Most of our clients have no previous experience going through a lawsuit beyond what they’ve seen on TV and in the movies, and that information is often not very close to real life. Not knowing what will happen, when it will happen, and how it will happen can add an unnecessary layer of stress in what is already a difficult time. The information below aims to break down the process and explain what each step will look like, so you can feel a little more at ease.
Our Initial Contact
Thanks for signing your contract with JJC Law. Below is a list of what you can expect from us. If you feel we are not living up to these expectations, at any point, please let us know.
When you contact JJC Law, the first thing we do is get your side of the story and work with you to assemble all the documents that will help us prove it. You might think, the truth is the truth, and as long as you’re honest, you have nothing to worry about. However, what if the other side is not honest? The real issue is what we can prove, and that is why we start on day 1 by gathering all the information to be sure we are ready for anything.
At our first meeting, you will be asked to sign a contract and some medical release forms. The contract is self-explanatory – we need it to represent you. The medical release forms will allow us to order your medical records immediately and begin assembling your damages case.
At this point, you are probably wondering what our fees are. Before we discuss fees, you should understand a few things. If you are a personal injury client, chances are, you will sign a Contingency Fee contract. A contingency fee contract is one where the attorney fronts all the costs – such as medical treatment, court costs, deposition costs, and other costs needed to get the case to trial. As the client, you do not come out of pocket for most expenses.
In return, on a contingency fee contract, the lawyer is paid only out of a settlement or judgment he achieves for the client. The contract spells out the various percentages the attorney is entitled to. You have no obligation for costs or fees if there is no recovery in a standard contingency fee contract.
If you are a billable client, you will be asked to put down a retainer for services rendered. Attorney fees and costs will be paid out of that retainer. Once the retainer amount is spent, you will be asked to replenish it. Any retainer funds not spent will be refunded to the client.
Our 10 Promises to You – What you can Expect
- You can expect us to devote the time and resources necessary to achieve the best outcome possible for your case.
- You can expect us to assist you with making arrangements for medical treatment that you may need.
- You can expect us to answer your questions along the way. Some of those questions may be answered here already.
- You can expect us to respond to your questions and concerns within 24 hours. Why 24 hours? When we work on your case, we work only on your case. We do not accept interruptions from outside sources while we attempt to draft pleadings, discuss your treatment with doctors, or work toward settling your case. Your case deserves our focus, and you can expect to receive it. This might mean that we do not respond to questions you consider simple or basic immediately. This does not mean we are not working or we do not care; as a firm, we choose to dedicate our efforts to those activities that will maximize the value of your case above all else.
- You can expect us to reach out if we feel you are not doing your part. For instance, if a doctor believes a certain treatment is necessary for your injuries, but you regularly miss that treatment, we will reach out to discuss the importance of following your doctor’s orders.
- You can expect not to be pressured by us to undergo treatment you do not need. We will always defer to your doctor, and the decision on various treatments is a conversation to be had with him or her. While we can provide you information on various treatments, we expect you to make all treatment decisions based on what you and your doctor believe is medically appropriate.
- You can expect us to be different, different from other lawyers you’ve come across, different from lawyers who heavily advertise, and different from your expectations.
- You can expect us to listen – if you ever feel we are not meeting your expectations, and you choose to do us the courtesy of informing us where we fell short, you can expect us to listen and react.
- You can expect us to care – we do not have 1,000 clients, and we do not accept every case that walks in the door. If we’ve taken your case, it’s because it meets our strict criteria, and we hope to be able to make a difference in your life.
- You can expect us to act ethically, not take shortcuts, and to treat opposing attorneys, witnesses and adjusters with respect… and to demand no less of them when it comes to you.
You Have a Doctor’s Appointment
We’ve reached out to remind you of an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Why do we do this? Simply put, missing doctor’s visits, skipping physical therapy, and no-showing for any medical appointment is a great way to lose your case.
When we stand in front of the jury or talk to the adjuster or defense counsel, we want to tell them about all the efforts you have made to get better. We want to show them each visit, each appointment, each hour invested in your recovery.
When we stand in front of the jury, assuming your case is tried, the defense will want to tell the jury about the times you did not make efforts to get better. The defense may attempt to show you were not really hurt, or you did not really care about “mitigating your damages,” you were just in it for the money. The first thing they will do is pull out your medical records and show all your missed appointments. Don’t give them that opportunity.
