What Are the Stages of Litigating a Motor Vehicle Accident Case?
May 12, 2022
So you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by another person and now you are sitting there asking what do I do next and what are the steps of the entire process? Although there is no exact outline on what steps are to be taken when, there are basic stages that should be completed throughout the litigation to have a successful outcome. These stages can be quite overwhelming for an accident victim so that is why it is so important to get the proper attorneys to help you navigate the process. At the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. we have been helping people injured in motor vehicle accidents throughout New York, including Westchester County, Bronx County, Queens County, Putnam County, Rockland County and all other counties to successfully traverse through the stages of a motor vehicle accident.
So what are these stages:
1. Pre-litigation Stage
The word litigation basically means the commencement and continuation of an actual legal lawsuit to its conclusion. This is sometimes confusing to our clients as they don’t understand that the entire process is not a litigation per se. In fact the most important stage to any motor vehicle accident case is actually the pre-litigation stage. Many attorneys may tell their clients that pre-litigation is not important and that we should just start a law suit right away so we can get the ball rolling.
At the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. we vehemently disagree with any attorney that makes such assertions. Getting the ball rolling without preparing properly for a litigation can be devastating. During pre-litigation the first thing that should be done is properly investigating the accident and interviewing any witnesses to the accident. There are also time sensitive documents that need to be filed with insurance companies.
Most importantly an attorney needs to review his client’s medical records to determine the extent of the injuries and how to properly proceed with the matter to be most successful for their clients. Finally, before starting a formal law suit it is usually a good idea to engage an insurance company in possible settlement discussions to see if a lawsuit is avoidable for all parties. Can these things all be done during litigation.
The quick answer is of course, but one must ask themselves why would an attorney advise to start a lawsuit without having all the facts. Would a student go into an exam without having studied the material that would be on the exam? Also, would a client be happy to know that an attorney spent the high costs of litigation when the matter could have been settled prior to the law suit being filed? As Attorneys representing the interests of clients from Briarcliff Manor, Ossining, White Plains, Yonkers and all other towns of Westchester County and the State of New York we make sure to get as much compensation as we can for our client’s without taking unnecessary costs out of their pockets on a case that all parties could agree on a settlement. Further, in matters that cannot be settled we make sure to have fully investigated and prepared for the next stage…
2. Commencing a Law Suit/Initial Discovery Stage
In the cases where a pre-litigation settlement is not a possibility the next stage is the actual commencement of a lawsuit. In essence this means the filing of a Summons and Complaint with the proper court and then the subsequent service of that Summons and Complaint upon the proper defendant(s). In a motor vehicle accident case the defendant(s), as long as they are properly insured, will then forward such Summons and Complaint to their insurance company who in turn will send it to their legal counsel. Such legal counsel will then serve upon the counsel for plaintiff an Answer to the Complaint.
Usually, at the same time an Answer is served the counsel for the defendant(s) will also serve upon the attorney for the plaintiff a Demand for a Bill of Particulars and Demand for Discovery. Unless one of the parties needs to get the court involved at this point (which is usually unlikely), counsel for plaintiff will comply with defense counsel’s demands for initial discovery. Counsel for plaintiff will respond with a Bill of Particulars, which is basically answering some initial questions about what the plaintiff is actually claiming and they will also provide initial discovery responses which usually include authorizations for medical and employment records as well as photos of the injuries, photos and car repair invoices for the automobiles involved in the accident and other initial discovery documents.
At the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. at such time we will also make our own initial demands from the defendant(s) for initial discovery. In properly following these steps of the initial litigation stage the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. has been successful in representing and getting optimal monetary satisfaction for its motor vehicle accident clients. All of the initial discovery has now been completed…
3. Discovery Stage
What’s next? Time to get the courts involved. One of the parties, usually the plaintiff’s attorney, will file a Request for Judicial Intervention and ask the court to set the matter down for what is known as a Preliminary Conference.
At this Preliminary Conference the attorneys from both sides will meet with a Judge or appointed court official and set up a schedule of when to complete the remaining discovery. Amongst other things such schedule will set down deposition dates for both the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) to provide their testimony about how the accident occurred. It will also set down a time on when a plaintiff is attend a medical exam by a doctor hired by defendant to examine them for the injuries they are claiming occurred in the accident. This conference will also set down other important dates for the parties to continue with discovery. The court will then set down a date for the attorneys to return for an additional conference, this conference is usually called a compliance conference, although different courts/judges use different terms.
Basically when the attorneys return for this conference it is to tell the court what the parties were able to comply with from the Preliminary Conference Order and what they were not. There are always circumstances when certain dates from the Preliminary Conference could not be followed and that is why the court has these compliance conferences. This will allow the court to address what discovery has not been completed and order new dates for such to be completed. Depending on the venue and circumstances the court may schedule additional compliance conferences until all discovery has been completed and then…
4. Pre-Trial Stage
The court will now direct the attorney for the plaintiff to file their Note Of Issue which is basically telling the court the parties are ready for a Trial and the plaintiff would like their matter put on the trial calendar. The court will then call all parties in for another conference. Again depending on the court/judge this conference will go by different names but it is basically a settlement conference. The judge or court official will make an attempt at this conference to see if they could help mitigate a settlement without the matter having to proceed to trial.
It is the opinion of the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, from Briarcliff Manor, NY, that it is of vital importance to be prepared for this conference. If the court sees that you are taking this seriously they will take it more seriously and try and see if a settlement is possible. As it is well known trials can be unpredictable so if a settlement that is acceptable to our client can be had we will do everything in our power to make this a success for them. If the court sees that you are taking this as an important process they can continue to schedule additional settlement conferences to see if they can help the litigation come to a conclusion via settlement. If not, then…
5. Trial Stage
A trial date will be set. The attorneys will take care of all of their trial subpoenas and record retrieval and all the parties will come to the court on the date of the trial. Jury selection will be done and then all parties will meet with the trial judge to set up a schedule for the trial that will include the order of witness testimony. The jury will be informed of the basic rules of the trial and the trail will proceed accordingly. There will be opening arguments from both sides and then plaintiff will present their case first and then after the plaintiff rests the defendant will present their case.
There will then be closing statements from both sides and then the Judge will direct the jurors on what rules they must follow when the deliberate the matter. The jury will then deliberate and once done will present their decision to the court. It is important to note that during these deliberations it is a good time for the opposing attorneys to talk one last time about settlement. If they cannot settle then the jury gives their decision and the case is over…OR IS IT….
6. Post Trial Stage
Due to television, movies and the media most people see a deliberation of a jury as the end of the litigation. It is not so simple as that. Although the Jury verdict is the most important aspect of any litigation many times there are post judgment motions and/or appeals that take place that will continue the litigation beyond the trail stage. We make sure to keep our clients informed of this stage from the beginning so they are not surprised that the matter may continue after an actual trial.
In conclusion, the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein have represented numerous motor vehicle accident victims in all municipalities of New York, including but not limited to Ossining, Mt. Kisco, Peekskill, Yonkers and White Plains. We have found that the most success for these clients come when they are aware of all the stages of a litigation. Even more so, we have found that to get these clients fully compensated it is imperative for full preparation for each of the stages mentioned above and to accomplish such we find it is important to keep our clients actively involved in the process. If you are a motor vehicle accident victim in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Bronx, Queens or any other venue of New York feel free to contact the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. today for a free consultation.