Process of your claim

From the beginning of the intake phase, we are dedicated to prepare your case as if it is going to trial. We feel this will maximize the value of your claim. The stages of progress are : Intake, Investigation, Medical Treatment, Demand, Petition, Discovery, Mediation, Trial and Appeal . The following guide will assist you regarding what to expect as your case progresses.

Intake

This phase is very important for our office to understand the foundation of your claim. In order to determine liability, Scott will need specific information of how the accident occurred- when, where, how. This office will obtain the accident report. You are advised not to give any statements until you speak to an attorney.

In order to determine the value of your case, we will first evaluate your damages. The most important activity to do, if you have been injure, is to seek medical treatment. (Be aware what you say to your doctor either over the phone or in the office conference, may be reflected in your medical records.)

Your initial conference with our office will include a review of your medical information (what treatments you have received and where that was provided). Theresa, our legal nurse consultant, will assess your symptoms, diagnosis and what is expected in regarding your treatment options.

Helpful items for your consultation (but not essential) are:

  1. Accident report
  2. Pictures:
    a. all cars involved
    b. accident scene
    c. bodily injuries
  3. Copy of all applicable insurance policies
  4. List of your medical providers
  5. You will be asked to sign a HIPAA (Health Information Privacy Access Act) This allows our office to gain access to your medical and billing records.

Investigation

After the accident report is obtained, our "team" will assemble pictures, review and obtain witness statements, criminal records and driving records.

You will be advised concerning payment of your medical treatment after evaluating the insurance coverage. Many people today do not have health insurance and may need to utilize the "med-pay" portion of the car insurance policy. We will advise you if your employment health insurance benefit requires "subrogation". Some employment insurance policies have the right to be reimbursed for medical treatment paid for by them when you receive any compensation from an accident.

Medical Treatment

If you have been injured - seek medical treatment and follow your doctor's advice. If you do not have health insurance, we can advise you of payment options. It is very important to communicate with "Sam" in our office of where you are receiving your medical care. She will request you medical and billing records for Theresa to review.

Demand

You will have an appointment with the attorney to review your demand. A demand is sent to the defendant and insurance company when our office has fully analyzed the value of your claim. Issues that are taken into consideration when drafting your demand are:

  1. Defendant's liability
  2. Your injuries
  3. Medical care
    a. Current costs incurred
    b. Projected future cost for medical care
  4. Employment
    a. Wages lost due to accident
    b. Wages lost in the future due to:
        i. Projected absence from work due to medical condition, or
        ii. A change in employment as a result of injuries sustained.
  5.  Human Loss -
    a. Changes in relationships to spouse or others
    b. Changes in lifestyle

Once the prejudgment demand is sent, the defendant and insurance company has 90 days to respond with a counter offer. Scott will negotiate with the insurance adjuster in an attempt to settle the claim. If it cannot be resolved, a petition (lawsuit) is filed.

Petition

If your case is unresolved after a demand is sent, Scott will draft a petition to be filed in the appropriate court. This is more commonly known as filing of a lawsuit. The petition is served to the defendant. They will notify their insurance company. It is their responsibility to answer this petition or file other responsive pleadings.

Discovery

Interrogatories and Request for Documents

This phase begins as soon as the petition is filed. This office will send to the defendant interrogatories and request them to produce needed documents. The answers to these questions help us further investigate the claim. Each plaintiff will receive interrogatories and a request for documents from the defense. Our paralegal, Charlotte, will assist you to complete this task.

Depositions

Depositions will be scheduled with all parties of the law suit. Experts and witnesses may also be called for a deposition. All statements made during a deposition or answers to interrogatories may be used in trial. You will have a working session with my office staff in order for you to be prepared for this important step.

Experts

During the discovery phase, we may need to hire an expert(s). This is based on the extent of your claim or to clarify facts. Hiring an expert can be expensive. This office pays for the expert services. We will recover that cost after a successful settlement. Before one is hired, it is determined if that service can clarify key issues in question. It is routine for the defendant to hire their own expert to evaluate facts including the nature and extent of your injury. Examples of experts are:

  1. Medical - a medical provider that would give an opinion concerning your injury and the need of future treatment.
  2. Vocational- a person who can provide an opinion concerning how your injury has affected your employment
  3. Accident Reconstructionist - a person who is qualified to give an opinion as to what caused or contributed to the cause of the accident

*It is not uncommon for this office to co-counsel with another law office during the discovery phase. This is often due to the expenses to hire experts for your case. It is our mission at Pettit Law Office to present the best case we can even if that means sharing our attorney fee with the office we select to co-counsel. There are no additional attorney fees for you to have this benefit.

Mediation

Mediation many times occurs during the discovery phase but can be scheduled up to trial. Both parties are given the opportunity to present a summary of their case to the mediator. A mediator is an independent attorney hired by both parties for the purpose to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement is not reached, we will proceed to trial. Most cases settle at mediation. Settlement during mediation removes the risk of presenting your case at trial.

Trial

At the beginning of the intake phase, this office prepares your case as if it is going to trial. You will have several office consultations to get you prepared. Trial is a very exciting and serious time. The following is the expected progression of trial.

Voir Dire - In the state of Missouri, a "jury pool" is comprised of citizens that reside in the county where the case is tried. Each attorney has the opportunity to ask members of the "jury pool" questions to help identify prejudices or any biases that will prevent them to be fair to either side. This is one of the most important process of trial.

Opening Statement - After the selected jury is sworn in, an attorney for both parties will present a summary of their case.

Plaintiff's attorney presents your case - Scott will utilize several witnesses and sometimes expert to present the evidence in support of your case. You may be required to testify. Scott will "rest his case" after he has submitted all the testimony and evidence.

Defendant's attorney presents their case - The defendant will present their case utilizing their selected witnesses and experts.

Plaintiff's attorney rebuttal - After the defense has "rested their case", Scott can present further evidence and witnesses to dispute testimony of the defense. This may also clarify facts presented. When completed, he will "rest the case for the plaintiff".

Closing Arguments - Each attorney is given a specific amount of time to summarize the main factors of the case. During this time, Scott will ask the jury to return a verdict in your favor specifying an amount to compensate you for your damages. The defense will do the same for the defendant.

Jury Instructions - The judge gives the jury their instructions prior to deliberation. The jury's first task is to select a foreman. The jury will discuss among themselves the facts that were presented at trial. They may ask to review evidence. Once a verdict is decided, the jury is brought back into the courtroom. The foreman hands to the judge their verdict. The judge will read their verdict.

Appeal

When the judgment, based on the verdict, becomes final, either party can appeal. An appeal is based on alleged errors committed at trial. This appeal process can take at least one year. We will co-counsel with another law office for any appeal proceedings. You will incur additional attorney fees during the appeal process if we co-counsel with another attorney or not. It is not uncommon for the parties to try to settle the case during the appeal to avoid another trial .