How can I have a successful Lawsuit in New York?
The first event in any lawsuit is the absolute worst. Something bad happens to you or a loved one, causing injury. The consequences of this injury cause you or your family to seek the services of an attorney. Therefore, a successful lawsuit is predicated upon this negative event in your life – something no one wants if it can be avoided. The event having happened, the next crucial decision becomes whom you turn to for expert legal support and service.
We feel very confident in advising you of the first step in making things better: finding our firm and contacting us. After you meet with us in a free consultation and retain us, then the litigation process – the lawsuit – actually begins.
Step 1 – Initial Interview: information-gathering and subsequent investigation
After you contact us by e-mail or phone, there will be a brief conversation, by the end of which we will be able to determine if we can assist you. Assuming we can help you, the next step is to schedule an appointment for an in-depth, initial interview. In this initial interview, you will meet with one of our firm’s partners, and a legal assistant. In a medical malpractice case, the meeting may also involve our on-staff medical expert. Our objective is to obtain enough information to determine if you have a viable claim, and thus to give you a better idea of the issues involved in your case. Please note that there is no charge for any of these consultations, including the in-depth interview. Please know that anything said in this and all subsequent conversations is completely confidential.
If we determine that you have a viable claim, you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement with our law firm. This document, once signed by you, officially hires us as your attorney. You will also be asked to sign release forms that authorize us to obtain your medical records. This important step ensures that we have access to all the information we need to conduct a full investigation and act effectively on your behalf in shaping a solid case.
Step 2 – Information-gathering continues
A lawsuit is an adversary process and a military metaphor is apt in some regards. While our advocacy for you is completely non-violent in nature, it is most definitely necessary to prepare for battle. This means information-gathering.
In a medical malpractice case we make sure to obtain and to have all the necessary medical records, pharmacy records, rehabilitation records and other information even before the official starting papers of the lawsuit are filed.
If there has been an automobile accident, we will obtain a copy of the police report, take our own photos of the accident scene, identify any witnesses, and often contact the witnesses and obtain statements from them. As in a medical malpractice case, if you have been to a doctor or a hospital, with your permission we will contact those parties to obtain copies of your medical records.
In an injury or accident case, your medical records are used to help us prove your injury. In a medical malpractice case, your records help us prove both your injury and the fault of the doctor, nurse, hospital or health care provider.
Often when a person is injured as a result of the negligence of another, they have suffered financial losses in addition to a physical injury. Our procedure in such a case is very thorough: we will obtain copies of the documents needed to prove your wage loss, medical expenses and other out-of-pocket losses.
While each case is different, at WCM&P they are all united by one important element: we are careful to establish the proper foundation to support the best possible outcome at trial. The groundwork begins with our very first interchange with you, and builds from there.
A word about staff communications…
During the investigation and prosecution of your case, it is not unusual for you to have contact with our legal secretaries or medical personnel. You can have every confidence that not only is each individual you speak with an experienced professional, but in addition, firm-affiliated staff members work at all times under the direct supervision of a partner in the firm.
WCM&P will do our absolute best to avoid delay, and move your case to as quick a resolution as possible. We understand better than anyone how stressful and difficult it is for our clients in the period between their injury and obtaining a recovery – and beyond. That is why we are driven by a commitment to working hard, working accurately, and working quickly for our clients.
Step 3 – Case evaluation and planning
The seasoned attorneys at WCMP understand that cases, like life itself, can be complicated. You can be sure that if we take your case, we believe in it – no matter how difficult or complex it may seem. Clients often want to know if they have a “good” case, or what their case is worth. Some lawyers may advise their clients their case is great, or worthy of lottery-level numbers. In truth, a case cannot be fully assessed until the proper groundwork has been done, and the attorney has a strong sense of how the trial is likely to go.
Early in the case, the defining issue can be summarized by one key question: does it seem likely we have a good chance of winning this case? Later, the analysis shifts to include the all-important question of process: how do we ensure that our chances of winning are maximized? Ultimately, the goal expands to how we can recover as much compensation as possible for the client. Each of these assessments requires specific action, strategy, and communication. Our systematic commitment to excellence ensures that our clients receive the very best support.
Step 4 – Commencing the lawsuit – (statute of limitations – warnings included)
Every case has a time limit. In fact, each kind of injury case has its own particular time limit. All cases must be brought before the applicable time limit expires. The time limit to bring a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations. Great care must be taken in determining the correct statute of limitations, because if the lawsuit is started too late – that is, the statute has expired — then the case will be dismissed.
However, many complicating factors can affect the determination of the time limit. For example, depending on who the defendant is (the person or entity, such as a hospital or clinic who you want to sue), the time limit can differ significantly. In some cases the time frame during which a case may be brought is shorter than usual. For example, when the person you want to sue is New York City (or a city hospital or clinic), the time limit is often one year and 90 days from the date of the negligence. In addition, where there is a “city” defendant, there is an additional time limit of only 90 days to file a Notice of Claim! This is a special filing requirement for cases against city and other governmental agencies or departments. There are similar time requirements for claims against the State of New York.
