Recently somebody asked me what question do you get the most from clients? It is hard to quantify, but I do know one question that comes up quite a bit. That question involves timing: “How long will all this take?” I would have to say that is the question that is put to me many, many times, and is probably the most common question.
It is also a very fair question. How do I respond? I tell my clients that a lot depends on how serious the injury is. When will you, the client, reach a medical end result? The case shouldn’t resolve until the future can be forecast and then to a “reasonable degree of medical certainty.” This is a commonly accepted view.
What is not so uniformly held a notion is the timing for bringing a lawsuit. When should it be brought? Surprisingly, there is no great consensus on this. There are some lawyers, and I do not agree with this, who think that a lawsuit should not be commenced until the client has reached a medical end result. I disagree strongly with that. The case can certainly be put into suit and litigated while the client is still treating and while the permanency of the injury has yet to be ascertained.
The reason for that is because by the time the case is right for resolution (or at least a discussion of a possible resolution), the injury will have been ascertained. You’ll know what the future will be and to the requisite degree of medical certainty. Conveniently, this time often coincides with the time that the case is ready for trial- a very good time to see if resolution can occur. Yes, the stars seem to align at that time as the case is ripe on several levels for a full and fair resolution.
To those lawyers who urge waiting until the client has finished treating or has reached a medical end result before putting the case in suit, I ask the following: If the injury is going to take a few years to be clarified, won’t the client have to wait four to five years for resolution? Why wait two and a half years for the injury to be established only then to put the case in suit? You will have asked the client to wait unnecessarily long.
I have strong opinions as to when a case should be put into suit. Even in a serious case where there is ongoing medical treatment, I think a lawsuit should be filed, certainly within a year of the accident date or injury date. There are times when I might even feel that six months from the time of the injury is when a lawsuit should be filed. While the timing is not an exact science, I repeat what I had said earlier: I don’t wait until the end medical result.
Once a case is in suit, there are things known as time standards. It governs the scheduling of dates for the court events. As discovery unfolds, ultimately there will be a discussion as to whether there will be alternative dispute resolution. That usually means mediation. Mediating a case is a good thing and mediating a case close to the trial is also a good thing. In fact, I would say that is a very good or fortuitous time in which to mediate the case.
In the course of these time standards, you get a status conference, you get a trial date, and you get a final pre-trial conference. As I have said in the past, most civil personal injury cases – and personal injury cases are civil cases – will settle but the diligent lawyer will prepare it. In working hard on it all the while, those cases can resolve for one hundred cents on the dollar, and maybe more!
The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.
Boston Attorneys Win Highest Injury Verdict in Massachusetts in 2011 & 2012.