How Much Do I Have to Pay the Attorney?
Nothing unless we win or settle.
The only exception is if Sherman Law is hired to assist you in an hourly business matter such as contract review, business formation, or a contract dispute. All personal injury, wrongful death, abuse/assault, malpractice, fraud, chemical exposure, pharmaceutical, elder abuse, and discrimination cases are under a "contingency attorney fee agreement" meaning if you recover money, the attorney gets a percentage. If you don't recover anything, you pay the attorney nothing. This allows everyone regardless of socioeconomic status access to the best legal counsel.
Is There a Deadline to File My Case?
Yes! And you need to know what it is ASAP.
The deadline to file your civil case is the called the "statute of limitations." If you don't file your case by the deadline, your case is time-barred, meaning its too late, its over.
Statutes of limitations differ based on the type of claims, damages or injury, and where the damages or injury occurred. If you are in a car crash in Texas, you apply the Texas' statute of limitations of two years for personal injury cases. But if you crash in New York, there is a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases.
What about other cases, such as breach of contract? If you live in Texas and negotiated a contract with an out of state person, the other state's statute of limitations for a breach of contract action may apply depending on where the breach took place. In Texas, the statute of limitations for breach of contract is four years, but in Delaware, its three years.
Every state has a statute of limitations stated for the various possible claims such as personal injury, fraud, breach of contract, defamation, breach of warranty, assault, etc. The statute of limitations is very fact specific. Its best to consult a lawyer if you think you have a case so they can evaluate the applicable statute of limitations. Don't wait! Time is of the essence.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
Yes, latent diseases, minors, and cases against the government are exceptions. If the defendant hid information about the danger, there may be a fraud exception. Workplace discrimination claims have their own specific deadlines which are shorter than typical statutes of limitations.
Latent Diseases Such As Cancer
Cancer is a “latent” disease, meaning it can take years, even decades to manifest into a diagnosable cancer. For example, if a farmer was exposed to pesticides early in his career, and developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer linked to pesticides including Monsanto's RoundUp), 10 years later when was no longer farming, the case is still live. The statute of limitations for the farmer's case is not triggered by the exposure time period 10 years earlier, but by the diagnosis of cancer. Even with a cancer diagnosis, the statute of limitations still may not be triggered. If the farmer did not know, and had no reason to know, his cancer was related to a particular pesticide, the statute of limitations period still has not started. This is known as the “discovery rule” exception. Most states have a discovery rule, but each state has different nuances.
A minor's statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority. At that point, the statute period begins and the applicable time period is applied. For a Texas minor injured at age 16, she has until age 20 to file a civil personal injury case (age 18 plus 2 year statute of limitations).
If the aggrieved party has a mental diagnosis that interferes with their cognitive functioning or reasoning, the statute of limitations may never run. For example, someone with autism or schizophrenia may not have the ability to understand their legal rights.
Suing a governmental entity such as a town, city, county, or state can be tricky. First, most state laws require that legal notice of intent to sue be sent by a date certain. And, in most instances, the laws, rules, ordinances, and/or charters applicable to the governmental entity will dictate the time period by which a case must be filed. Most of the deadlines are very short so beware.
Childhood Victims Acts
Many states have recently enacted statutes to extend the deadline to file a civil lawsuit against persons or institutions in sexual assault or abuse of a child. Louisiana for example, has no statute of limitations for these type of cases.
Most workplace discrimination claims must first be filed with U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or EEOC. There are time limits for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC that you must know.
Always consult a lawyer as soon as you have an injury or claim. You don't want to blow your case.
How Long Will This Take to Go to Court?
A personal injury case can take 12-18 months at the earliest to get set for trial by the judge. Larger cases such as pharmaceutical and pesticide cases sometimes grouped together with 1000 of other claimants in a "mass tort" can take 2-5 years. The lawyer will make many attempts to resolve the case before filing case and going to court. Most cases settle before trial. But most cases have to be filed, before the defense will even consider paying what you deserve. Whether to settle and when is based on whether the money offered by the other side is enough to compensate you for your injuries. The final decision to settle is yours. A case cannot be settled without your approval. But, you want to make sure the lawyer you hire is prepared to go all the way to trial so your case is not settled cheaply just to avoid trial.
