Steps to Expect

Here are a few of the questions we get most frequently.

A CONTINGENCY FEE BASIS is how we are able to take on your case without you having to pay any costs or fees up front. When you hire us, we advance the case expenses and work on your case at no cost to you until it is resolved. When your case is won, either at trial or through settlement, our fees and the case expenses are taken from the award. In other words, we collect no fees unless we recover money for you. If your case is not won, you owe nothing. This gives us every incentive to be efficient, expeditious and, most importantly, to win your case.

AFTER AN ACCIDENT there are several steps you can take to help protect your interests and bring a successful claim. Immediately after an accident, take photos of the scene and the vehicles or the objects involved. Most importantly, take pictures of visible injuries within as short a time as possible. Also, if possible, get the names and contact information of any and all witnesses. If you cannot do it yourself, try to get someone else to do it for you. Be truthful with police officers, paramedics, EMTs and other first responders, but do not underplay your injuries or admit fault to anyone. If you proceed with litigation, any admission you make may be used against you, regardless of whether you fully aware of what you were saying.

Soon after the accident, call the insurance company to report the accident. But do not discuss fault and do not give any statements about the accident or your injuries. Keep a list of all of your injuries and medical treatment and take photographs of your injuries regularly. And gather all of your medical bills and receipts. These will help your attorney pursue your claim and will ensure you receive just compensation for your injuries.

PREPARATION of our cases usually involves gathering all medical records, bills, and police and investigative reports. Often, we put a private investigator to work immediately, gathering witness statements and other evidence. Once we have enough foundation, we file either a claim or a complaint and the litigation gets underway. In most cases in California, other than medical malpractice, the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the injury or death. Medical malpractice cases must be filed within one year of the date the malpractice was or should have been discovered.

DISCOVERY is the formal process by which each party learns what the other side is going to say. Virtually every case involves the exchange of written questions (called interrogatories) and live oral questioning under oath (called depositions).

Your attorney will be present with you when you are deposed and is there to make sure your rights are protected in every way. One or more preparation sessions will take place before your deposition. Other types of pre-trial discovery include requests for production of documents requests for admissions and, sometimes, requests for inspection of property or location. We handle the vast majority of this work for you and assist you in anything we cannot do ourselves.

TRIAL usually will not occur until at least a year after the filing of the lawsuit. You should know that only a small percentage of cases actually go to trial. Indeed, there are many "trial lawyers" who seldom, if ever, try cases. But this firm specializes in trying cases, and much of our work comes to us for that reason.

Trials can last from a few days to months. They usually take place before a jury, but not in every situation. Our firm has tried cases throughout California, from Eureka to San Diego. We have also tried cases in Nevada, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.; and we have handled litigation in at least 30 states and six other countries.

APPEALS are rare and take place after the conclusion of a case, which usually means after a trial. An appeal has to be based on an error of law, but a factual dispute sometimes generates an action by a judge or jury that one side thinks is illegal.

An appeal is not a retrial of the case, but a legal argument to a higher court. An appeal can take a year or more because it requires getting and reviewing the record from the trial court. Then each side writes a written brief. The party pursuing the appeal gets to write a second, or reply, brief. The court of appeal reads the briefs and then schedules lawyer oral arguments in court.

We have extensive experience in appeals, going back 40 years, including cases throughout both the state and the federal systems. Often, we will defend or pursue an appeal without further charge to the client but this is subject to agreement with you. The right of appeal is not part of our standard contingency agreement, but is subject to negotiation between the client and the firm.