The Real Law Behind Developing a Case
Posted by Rob Jenner on Mar 04, 2012 in Firm News
Each photo brought a grin, but the last panel, a lawyer overcome by a mountain of paper, brought a groan. The volume and endlessness of the paper we deal with is overwhelming at times. How does a case get built from all this paper? Let me start at the beginning of the process at the law firm of Janet, Jenner & Suggs.
Developing the Case
New clients come to us through many different avenues, mainly referrals from friends and former clients. But we also get many new clients through advertising and the Internet. Prospective clients are interviewed at length either by a lawyer or an experienced paralegal and then asked to fill out a longer questionnaire. If we decide to take the case, we ask a client to sign a contract called a “Retainer Agreement,” which sets out, in essence, what we will do for you; what you agree to do; the costs of the litigation (which our firm will advance for you); and our fee.
For most all clients we work on a “contingency fee,” that is, we do not get paid unless you do; our fee is contingent upon our achieving a successful result for you. Our contingency fee may vary depending on the type of work we do. Some state laws even govern what a lawyer can charge.
Do Records Support Your Case?
Next, we’ll send you authorizations for the release of your medical records. Once we get them, they will be reviewed by medical professionals on our staff – a physician/lawyer and several nurse paralegals. Our lawyers, who are really experienced at looking at medical records after more than three decades in the business, will look at the records too. In this way, our team can make a first review of your case with speed and insight. If we think your case is worth pursuing further, we will probably send your medical records out for review by an independent expert for his take on whether somebody or some drug or device may have been the cause of your harm.
If we believe you have a case, we will discuss our findings with you and the basis for our belief that we should go forward with a lawsuit.
Best Place to File Your Lawsuit
The next big consideration for us is where to file your lawsuit. The law generally says that you can file a suit where the injury occurred or where the defendant lives. If we are suing a corporation, this typically means where the company has its principal place of business. We carefully examine the laws of each state to make sure the place that we file your suit is the most favorable for your case. Finally, we will file a document called a Complaint that starts your lawsuit going.
What will “Discovery” Tell Us?
Once the defense answers the Complaint, the parties then begin to exchange information along a timeline set by the Court. This exchange of information is called the “discovery” phase of the litigation. It is during this discovery phase that the paper wars begin. (The discovery phase and the trial will be the subject of future blogs).
This paper includes internal e-mails and memos and confidential studies from the defendant, along with information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (if it is a drug/device case). Sometimes defendants send us crates of documents just to make us go through them all and slow down the process. But we’re used to this ploy and have the resources to deal with it.
Building Your Case Completely, Confidently
Pertinent documents are scanned, optimized, organized, analyzed, pasteurized and homogenized. The tornado of documents shown in the last poster eventually gets pared to the essence of your case: what a jury needs to know to award you compensation for your damages.
This is the poster that’s missing: a calm lawyer sitting confidently in court waiting to make a well researched, well-documented case for a deserving client. This, I like to think, is the true picture of what I do.
So, what do you think of the process?