If something comes up, call ahead and reschedule your appointment. If the time you are going to physical therapy does not work, change it. If the clinic you’re receiving treatment at is too far away, ask us for a referral to somewhere closer. You are free to receive treatment from medical providers of your choice, but we are also able to assist you in finding providers. We just want you to make sure you’re getting all the treatment you need. If you’re having any issues with making your treatment, let us know right away so we can find a solution.
We Have Filed Suit
We have filed a lawsuit in your case. If we have an email on file, we should have emailed you a copy. If you have not received it, let us know please.
After we open your case, we attempt to make contact with the other side, usually an insurance adjuster, immediately. Most cases settle, but most complicated cases will never reach their full value until a lawsuit is filed. This is because insurance companies – and some lawyers – are willing to settle your case quickly for 50 cents on the dollar. From the lawyer’s perspective, while they receive only half the fee, they do almost none of the work.
Our philosophy is the opposite: I always do the work so the insurance company knows it will never get away with paying our clients half of what their case is worth. We’ll make every effort to settle your case as quickly and efficiently as possible, but we’ll never recommend a settlement to you that we don’t believe in.
This is a good time to mention the inevitable disclaimer: We cannot make you any promises, nor can any other lawyer. If our firm accepts your case, it is because we believe in it, and we believe we will be able to recover for you. But in law as in life, nothing is 100% certain. We cannot guarantee you will receive a certain sum of money or a certain result, and neither can anyone else. What we can tell you is that we will work our hardest to assure the best result possible for you.
We file suit in more than half of our cases. In fact, in most serious cases, it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit. This is in part because Louisiana has a short statute of limitations, or prescriptive period, as we call it here. In most cases, we have only one year from the date your incident occurred to file a lawsuit, and we rarely wait till the last day. This is because we do not want to take any risk that your case will be dismissed on some technical or procedural ground we could not foresee. Normally, we will file suit at least 60 days before the statute of limitations on your case runs.
This does not mean your case will never settle. Our firm tries cases, and if it becomes necessary to bring yours before a judge or jury, we have no problem doing so. However, the reality is that most cases still settle, even after a lawsuit is filed.
The best way to get your case in position to settle is to prepare it for trial. While this sounds like a contradiction, the fact remains that lawyers who do not properly prepare their cases receive smaller settlement values. Therefore, while our goal remains to get the best settlement possible for you, our focus will shift to preparing your case for trial, because that is the only way to get that maximum value.
We need your assistance to move your case along efficiently. We will contact you to assist us with answering written discovery. We will contact you to set a time for your deposition to be taken, and a time or times to meet with us to prepare for your deposition. If you miss our call or text, please return it at your earliest convenience. This allows us to get your meetings scheduled as quickly as possible and move your case along. Rarely do cases settle without the plaintiff’s deposition being taken or the plaintiff fully answering written discovery.
We will be there with you to guide you each step of the way, but we need your assistance and cooperation in returning our calls and scheduling with us promptly.
Your Deposition Has Been Set
For starters, what is a deposition? Maybe you’ve been involved in litigation before, and maybe you have not, so let’s start there. A deposition is a question-and-answer session, under oath, just like if you were in court. You’ll be answering the questions of the defense lawyer. This may sound intimidating, but it’s a part of every case, and we will have you well prepared for it.
If the insurance company would not pay what your case is worth, we will file suit and begin preparing the case for trial. One thing our office does on nearly every case is to serve discovery requests with the lawsuit. Discovery requests are written questions that must be answered by the other side. If we send them out with the lawsuit, we typically get their answers much quicker. You will also receive a set of discovery requests. Our office will work with you to answer those and insert objections if necessary.
Once written discovery is complete, depositions will begin. When we meet, we’ll discuss the rules of depositions, we’ll talk about how to answer questions, and we’ll review portions of your file to prepare. While there are many rules, one stands out among all the others: Tell the truth.
The biggest favor you can do for the defense in your case is to lie at your deposition. When you show up in court, you can rest assured the jury will hear about it repeatedly. They will tell the jury some version of “how can you trust this person to tell the truth about his or her case when they lied about _______”. You can insert anything in that blank and take it to the bank – that is what will happen.
So Rule #1 in a deposition is honesty, and we’ll discuss this, along with your other file materials and how to answer some of the misleading or “gotcha” questions you might hear. You may be nervous about your deposition now, but by the time it rolls around, we will have you ready for it.
