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So the insurance company won’t settle your claim for a fair and reasonable amount. We wish we could say this was a rare occurrence but unfortunately it is all too common.
After consulting with you experienced injury attorney such as one from GRL Law, you have decided that the best course of action is to file suit against the individual responsible for your injuries. But what does this consist of? How does a lawsuit work? What will happen? While all lawsuits are unique in the facts and law involved. The procedure of each is often similar. What follows then is an overview of what one might expect in a law suit filed in Iowa regarding an automobile accident.
An extremely important and often over-looked part of at the lawsuit is the work that goes into the suit before filing. This consists of investigation into all matter necessary to ensure that the lawsuit is filed properly and in a manner that best fits the circumstances. Sometimes, in a simpler rear-ender accident, the injuries may be relatively straight forward and the necessary investigation limited. In other cases such as semi-truck accident with fatalities, the investigation may be so complex that it is necessary to get experts such as accident re-constructionists or trucking experts involved before the lawsuit is ever officially filed. This extensive investigation is sometimes necessary to ensure that the a) the right parties are sued b) for the right things c) in the correct manner. For example, in a trucking accident case that GRL recently worked on, it was thought necessary to employ an expert well-schooled in compliance with federal safety standards for semi-trailers. This expert’s investigation revealed deficiencies in the maintenance and operation of the truck that no lawyer could have known without such a detailed analysis. It is just this type of detail oriented investigation and litigation that is what GRL Law prides itself on as separating itself from other professionals.
Lawsuits in Iowa are initiated by filing a Petition. A petition, is merely a request for some relief from a Court in Iowa. In the case of an auto accident the Petition would likely set forth that the driver, owner, or other party was negligent and a as a result of that negligence the Plaintiff was injured. The Plaintiff is the one bringing the lawsuit who is asking for redress from the Court and the Defendant is the one being sued. There can be more than one of each depending on the situation. The Petition would likely go on to state that the Plaintiff was injured and damaged in a number of ways and that the Plaintiff requests monetary compensation (money) for her injuries. This is because the civil justice system generally only has one way that it can compensate a Plaintiff for a wrong committed against her, and that is money. Oftentimes plaintiffs would just as soon go back in time and have the juryprevent the truck from ever hitting her and her family. But until the Courts are able to invent a time machine, we are stuk with money as the means to make an injured person “whole” again. Which brings us to the last necessity of most civil petitions and that is a jury request. The Peition must specifically request that the matter be presented to a jury. Otherwise, a judge would decide the case alone which is generally thought to b less desirable in car accident cases.
So the Petition sets forth allegations regarding the what the Plaintiff alleges occurred and why the Plaintiff is entitled to compensation. The Defendant then has the opportunity to respond with a rpesonxsive pleading generally in the form of an Answer. In the Answer, the Defendant responds to each allegation and alleges defenses to the allegations that purport to establish, if proven, that the Defendant is not responsible for the Plaintiffs injuries or that the Plaintiff was not injured. After the initial pleadings are filed, the issues that are in dispute and must be litigated are, at least in theory, clear and the lawsuit enters the discovery phase.
Discovery is the process by which we obtain information from the other side of a lawsuit. In Iowa, the discovery limits are pretty broad. The thought is that if each side has all the information the other side has access to, then they should be more likely to be able to both analyze the merits of the lawsuit and come to some reasonable resolution. Discovery takes a number of forms but the most often utilized are:
These are written questions that are provided to the other side in a lawsuit that must be answered honestly and under oath. Each side can initially ask 30 questions but sometimes there may be less or more depending on the circumstances
These are request for copies of documents and inspection of tangible things that need to be seen or analyzed. These are not limited to a certain number and often include the exchange of documentation such as medical records, medical bills, police and investigative reports, exhibits that may be used in trial, among others.
Depositions are actually statements taken by an attorney of a party or witness, under oath and often in person. Its often easiest to simply ask someone questions about a matter in person so that if you need more information or something explained in more detail, they can do so. Deposition are often taken of the parties, eye witnesses, and doctors among others
After Discovery is completed, sometimes cases resolve. If they still don’t, each side has to prepare for trial. Certain motions or individual requests for the Court to do something or make specific ruling. are often brought prior to trial. Having an experienced injury litigator is important not only to know the procedure but to present the legal arguments necessary to ensure that your case gets presented to a jury and all important evidence is presented.
Trial is the time where each side gets to present all admissible evidence to a fact finder, generally the jury, and ask that the jury find in their favor. As counsel for Plaintiffs in automobile accident cases, we ask that the Court find the Defendant(s) liable and award money damages. The defense asks that the jury find the Defendants not liable and/or reward less than what the Plaintiff is asking for. The Plaintiff puts on all its evidence first. Then the Defense gets to put on evidence and rebut the Plaintiffs evidence. Then, generally speaking, the Plaintiff then gets to go one more time. There are opening and closing statements and the jury then decides who wins. Jury trials have been said to be popularity contests between the parties and the attorneys involved. This is once again why it is so important that you choose counsel that is best suited to prepare your case to be successful, whether it’s in pretrial settlement or an award from a jury.
Cases can in certain circumstances be appealed. That process is beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say, if you do not win at the trial, the case is almost always over for the Plaintiff. This is precisely why trials are so risky.
This entire process generally averages between 12-18 months in Iowa. Some claims need to be filed so that the other side gets enough information to engender a good settlement. Some cases have to be tried. Yet others can be settled before a Petition is ever filed. The one constant is that an injured Iowan needs an attorney that is well versed at all aspects of this process whether it be winning the popularity contest in front of a jury, or negositating a pre-filing resolution.
Local: 515-226-0500Toll Free: 1-877-GRL-LAWS
Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, PLC
440 Fairway Drive, Suite 210
West Des Moines, IA 50266
Des Moines, Iowa: 515-226-0500
Nationwide Toll Free: 1-877-475-5297
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Mason City, Iowa 50401