What Does Litigation Mean in an Injury Case?
In any Sacramento personal injury case, both parties want to settle the matter as quickly as possible. The majority of personal injury claims never make it past settlement negotiations after the initial complaint. The longer the case lasts, the more each side will have to spend in attorney’s fees, court filing fees, and other expenses. “Litigation” refers to taking a case to trial when settlement negotiations prove fruitless, and there are several elements of litigation that everyone should know.
Important Elements of Litigation To Know and Understand
Generally, the evidence is pretty straightforward. Each side of a lawsuit will need to provide copies of all their documentation and evidence to each other before trial and provide each other with answers to specific questions and other requests for information. This “discovery” process helps to ensure a fair trial in which both sides have access to all pertinent evidence.
Discovery typically only takes place if settlement negotiations fail. Once discovery begins, each party has the right to subpoena witnesses for depositions or hearings. Depositions taken during discovery enter into evidence for the case, and both parties will have the option of performing depositions for each other’s witnesses.
Depending on the specific elements of a case, either side may choose to file certain motions with the court. A motion is a request based on special circumstances. If either side of a personal injury case files a motion for permanent or temporary relief pending the result of a case, the case is in litigation.
Expert Witness Testimony
Many personal injury claims hinge on the testimony of expert witnesses. An expert witness is a person who can provide a reliable professional opinion on a legal matter. For example, if a plaintiff developed cancer due to exposure to harmful radiation, an expert witness with a background in oncology or cancer research could explain to the court how the plaintiff’s claim holds up based on his or her medical records. If a plaintiff experienced psychological trauma after an injury, an expert witness with a background in psychotherapy may be able to shed light on the plaintiff’s condition and its most likely source.
Each side in an injury case will have the opportunity to contact expert witnesses and record their testimonies for the record. If the case proceeds to trial, those expert witnesses may need to testify in court as to their professional opinions on the facts of the case and the plaintiff’s damages. If either side has retained expert witnesses, the case is in litigation.
Pre-Trial Hearings and Trial Preparation
Before your case proceeds to the actual trial phase, both sides will have the opportunity to prepare witnesses to testify, perform depositions, enter filings with the court, and otherwise prepare for the trial phase of litigation.
Trial. The Final Phase of Litigation
The final phase of litigation is the trial. While the ultimate goal of most personal injury claims is to settle them as quickly as possible, this isn’t always feasible or acceptable for both parties. The trial phase will include a judge who presides over the trial and a jury to render a final Order or Judgment based on the facts reviewed during the trial. The attorneys on each side of the case will present their evidence in whatever light most supports their arguments and the jury will determine the final result. Expert witnesses and other witnesses who offered written testimony during settlement negotiations and pre-trial hearings will often need to reappear for the trial to offer their statements in person and on the record.
If you or a loved one expects to go through the litigation process any time soon for a personal injury claim, a reliable and experienced Sacramento personal injury attorney will be your best resource if you want to have some idea of what to expect. Your attorney will advise you of the merits of your case and whether or not the potential result would justify the expense of filing the claim. A good attorney will also let you know whether a claim is likely to reach litigation, but there is no way to reliably predict how long litigation can last for any given case.