The Lawyers at SGKLegal have extensive experience with personal injury matters. No matter how hard you try, you cannot always protect yourself from harm. We can assist you in obtaining appropriate damages if you should get injured because of someone else’s actions.
We will request information about the location of where your accident took place, the date of the accident, the general nature of your injuries, and your personal background. We will prepare a Retainer Agreement, which “hires” us to represent you, and we will ask you to sign a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization.
You are urged to be frank, candid, and absolutely honest throughout the entire case. Please confide in us. Do not hold anything details back, no matter how trivial they may seem to you. Let us decide the relevance of those details to support your case.
We will investigate the incident, and obtain information about the accident and witnesses. We will contact your medical providers and obtain your medical records. It typically takes six to twelve months to gather all of the above information. If you are still being treated for your injuries, it may even take longer. Once we receive your records, we will contact the adverse party to see if we can resolve your matter before initiating a lawsuit. It is important not to settle a case too quickly as the full effects of your injuries may not be apparent for a year or even more. Under New Jersey law, you must file a lawsuit within two years after your accident. Therefore, it may sometimes be necessary to file a lawsuit before all your treatment is complete.
The insurance company for the other party is entitled to know the nature and extent of the injuries you sustained. This means that we must provide medical information concerning the nature and extent of your injuries to the insurance company. The company will not settle your case unless it knows what it is paying for. We must substantiate your claims with documented evidence.
We must inform you of any offer in settlement, and discuss it with you. In the event that we cannot reach a fair settlement, we will consider the advantages and disadvantages of filing a lawsuit. A lawsuit is filed by preparing a document called a Complaint, which is then filed with the Court. Once filed, it is served to the defendant, who in most cases forwards the Complaint to his or her insurance company. The insurance company hires an attorney, and these attorneys file an Answer to the Complaint.
After the suit has been filed, both parties have the right to engage in discovery. Discovery generally consists of interrogatories (written questions and answers), requests for documents and information, and depositions (oral questions and answers under oath). In matters involving injuries, it is likely that both sides will require medical examinations by experts, who will then prepare a report regarding their conclusions about the nature and extent of your injuries, and whether they were caused by the accident.
There are no secrets in cases of this kind. Insurance companies have a nationwide index system that will show if you have made a claim for other injuries or accidents in the past. In appropriate cases, both sides may hire investigators. Be assured the defense attorney and insurance company will take appropriate steps to investigate your case to determine the validity of your claim.
There may be court hearings on these matters, some technicalities may have to be ironed out, and there may be several hearings before the case is put on the trial list. Your case may also be listed for an arbitration hearing and/or a settlement conference. If the case is not settled during this stage, it generally takes from 12 to 24 months from the date that the suit is filed to get a trial date.
Throughout this period of time, we continually evaluate your case and maintain contact with the other attorneys or the insurance company, to determine if we will be able to settle your lawsuit. We are obligated to inform you of any offers to settle your case, and to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of accepting the offer or continuing with your lawsuit.
Just as you would not buy a house sight unseen—neither would the insurance company be willing to settle your case without thoroughly reviewing. A jury could not make a fair award unless they have all of the detailed evidence presented. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that we have your fullest cooperation in helping to gather the evidence. It is important that you update your lawyer regarding your medical condition, treating doctors, hospitalizations, x-rays, tests, and medical bills. We need thorough financial records tracking costs related to your case; we need receipts, canceled checks, bills and other memoranda to prove all of your losses and expenses. The insurance company may apply for a court order to enable them to review your income tax returns for the past several years to prove or disprove your claim of lost earnings, or how much money you claim that you were making at the time of the accident. It may be necessary that you obtain your tax returns for the last three or four years.
Most cases settle before trial; however, some do go to trial. Three weeks leading up to the trial, we will initiate a detailed review to be fully prepared. The witnesses and each of the doctors are contacted as to their availability to appear in court and all of the medical bills and other expenses are brought up to date. Detailed conferences are held with the client. We research applicable law for the judge’s use at trial. What is expected of you at trial will be explained to you in detail. Your case will be tried before a Superior Court judge, and a jury of six citizens. The jury is made up of a randomly picked diverse group of people. The judge is there to decide matters of law and to instruct the jury about the law. The jury’s role is to hear all of the testimony and then determine who is right and who is wrong. The jury also decides the amount of damages to award. The jury system is fair and honest; a right each and every American citizen should be proud to be a part of.
Written by Larry Kroll, Attorney At Law, May 2016