We Have a Trial Date
Many clients want to know how trial works. They’ve seen trials on TV and in movies, and they have a certain idea of what’s going to happen. The truth is – like many things – fiction is more exciting than reality. Trial is a drawn-out process. Rarely do the parties even put their first witness on in the first day of trial. Normally, day 1 is reserved for a process called “Voir Dire,” where a jury is selected, and then maybe opening statements.
During Voir Dire, lawyers from each side are allowed to ask questions of prospective jurors to attempt to determine which jurors would be good for the case. You will also see lawyers on both sides introduce certain themes or concepts that may come up during the case. For instance, if the defendant is a drunk driver who crashed into another vehicle injuring the plaintiff, then you may hear both attorneys talk about drunk driving and personal responsibility with the prospective jurors.
After both sides have had an opportunity to talk to the prospective jurors, each side gets to exercise “challenges” to certain jurors. This will happen outside the earshot of the jury, and you will likely watch this process play out from your seat. Once those challenges have been exercised, some jurors will be excused and some will be seated as members of your jury.
This process may play out over the course of several rounds, where new prospective jurors sit down in the jury box and are asked many of the same questions. This process can take hours, and your job during the process is to sit back and relax. You are also free to take notes on anything you see that you believe might be important.
Once the jury is selected, the Court will either adjourn for the day and instruct the parties what time to appear the following day, conduct some other business with the attorneys (like pre-trial motions and jury charges), or go right into opening statements.
Opening statements are when the lawyers get to tell the jury about the evidence they plan to put on. For instance, we may tell the jury about what the defendant did not wrong, how it hurt you, and how we plan to prove that your injuries are related to the defendant’s conduct. Chances are, we will spend more time talking about the defendant than you. This is not because we don’t think you’re a great client – studies simply show that focusing on the defendant’s fault is more important at the outset.
Once both parties have done their opening statements, we start putting on witnesses. This is the part you have probably seen on TV. We “call” a witness to the stand, we ask questions, and then the defense gets to ask questions of that witness. This process will normally go on for days, where we get to call all of our witnesses and discuss all of our documents with them, and the defendants get their turn to do the same.
Once the evidence presentation is complete, the final step is the closing statement. We each get one more chance to talk to the jury about our case. At this point, we will usually ask the jury to make a specific award to you, in dollars and cents. We’ll reiterate what we believe the defendants did wrong, and how it caused your injuries. We’ll talk about the impacts of the case. We’ll leave the jury with what we feel is most important.
And then we will wait. The jury will deliberate. This process usually takes hours, but it can take days. Eventually, the judge will let us know that the jury has reached a verdict. We will all return to the courtroom, stand, and listen while the jury reads the verdict. At this point, if we have done everything we can do and tried our best case possible, we can hope the jury has understood us and is willing to fully compensate you, our client, for your losses.
Post-Trial Motions and Appeals
After the trial ends, the case is mostly over, but parties will seek relief from the judge on certain post-trial matters. If we won, there is a good chance the defense lawyer will ask the judge to overturn the result. We’ll fight this – all the prep work we have done and all the trial work over the past week has also been geared to dealing with these post-trial motions. If the case is appealed, we’ll talk about that too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
After Judgement or Settlement
If we have agreed to settle your case or a jury has come back and awarded you money, the next steps might seem straightforward. However, before you receive a check, we must assure all costs – doctor bills, attorney fees, court reporters – and other costs are paid. It normally takes 30 days to receive a check from the insurance company, although sometimes things move more quickly. You will also be asked to sign documents that officially end the case in exchange for the sum of money you are receiving. You will likely come to the office twice during this time, once to sign the check and the release, and another time to pick up your check and the settlement statement. The settlement statement will show you where every dollar was spent on your case and give you an exact calculation for attorney fees and amounts due the client.
We’ve Finished Your Case
First of all, we hope you’re pleased. If you’re not, let’s talk. Please do us the courtesy of reaching out to us now. It is more important to us than anything else that you’re pleased with the quality of service you received. When we miss the mark, you do us a great favor by letting us know. “Fine” is not fine – if something did not work right, we’re interested in hearing about it.
If you are happy with our services, we’d be honored if you left a review. You won’t see us on TV, and we don’t spend inordinate amounts of money to cast a wide net – we only want to represent certain clients, clients like you. So if you think we have done a good job, we’d be honored if you left a google review here.