In a “regular” negligence case, such as an automobile case, the statute of limitations is generally thee years from the date of the negligence. In a medical malpractice case it is likely to be two years and six months from the date of the negligence. Each and every situation is meticulously reviewed by our experienced attorneys regarding its relevant statute of limitations.
CAUTION PLEASE. Fixing the point in time from which to begin measuring the statute of limitations is part of a proper legal analysis, not part of this website overview. We have included some of the general rules about time limits to provide you with greater context for understanding just how critical the time limit issue is. Most importantly, we want you to have this information so that you will not delay in getting appropriate legal advice. Please contact us right away so that we can get to work on your behalf.
If you have been told, or you believe, that your statute of limitations has expired, call us immediately. There are exceptions to many of these rules that might permit your case to go forward. Don’t give up without talking to us!
Step 5 – What happens during the lawsuit?
Real life law is quite different from how it is shown on TV. Unlike on TV, in real life the law tries to remove surprise and the drama of surprise. This happens in a process called “discovery,” during which each side gets to learn about the other’s case.
The giving of information to the other side in discovery is not voluntary, but rather is similar to the game Go Fish. If they don’t ask, we don’t have to tell, but if they do ask, then we must tell the truth.
The discovery phase is the longest phase of the lawsuit and involves the exchange of documents, statements, and ultimately, the intense questioning of each party (called a deposition). Rest assured, we carefully prepare and instruct our clients about what to expect when being questioned, so that nerves can be relaxed and performance enhanced.
We strive to keep our clients informed of important developments in the case as they occur. If, for example, the defendant reveals something significant or new during his or her testimony, then we want you to know. This is part of our team approach to prosecution — we understand that because you lived the events in question, you are also most likely to have valuable insights or additional information to share about whatever you are told.
In the next part of the case, we certify to the court that we are finished with discovery and ready for trial. Sometimes, as we wait for a trial date to be assigned, this can feel like a quiescent period to the client. In reality, we’re steadily gearing up and preparing for trial – photocopying records, subpoenaing witnesses, consulting with experts. Depending upon the location of the courthouse (e.g., Brooklyn or Queens), the waiting times can be very different. There will usually be at least one Pre-Trial Conference, attended by us on your behalf, where the final trial date will be set. Sometimes, during a pre-trial conference, a judge will act as a mediator and attempt to initiate settlement discussions between the two parties. Settlement negotiations may or may not commence at this time.
Step 6 – Settlement Negotiations or Trial?
Nobody likes to pay money they don’t have to, and nobody likes to overpay, either. Productive settlement negotiations only take place if the other side has been made aware that we are serious and ready to go to trial. Probably 90% of all cases ultimately get a settlement offer. Of the cases that get an offer, probably 70% of those will settle. The remainder will have their trials begin. Many cases will have the initial offer improve during the trial. In rare cases, the offer will be withdrawn after being rejected. Naturally, we want you to heed our recommendations and advice, but the decision to accept or reject a settlement offer will always be yours.
Taking a case to trial, no matter how solid, is always an inherently risky process. However, if we have taken your case, we fully intend to see the case through to the end, in its best possible presentation and always with your full knowledge and consent. The trial is easily the most nerve-wracking part of any lawsuit. Nothing else comes close other than testifying during discovery. We will be there with you at every step of the way, with our advice and counsel.
With a good case and good lawyers, ultimately, the decision of whether to settle the case or go to trial will be yours. You need never fear that you must cave in to an inadequate offer because you are afraid to fight it out. We are ready to go the distance with you and for you. Remember, we have done this successfully thousands of times before.
Step 7 – Closing Documents and Post Settlement Planning
For some firms, the case ends with the acceptance of an offer by the other side to settle and their filing of the papers necessary to effectuate said settlement.
For WCM&P, we are ready to do much more. This case closure stage is an integral part of what we view as the life-planning process – one that helps you move on with positive forward momentum. By the time resolution of your case is possible, whether through settlement or trial, we have become highly educated regarding your particular needs and expectations. At this point, to the extent that efficient financial planning can maximize the impact of your settlement or award, we will be ready to propose options and assist you in considering them. WCMP has provided many beneficial and uniquely tailored solutions to ensure that our clients get every possible advantage from their settlements.
Call or e-mail the injury accident attorneys in our Brooklyn, New York law firm. You pay no legal fees unless you actually have a damages recovery. Let’s move ahead. Together.
This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.
The personal injury law firm of Weinstein, Chase, Messinger & Peters, P.C. in Brooklyn, New York represents clients throughout the New York (NYC) metropolitan area, including the five boroughs: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens. The counties we serve include Suffolk County, Nassau County, Westchester County, and Putnam County.