If a case cannot settle after attempting to work things out with the respondent, the insurance company, or the defending attorney, a case needs to be put ‘into suit.’ This means that a civil complaint has to be filed with the court, in either State or Federal court, and the litigation process starts.
After having a client’s case for a few years, negotiations with the insurance company had stopped, and both sides were very far apart. The client did not know what else to do and considered taking an offer far below what we knew the case to be valued at. She had a $30,000 offer for a $60,000 case. We discussed that our next steps were to file suit, and she had no idea what that meant.
Our Client’s Fear
The unknown of what ‘filing suit’ meant was scary enough for her to consider taking the lowball offer from the insurance company.
How Garmey Law Helped
This fear of the unknown can make all of us nervous and can make us lean toward making rash decisions. We spoke about the process of ‘filing suit’ and walked through all the steps:
- Drafting the Compliant – This is the formal document we file with the court and serve to the defendant. It tells the court and the other side what you are alleging.
- Completing Discovery – Questions and documents exist on both sides. Discovery is asking questions and making demands for documents and things that permit sharing of material and information. These are accomplished by sending Interrogatories, Requests for the Production of Documents & Things, and asking for Admissions.
- Depositions – After the discovery process occurs, both sides have the opportunity, if they choose to, to complete sworn interviews of the other party and any material witness for the other side. These statements are transcribed by a court reporter, and the testimony is worn under oath, which carries the same weight as testifying in court.
- Designation of Experts – If the case has complicated components, an expert witness can often shed light on the subject or help to establish elements of the legal concept you have to prove (such as duty, breach, causation, professional negligence, or legal defenses). Experts are hired for their testimony and have special qualifications such as experience, education, or knowledge that allows them to provide opinions on some legal issues.
- Court Mandated Mediation (ADR) – This is a process required in most cases in Maine where the sides agree on a neutral 3rd party, a mediator, to hear both sides of the case and work toward a potential solution to settle it before the trial. If the sides agree with the mediator, the case is settled and over. If the sides cannot agree, the case proceeds to trial.
- Pre-Trial Prep and Trial – If all the above steps occur, and the case is not settled, the case is set for a jury or bench (judge only) trial. Evidence is presented, witnesses testify, and the fact-finder determines which side wins. If the plaintiff wins, the fact finder decides how much money (damages) they should get.
After explaining what ‘filing suit’ meant, we reviewed the most important part: that it was MY job to do this, not the clients. It was the client’s job to be present, to help answer discovery, to answer depositions, and to participate in mediation. I would be there every step of the way, and we would spend as much time as she needed to ensure she understood what would happen and what to expect. She felt empowered once she knew what to expect and agreed to file suit.
After filing suit, the insurance company called and raised their offer from $30,000 to $75,000. This was a large enough offer for us to tell our client that it would be tough to justify going to trial when the cap we believed the case was worth would be $80,000. With the $75,000 guaranteed, she agreed and could not believe she would get more than what she had wanted for the case after filing suit. What she had originally been fearful of helped her to get an extra $15,000 in her pocket, which made her “over the moon” happy!