At The Klein Law Group, P.C., in New York City, many of our clients have questions about the personal injury claim process. We offer the following information to help you know what to expect. If you don't find an answer to your question here, please contact us. We are accessible and attentive, and you can always call us with questions.
A. Preliminary interview: Even if you have been referred to us by a past client, when you first meet us to determine whether to hire our firm, we are strangers to each other. Over the course of your case, we will become friends, and often as close as family – and we have your future in our hands, a responsibility of the utmost importance. So we encourage you to ask as many questions about our experience and training, and about your case, as you can think of. You will meet our staff and see our offices, and you will interview us.
B. Intake and investigation: During the intake phase, you will tell us all of the details of your accident, and we will interview you to make certain that we make a record of every legally significant fact. A thorough, consistent and factually accurate description of your accident is perhaps the most important element of your lawsuit, because it will form the basis of our initial complaint and our opening and closing arguments at trial. It is the story of how someone else's negligence changed your life and forms the basis of our demand for compensation and justice. At intake, we will also explain the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and our strategy for maximizing the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses. You will hear our initial warning against using Facebook and other social media while your case is in progress, and we will give you several means of contacting us, seven days a week, if you have a sudden problem or emergency.
We will then begin the investigation phase. We will often need to photograph the place of the accident or the scaffolding, ladders or other material that was involved. Our experienced investigators also will interview possible witnesses, identify property owners and track down fly-by-night contractors.
C. Filing of a summons and complaint: At this stage, you are officially a personal injury claimant and plaintiff. The party you are suing is known as the defendant. By filing the summons and complaint, you are letting both the court and the defendant know the harm that was caused to you and that you expect to be fully compensated for your lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. In many cases, your spouse and children will also have claims for the losses they suffer as the result of your injuries.
D. Evidence gathering and discovery: Here, we begin the process of completing your file. Witness statements, insurance policies, inspection reports and, especially, medical records and reports are all documents that will become evidence to use as we head toward trial and conduct negotiations. In the discovery phase, both sides make demands for certain evidence from the other side. When there is a dispute and one side refuses to turn over evidence, a judge will decide whether it must be turned over.
E. Examinations before trial: At this stage, all parties testify under oath, but not in court and not before a jury. The examination before trial (EBT) is usually taken in lawyers' offices. All testimony is recorded. This is a key stage because the statements made here give each side a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses in the opponent's case. The EBT can result in a case being settled and is often a significant factor during negotiations. It is also used in trial as a way of making sure that statements remain consistent and accurate. Because of the significance of the EBT, we will spend many hours preparing you for your testimony. Some of our clients are nervous about being questioned by lawyers. However, we have found that with enough practice, our clients typically become confident and self-assured. If necessary, we will give you several extra appointments until you feel comfortable being questioned by lawyers.
F. Mediation and negotiation: At any time during the litigation of your case, both mediation and negotiation can occur. Most mediations our office participates in are nonbinding, so if unsuccessful, your case will continue toward trial. Negotiation can take place at any time during your litigation, whereas a mediation can be scheduled by the court handling your case. If all parties agree, mediation can also be scheduled by a private mediation company. It is often said that a lawsuit is like war. If this is true in your case, we will treat the negotiation stage like a battleground. Every case is different, and throughout the process of investigation, EBT and discovery, our expectations will often change. However, we expect to produce the maximum result for each and every one of our clients.
G. Trial: Your evidence is complete, your EBTs have been transcribed, and you and your witnesses are prepared to testify. It is time for trial. Now, a jury of ordinary citizens will hear all about your accident, including the physical and psychological damage you have suffered and may continue to suffer. We put great care into preparing opening and closing statements for the jury. The jury has your future in its hands, and we want to make certain that it understands clearly and completely why you are legally entitled to win your case and why you must be awarded the maximum compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering. Witnesses will testify, and we may ask experts to appear as well. Medical specialists, accident reconstruction scientists and experts in planning lifetime medical requirements are among the sort of witnesses who may appear on your behalf.
H. Settlement/verdict: Everyone has heard the term "damages," but few understand the great variety of losses that determine what your damages may be. Losses may include your physical injuries, but they can also include how your injuries affect the quality of your life. Lost wages, lost fringe benefits and your prognosis all factor into your damages and, ultimately, the amount you win at trial or through negotiation. A settlement is a set amount of money and the payment is guaranteed. The money awarded by verdict is not guaranteed. Both plaintiffs and defendants have the option of appealing a verdict on trial, and that appeal can result in the verdict amount eventually being reduced or increased.
I. What to do with your money: Particularly with our clients whose cases end in verdicts or settlements of more than $1 million or multiple millions, we are concerned that clients who are not accustomed to handling very large sums of money are secure and protected in their future, long after their cases are finished. For many clients, we suggest, arrange and even negotiate structures or annuities. These are special financial plans that pay specified amounts over time and earn interest for you.
Contact Our NYC Personal Injury Attorneys
To learn more about the stages of a personal injury claim, call The Klein Law Group, P.C., or contact us online. We offer free consultations, and we collect no fees unless we are successful in recovering benefits on your behalf.
Our international staff can translate in Polish, Russian, Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese).