A lawsuit is serious business. At stake is not only your financial well-being, but also your mental and emotional strength. You should never think about suing someone without first contacting an attorney to review your case. Before bringing suit, you need to layout a game plan for your cause of action. Then, once you commence the lawsuit, in the early stages, you will gather further evidence for your case through the “discovery” phase. This article will help you plan for a lawsuit and introduce you to what you can learn through the discovery process.
How to create a plan for your lawsuit.
Planning for your lawsuit begins well before you ever file the lawsuit. The planning stage will help you first decide whether it is worthwhile even to bring the lawsuit. You should first contact an attorney to help you in this early planning stage.
1. Your Budget:
First things first; what is your budget for the lawsuit? You need to research the amount of money that you will have to spend to carry it through. Court fees, such as filing fees, are a mandatory expense that you will have to pay up-front. You should try to develop a budget for attorney fees by actually speaking with the attorney and determining how they invoice for their services; whether it’s an hourly rate, a flat fee, or a contingent fee, typically based on the type and complexity of the case. Other fees that need to be considered are expert witness fees and court-related expenses, such as copying fees and court reporter fees. You will never be able to completely and accurately predict all costs ahead of time, but it is important to establish a preliminary budget for your case with your attorney.
2. Staying Organized:
The best way to plan for your lawsuit is by staying organized at all stages. You should create a separate file for all the documents related to the lawsuit. In that binder, apart from all the relevant evidence and important documents, there should also be a roadmap of as to how the lawsuit is going to proceed. That outline should be updated at each step, so you remain aware of the situation. Again, your attorney can assist you with this step.
3. Your Claims Against the Opposing Party:
A plan for your lawsuit should include a list of all the potential claims against the opposing party. For each potential claim, you should identify and document every element that you need to prove to bring a valid claim.
4. Their claims against you:
Conversely, you must also consider any weak points in your case that the opposing party may be able to expose. Then, think about how you are going to answer those claims and document your counterpoints. You must also consider any possible counterclaims that could be brought by the opposing party.
Once you have analyzed all the pros and cons and decided, with the help of your attorney, to file suit, you would file a Complaint, complete the pleadings stage, and then develop your case further through the use of “discovery.”
What is the ‘Discovery Stage?’
This pretrial stage allows the Parties to the suit to conduct an investigation to discover all of the facts that may be relevant to the case. This investigation process is carried out pursuant to the rules of civil procedure. During this process, evidence is collected from the opposing parties and other parties, through many different discovery tools, including interrogatories, depositions, requests for admissions, and requests for documents.
Under the discovery rules, the parties can ask for any material which may lead to admissible evidence. The material itself does not have to be a hundred percent relevant, but, it should have the potential to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
What is the purpose of the Discovery Stage?
The purpose behind the discovery stage is not only to learn the relevant facts of the case, but it also allows the parties the opportunity to explore settlement opportunities that may lead to early resolution of the case. Settlement not only saves money, but also saves the time, effort and stress of going to trial. Proper discovery also prevents surprises at trial.
Elements of the Discovery Stage.
The typical types of discovery processes are as follows:
- Informal Discovery:
Informal discovery on your own allows you to collect information in a way which does not require formal procedures. In preparation for any lawsuit, make sure to:
- Take pictures of any damage before fixing it;
- Collect all documents from third parties that help prove your claim; and
- Investigate or conduct any research on the opposing party that you can prior to discovery.
- Formal Discovery:
The formal discovery process typically starts after the suit has been filed and the pleading stage is completed:
- Requests for Production of Documents:
Ask the opposing party for any documents in their possession or control that can possibly be relevant to the case. The requests must be carefully worded to be clear and concise and to avoid confusion or disputes in the form of objections.
A deposition is an oral interrogation where the witness answers each party’s questions under oath. Plan out all the questions and your answers to their anticipated questions beforehand.
- Requests for Admission:
Requests for Admissions are statements that you are asking the opposing party to admit. Make sure that your questions are worded properly in order to avoid denials. Request only one fact per request. Also ask the party to admit that the documents provided by them are authentic.
Interrogatories are questions asked of the opposing party regarding the lawsuit. When asking questions, you typically want to be specific enough to get a helpful response, yet broad enough to get a full and complete answer. When answering interrogatories, be careful to answer only the questions directly asked.
Planning a lawsuit and going through the discovery stage is indeed a very daunting and time-consuming task, and the process requires the expert assistance of a lawyer. A skilled and experienced attorney will guide you through the planning and discovery phases as you prepare for trial. In York and surrounding counties in Pennsylvania, contact Senft Schefter Ayers law firm to help you through this process.