolving disputes by filing or answering a complaint through the public court system.” Two words here bear special mention – process and complaint. Litigation is a very formal process involving numerous steps that must be carefully followed to establish a basis of evidence and persuade a judge and jury that our clients deserve compensation. To begin this process, we file a complaint itemizing the alleged negligence, misconduct, or breach of contract of the person, company, or organization that caused the injuries, and asking for a remedy (also called compensation) to help make the injured party whole again. We realize that no one who was hurt can ever be fully compensated for their injuries, pain, suffering, or losses, but we do our best to identify every single issue negatively affecting our clients’ quality of life.
What Happens During the Litigation Process?
After the complaint has been filed, one of the first steps is known as discovery — an opportunity to gather evidence and information connected to the incident that caused our client’s injuries. The State Bar of Michigan has recently issued new rules concerning the discovery process, which are outlined in a 100-page guidebook that attorneys must know from top to bottom. Among the most common forms of discovery is an interview under oath known as a deposition, where attorneys from both sides question the plaintiff (the injured person) and the defendant (the person alleged to have caused the injuries) and any witnesses (which can include eyewitnesses and expert witnesses). To compel people to attend the deposition, a subpoena can be issued and delivered by an official “process server” designated by the court.
How Does an Attorney Prepare for Litigation?
Prior to and during the discovery process, your attorney will begin to build a case, assembling evidence and planning witness testimony to prove that you’ve suffered injuries that someone else is responsible for. This can result from someone else’s negligence (for example, driving while texting), malpractice (as sometimes happens in medical situations), neglect, or any other causes. During the pre-trial period, it’s possible there may be some efforts to settle the case, especially since it will become apparent to the defendants that you’re serious about pursuing them legally.
What Happens in the Actual Trial?
It’s similar to many TV courtroom dramas you’ve likely seen. The judge oversees jury selection, which is also attended by attorneys from both sides who work to verify that members of the panel have no preconceptions that might bias them for or against their clients. When the trial begins, evidence is presented, witnesses are called and questioned by both sides, closing statements are made by attorneys, and the jury will be instructed by the judge as needed. Altogether the trial could be as brief as a day … or last for months if it’s a complex case. The legal professionals at Mike Morse Law Firm will work with you before and during the trial to help you feel comfortable with the process, and to ensure you understand everything that’s occurring.
Who Decides to Accept a Settlement if One Is Offered?
You do. Mike Morse Law Firm attorney John Nachazel, Jr. describes it in these words: “Deciding to settle a case is ALWAYS the client’s decision. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to advise a client when they believe they have gotten every penny out of the insurance companies and negligent parties, the likelihood of a higher award at trial, the applicable insurance policy limits, and other relevant legal analysis. However, the final decision on settlement is always up to the client.”
When I Win My Case (or Agree to Settle) Who Pays, and How Long Does It Take to Receive Compensation?
That depends upon several factors, according to Mr. Nachazel. “If the case is for bodily injury then the insurer of the negligent driver, owner, and/or company would be responsible. In these cases, you can also recover directly against the negligent party if they do not have insurance or if the claim exceeds the policy limits. But oftentimes the negligent parties do not have any money/assets, so pursuing a claim directly against them may be fruitless. Additionally, there can be delays in our receipt of the money. Every case is different, and only an experienced trial attorney can give a reasonably accurate estimate of how fast the money will become available after the case concludes — depending on the specific facts of a specific case.” In other words, our best advice is to have a good attorney on your side – someone who will insist that you’re compensated appropriately and in a timely manner.
Who Should You Contact if You’ve Been Seriously Injured and Need Justice?
Do we even have to ask that question? The answer is of course Mike Morse Law Firm! We’re Michigan’s largest and most qualified personal injury law firm, and we stand ready to help you get all the compensation you deserve. If you have any questions this article hasn’t addressed, we’ll be happy to help answer them. Just give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or get in touch with us here.