THE CIVIL LITIGATION PROCESS
Disputes arising from accidents and personal injuries, the termination of employment, the probate of estates, and business conflicts, are resolved through the civil litigation process. We represent parties to these types of dispute and help them to win their cases.
A dispute begins with a notice of claim served upon an adverse party. A notice of claim begins a formal process of a dispute, in which the parties are advised of the intention of an aggrieved person to make a claim for money damages against others. Insurance companies are identified notified, claims personnel respond, and the claimant’s lawyer becomes the point person for all communications and negotiations.
Either before or during the claims process, the lawyer conducts and directs an investigation into all the facts and information necessary for the claim. Who are the witnesses? What documents show the injuries and losses? Can photographs be recovered, witnesses interviewed, electronic communications preserved? Telephone messages and calls, text messages, social media content, all require special attention. Medical information is gathered. Wage documents are frequently important. The investigation process is vital to the successful prosecution of any lawsuit or legal claim.
Once a lawsuit is commenced, the process of pretrial discovery begins. The materials gathered during the investigation are reviewed to determine what must be produced in support of a claim or defense. How is the claim best positioned for trial? Evidence in support of the claim is produced to the other side. Evidence in the possession of the other side must be pursued. Depositions of parties and witnesses are frequently conducted, written interrogatories are propounded and answered, and documents are requested and produced. The process of pretrial discovery, which is essential to the successful presentation of the case at trial, is conducted according to the rules of the court, and the trial lawyer must be fully familiar with those rules.
At any point along this process, settlement of lawsuits and claims may be considered. The goal of the process is to resolve the matter, and to allow the parties to move on with their lives and businesses. Therefore, settlement as an alternative to the litigation process should always be considered. Is there overlap between the positions of the parties, such that a resolution may be reached by agreement? If settlement seems out of reach, will a mediation session, with the assistance of a neutral mediator, help the parties reach agreement? Without compromising their essential demands, the parties may nevertheless be able to put an end to the litigation by reach an agreement for the payment of money adequate to compensate an injured party. A settlement has the benefits of shortening the dispute resolution process, and of providing certainty to the terms of the resolution.
Civil lawsuits are ultimately decided at trial by a judge and jury in a courtroom. The entire process of claims, investigations and discovery are conducted with the trial in mind. Most cases are resolved by settlement, but trials are sometimes necessary. In fact, a trial is the only resort if agreement cannot be reached, and the possibility of trial is the greatest incentive toward settlement. A trial is the resolution of a dispute by impartial persons, consisting of the judge and jury. The trial must be thoroughly familiar and experienced with trial procedure, the rules of evidence, the methods of introducing evidence before the court, methods of argument and persuasion, and the ways to place his or her client’s best case before the decision-maker.
When a case goes through trial, there are winners and losers. Resolution of a case at trial almost always leaves someone dissatisfied. Parties who are unhappy with the result may identify aspects of the process which they consider to be unfair or legally improper. The appellate lawyer must be able to examine the trial record, and to determine whether there are defects in the trial proceedings that might result in a change in the result. Specific laws govern the prosecution and decision of an appeal. The small number of civil cases that do proceed through appeal must be analyzed, briefed and argued according to the substantive and procedural rules that apply to appeals.
BUSINESS LAW COUNSELING AND LITIGATION
Legal aspects of business are as varied as the types of business conducted in our community. Legal counseling is necessary and valuable for advisory and precautionary purposes, to prevent conflict from arising.
If disputes arise with other businesses, customers or employees, legal advice is invaluable and necessary to contain and resolve them. We provide counseling and litigation services to a wide variety of businesses at competitive rates, to allow our clients to focus on their business objectives and to save money.