The Legal Process
When you hire an attorney, the legal process begins. It involves the investigation, litigation, and resolution of your case. Many clients get worried when they hear the words “litigation” or “lawsuit.” However, in most situations, the defendants give us no choice but to file a suit against them. It is the only way we can obtain full and fair compensation for you or your loved one.
For over 30 years, thousands of clients have trusted us to guide them through the legal process and allowed us to successfully resolve their case. Litigation of a case always has risks, but we will do everything in our power to help you understand and succeed with your case.
What Type of Case Do I Have?
A single event case like a motor vehicle collision, premises liability claim, defective product case, or medical malpractice claim is considered a personal injury case. Your case will be individually worked up and litigated to a settlement or verdict.
A mass tort is most often a drug or device case that involves many people injured by a manufacturer’s misconduct. In mass tort, cases can be filed around the country. To maximize efficiency, a motion or petition will be filed requesting that all the cases are assigned to one judge. A Plaintiff’s Steering Committee (PSC) is appointed to lead the litigation. The appointed judge will then preside over the many cases, coordinate the discovery (exchange of information), and typically conduct some sample trials called “bellwether trials.” Oftentimes, these bellwether trials allow all the cases to be resolved through negotiations. However, this is NOT a class action. You have an individual case that is grouped with others for efficiency. A bellwether trial will not decide your case, but it is suggestive of an outcome.
Personal Injury Cases
- We listen to your story and understand the extent of your injuries and treatment needs.
- The Retainer Agreement is signed by both of us to enter into an attorney-client relationship.
- We have you sign authorizations that allow us to obtain medical records and investigative reports. Without these documents, we cannot continue to evaluate your case.
Investigation and Preparation of Case
- Identify insurance entities and policy limits
- Obtain all records and investigation
- Expert review and report
We take the investigation of your case very seriously. We obtain all evidence, including medical records, bills, accident reports, photos, accident reconstructions, and recorded statements of witnesses, friends, and family. We hire engineering or medical experts to help further understand how the incident occurred or how your injuries will affect you in the future. We often hire vocational experts to assist with job placement and testimony about ability to work. In very serious cases, we will retain a life care planner to help project all future costs.
Once we have concluded our investigation, we will prepare a demand brochure on your behalf, with a letter that lays out your entire case with all the legal and medical proof. With your permission and our direction, we will then send out a demand for compensation and engage in pre-suit negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company. However, many cases must be litigated because the initial offers are not acceptable.
Filing the Lawsuit
If pre-suit negotiations are unsuccessful, with your permission, we will file and serve a summons and complaint to initiate your lawsuit.
A lawsuit can be divided into three phases: Discovery, pre-trial, and trial.
- Interrogatories and requests for admission
- Document production
The discovery phase will involve an exchange of information between the parties. This includes expert reports, the defendant’s deposition, and your deposition. Don’t worry — we will prepare you and be with you every step of the way.
- Court motions
- Settlement OR trial preparation
While many cases are litigated, only a few truly need to be tried. The rest of the cases are resolved by settlement negotiations that mainly occur in mediation or before trial.
- Jury is chosen
- Opening statements made by both parties
- Witness testimony and cross-examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury deliberation and verdict
We are experienced trial lawyers and will prepare extensively for any trial. Once negotiations are no longer fruitful, we will meet with you and explain all aspects of a trial.
- Collecting after judgment
Once a case is tried, there may still be legal hurdles if there is an appeal. Although this is rare, it does still happen.
Mass Tort (Drug and Device Cases)
- Initial assessment of your claim and injuries
- Client fills out and returns Retainer Agreement, authorizations, and questionnaire on the details of their claim. Without these documents, we cannot continue to investigate your case.
We take the investigation of your case very seriously. We obtain all evidence, including medical literature, records, bills, wage information, and photos. We hire engineering or medical experts to help further understand how the incident occurred or how your injuries will affect you in the future.
- Ordering of medical records and other necessary documents to support your case
- Expert review and report
We hire engineering or medical experts to help further understand if your case meets the scientific criteria for success.
Filing the Lawsuit in the MDL
After all necessary documents and records are gathered and reviewed, the case is filed into the MDL or consolidated action. If there is no MDL formed at that point, most of the time the case is filed in the federal court in the client’s home state or where the defendant has their main offices.
- Document production
In most mass tort cases, there will be a plaintiff’s fact sheet that your legal assistant will help you fill out.
Selecting Bellwether Cases
- The Plaintiff’s Steering Committee (PSC) takes an inventory of all cases filed in the MDL
- The PSC sets the criteria for what cases would be good to try
- The PSC picks five to ten cases from the MDL for trial
- The PSC identifies expert witnesses to use at trial
- The Defense Steering Committee also picks cases
- The judge selects cases to be prepared for trial
Trying Bellwether Cases
Bellwether cases are typically tried in the federal court where the MDL has been established.
Generally, the order of cases tried alternates between a plaintiff pick case and a defense pick case. There is no limit to how many bellwethers are tried, but most of the time, three to six trials will lead to some type of resolution.
Global Settlement or Cases Remanded
There are two ways that a mass tort can be resolved:
A global settlement is reached between the PSC and the defendant for a specific amount of money. You will choose to opt in or out of this type of settlement based on our recommendation. An independent administrator approved by the court will award settlement amounts to plaintiffs based on the individual merits of their case. Your legal team will be instrumental in obtaining the highest award possible for you under the settlement guidelines.
An individual settlement is reached with each law firm. In that situation, we would meet with the defense attorney and see if we can negotiate a settlement for each of our cases. Once again, your case would not be settled without your permission.
If no settlement is reached, the rest of the cases filed in the MDL can be remanded to federal courts in the clients’ home states.