Pre-litigation is the process that addresses all the stages involved in building a strong case prior to filing a legal action in court.
What is Pre-Litigation?
Pre-litigation for a personal injury case in California is everything that happens before a formal lawsuit is filed.
How long does it typically take? Although every accident is different, when it comes to injury cases, California has a two-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. However, sometimes the statute of limitations is as short as one year. And, if a claim is filed against a state or federal agency, there are only six months to prepare the pre-litigation process and file the personal injury claim in a California court.
The Importance of the Pre-Litigation Phase
This period is critical to any case. The planning that takes place during pre-litigation is essential to having a sound strategy. In fact, recent statistics have confirmed that 95% of injury claims are often resolved in a pre-litigation settlement.
It is precisely because of this high number of successfully settled cases that it is necessary to make the most of the pre-litigation process. In this way, attempts are made to persuade and convince the responsible party to accept the settlement desired by the plaintiff. However, the victim and his/her legal representative may also decide to go directly to court. According to the most recent data, 90% of the cases that go to trial are resolved with a victory for the claimants.
What Happens During the Pre-Litigation Process?
As we mentioned above, this stage is crucial in trying to obtain a financial settlement that will satisfy the victim. During this time, the plaintiff’s legal team will follow a strict protocol: gathering evidence, taking depositions, hiring experts to analyze the fault of the accident, and investigating every last detail. Once there is a solid foundation, both the responsible defendant and the plaintiff will attempt to resolve the dispute through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration.
1. Choosing and Consulting with a Law Firm
The first thing to do after an accident is to explore what legal options are available to determine if there is a viable case. In serious personal injury cases, the victim will want to contact an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. It is highly advisable to avoid the temptation to represent oneself.
Sometimes it is normal to talk to different legal alternatives to see which firm is best suited for the case. Like us at Adamson Ahdoot, initial consultations are usually completely free. In fact, we do not charge anything until the case is resolved to our client’s satisfaction.
Once the attorney to represent the claim has been determined, an initial consultation will be held to review the case in detail. At this meeting, the attorney will ask questions and begin to gather information. The attorney will explain to the client how the legal process works, the possible outcomes that can be achieved, and will make an initial assessment of the case with the possible strategy to be adopted.
2. Information Gathering and Investigation
Following the initial meeting, the plaintiff’s attorney will begin to work on the case. This means gathering as much information as possible and investigating how the accident occurred. In particular, the lawyer will attempt to conduct the following activities:
- Determine how the events occurred and obtain relevant details.
- Hire experts to perform accident reconstruction to determine cause and liability.
- Conduct interviews with the victim and potential witnesses.
- Collect post-accident medical records and estimates of the severity and timing of injuries.
- Gather all medical expenses resulting from the injury.
- Keep documentation of loss of income or inability to return to work due to injuries caused by the accident.
- Review police reports of the incident for details of the defendant’s negligence.
- Finally, send a letter or notice notifying the defendant’s insurance company of the lawsuit. This will inform them of the need to know the limits and coverage of the insurance policy.
3. Preparation of Notice of Claim to the Defendant’s Insurance Company
Once all the evidence has been compiled, a notice of claim is prepared stating the grounds for the claim. This notification is sent to the defendant’s insurance company. The letter will contain the evidence supporting the defendant’s liability: a description of the accident, a record of the injuries caused by the incident, medical expenses, economic losses, and a settlement agreement to prevent the claim from being filed.
4. Settlement Negotiation
The purpose of the notification letter is to get the insurance company to accept the settlement offer. However, this is not always easy. After the notice is sent, the two parties involved sit down to negotiate and try to reach an agreement on the compensation the victim will receive. Both defendants and plaintiffs usually want to avoid going to court.
Since negotiation usually does not work to resolve injury disputes, alternative methods are often used. One option is mediation, which involves a neutral third party, also called a mediator. This ensures that the settlement discussion process is resolved in the best way for both parties. On the other hand, arbitration is more formal and requires impartial arbitrators to make a decision. The latter is similar to going to court but faster and less expensive.
5. To Litigate or Not to Litigate?
There are several factors to consider at the pre-litigation stage of a personal injury case in California that may affect the decision to take the case to trial:
- Assess the likelihood of success to see if it is feasible to file a lawsuit.
- Consider the high financial costs associated with taking the case to trial.
- Evaluate the length of time the case will take to resolve. It can be settled in a matter of months or years.
- Estimate whether the litigation will reflect well on the company’s reputation for future cases.
The Duration of Injuries, Key in Pre-Litigation
Knowing the extent of injuries from an accident is essential in pre-litigation. It is important to know the duration and the physical or psychological effects they will leave behind. At Adamson Ahdoot, we encourage our injured clients to treat their injuries with quality doctors and providers. This way, they will receive an accurate report on the possible short and long-term consequences.
Every case is different, as there are victims who need a month of rehabilitation and others who suffer permanent injuries. Therefore, it is advisable to wait for an accurate assessment and thus present fair compensation based on medical expenses, severity of injuries, or loss of income, among others.
Although it is not very frequent, sometimes, due to the impossibility of obtaining a final conclusion regarding the severity of the injuries or their duration, the victim’s legal team has to elaborate a claim estimating the medical expenses and future inconveniences.
What Happens If No Settlement Is Reached During the Pre-Litigation Phase?
If there is no pre-litigation agreement, a lawsuit and possibly a trial will be necessary. This means that a third party hired by the state will investigate and oversee the case. The independent entity will determine fault and award appropriate compensation based on the strategy developed during pre-litigation. However, even if a lawsuit is filed, plaintiffs and defendants may settle to avoid going to court.
Got More Questions About Pre-Litigation or Litigation? Contact us Today
Before being lawyers, we are people. That’s why we understand and empathize with the difficult times victims go through after an injury accident. As one of the most reputable law firms, we at Adamson Ahdoot want to bring justice to our clients. Whether it is through a settlement during the pretrial phase of a personal injury case in California or at trial, we are ambitious and believe that we can obtain fair and satisfactory compensation for injured victims.
With over 100 years of combined legal experience, Adamson Ahdoot has offices throughout California. Our legal team is available 24/7 to answer any questions regarding your case. In addition, we have bilingual professionals who can assist you in both English and Spanish. If you do not know what the legal options are for your case, call us today at (800) 310-1606 to learn more. We will not charge you until we obtain the perfect settlement for you and your family.