At Sherman Law, every case is treated as if its going to trial and worked up vigorously. Cases don't get the value they deserve without a real threat of trial.
What Is the Legal Process for a Civil Matter?
First, there is a pre-litigation phase where the attorney evaluates the case, investigates, and gathers all evidence, records, and witness statements, and makes strategic decisions about your case. The attorney may ask you to write a chronology, or an affidavit or declaration detailing what happened to you. This is a statement made under penalty of perjury, that is treated as evidence. Your attorney may decide not to make your statement evidence, and just have you write a statement for the attorney eyes only.
During the pre-litigation phase, your attorney may decide you do not have a viable case, in which case the attorney will send you a letter declining or closing your case. If you disagree with the attorney's opinion, you should immediately seek a second opinion before the statute of limitations expires. Ask the attorney for any records or documents they obtained investigating your case so you can provide them to the next attorney. These records are your file and you are entitled to them. Other attorneys may disagree with the attorney's opinion so if you still feel strongly there is a case, you should keep trying.
During the pre-litigation phase, the attorney makes a time-limited demand on the other side. If your case does not settle during pre-litigation, the attorney will write the petition or complaint and file it with the court. Your case is now in litigation, and is public record.
During the litigation phase, the other side answers the petition or complaint with 20-30 days of being served and/or may file a motion to dismiss the case, or other early litigation motions such as a motion to transfer venue to another court or judge. After the early motions are resolved, a scheduling order is prepared and signed by the judge that dictates the schedule of the case and trial date. This is also when the parties start the discovery phase.
During the discovery phase, both sides exchange written answers, information, documents, and evidence. You will have to assist the attorney with interrogatory responses, which are sworn statements by you about what happened. After the exchange of written discovery, you will likely have to give a deposition. A deposition is when you sit for questioning by the other side's attorney, in front of a court reporter who records the questions and answers. This may also be videotaped. Your attorney will prepare you for the deposition, and will also be with you during the questioning. The attorney cannot assist you, but can make objections. The deposition is not "court." The deposition occurs in an office selected by the attorneys. The defendant and other witnesses may also give depositions depending on the complexity of the case and what is necessary to prove or dispute the claims.
After party and witness depositions, the partys' experts may submit reports and depositions depending on the complexity of the case and the Court's scheduling order. Many traffic accident cases do not have expert reports and depositions. If you case is filed in federal court, your experts will have to write reports.
If your case is not settled after all of the discovery is done, the case is headed to trial. Trial is "court." A case can still settle on the morning of trial, during trial, or even during jury deliberations.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
If your claim settles before it is filed, you will not have to give a deposition or go to court.
If you case is filed, you will have to give a deposition. Between depositions and the trial setting, 90% of cases settle. If your case does go to trial, you should not be concerned because your attorney will make sure you are well prepared. Sherman Law's clients are well prepared for the steps in their case. Once they understand the process, they feel very comfortable and confident about giving their deposition and/or appearing in court, if necessary. You are the expert on your case and know the story better than anyone.
If you are not able to go to court due to a mental or physical condition, your attorney will have your doctor provide a letter of support explaining why appearing in court could cause further harm to your recovery. Do not let fear of court prevent you from seeking justice.
What Should I Look for in an Attorney?
- A good listener.
- Aggressive. A lawyer that will have your back.
- Your attorney should have many years of experience in the subject.
- A track record of success.
- Positive client reviews.
- No discipline history by the state bar
- A good reputation with courts and their staff.
- Your attorney should practice with integrity making ethics a first priority.
- A good communicator providing updates throughout the process.
- Approachable and authentic. You should feel comfortable telling your story to your attorney, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Friendly staff that enjoys their job.
- Ability to access your case files and get case updates without delay.
Should I Give the Insurance Company a Statement?
Generally, no. You should never provide a recorded or written statement to the other side's insurance company without the assistance or counsel of an attorney if you are claiming injury. Many people make this mistake because they do not hire a lawyer and try to handle the claim on their own. Even in my cases, I don't allow my clients to provide a recorded statement. I want to handle the flow of information to the insurance company so my client is protected at all times. Many times I have the client write a statement that I review before its sent to the insurance company. This doesn't mean that you cannot handle your own claim. You certainly can. But, if you have serious injuries, you should hire an attorney to protect your interests.