If the 2020 Court Statistics Report (CSR) is any indication, California’s reputation as a litigious state is well earned. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, more 5.9 million cases were filed statewide in the superior courts. Of those, more than 850,000 were civil matters – including 219,939 unlimited civil cases, 485, 631 limited civil cases, and 151,079 small claims cases.
Even so, few people know what to expect when they are involved in a lawsuit. Here are some useful steps to take during your legal case.
Do not pursue legal recourse for the wrong reasons
If you think you have been wronged, filing a lawsuit may seem like the perfect solution. But suing someone simply to punish or “get back” at them seldom works out. People who insist on this approach often end up wasting a lot of time, energy, and money on a pointless cause. To save yourself – and everyone else – a lot of grief, consider your reasons for pursuing legal recourse carefully prior to contacting an attorney.
Talk to your attorney about your objectives
It goes without saying that your goals will largely depend on two factors. These are your individual situation and the type of lawsuit in which you are involved. Consider the following.
In most personal injury cases, the plaintiffs seek compensation for financial losses associated with their injuries. In certain circumstances, however, they may also seek compensation for non-economic damages, such as emotional distress or pain and suffering. Then there are scenarios in which the facts of the case are so egregious the plaintiff seeks punitive damages as well.
Plaintiffs in different types of civil cases may have different objectives. It may be the resolution of a business or contract dispute. Or it may be the resolution of an employment matter, such as discrimination or wrongful termination.
What is your objective? Are you simply seeking financial compensation? Or are you seeking an outcome in which the other party is also compelled to do – or cease doing – something?
Understanding your objective from the beginning helps us build your case accordingly.
Be prepared to provide documents to support your legal case
It is true that your lawyer – and his or her staff – will do a certain amount of legwork while preparing your case. But do not be surprised if your legal team asks you to provide documents to support your claim. Depending on the case type, we may request copies of:
- Medical records for past and ongoing treatment
- Bills and invoices for past and ongoing medical treatment
- Mail, email or other material that serves as proof of conversations/interactions between you and the other party or parties
- A narrative or timeline that you compiled to detail relevant events
- Business agreements
Providing material in a timely manner demonstrates that you are an active, interested participant in your legal case. It also facilitates the “discovery” process, which is basically the exchange of information with the opposing party or parties.
A good attorney will always make time to take your phone calls, answer your email, and address your questions and concerns. As a client, you are expected to reciprocate. As your legal case progresses, your lawyer will also expect you to be available to answer written questions from the other party called interrogatories, participate in depositions and so on.
Honesty is always the best policy
Be honest with your attorney. As lawyers we have fiduciary duties to our clients. This means that we must act in your best interest, and protect you to the extent permitted by law. We cannot do either if you withhold information or aren’t completely forthright about the circumstances of your case. In a worst case scenario, being disingenuous could seriously damage or even destroy your legal case.