Most people are not aware of all the things we do to help and protect our law clients at my firm, Jackson & Wilson. With this in mind, I’m sharing in this post many of the steps we take with each catastrophic injury and wrongful death case we agree to handle.
This list is based on 36 years of settlement, litigation, and trial experience. Please understand that there are a few “top-secret” things we do to maximize a favorable outcome of our client’s cases that are not mentioned in this list (we don’t want the other side to know what they are); however, what we do reveal gives you a good idea of what it takes to protect our client’s rights and add value to their cases.
In most California catastrophic and injury cases, we do the following:
#1: Meet with you in person or via Zoom for an initial and private attorney/client consultation.
#2: We coordinate the execution of the mandatory written State Bar approved Attorney/Client Retainer Agreement, along with all related forms (general authorizations, HIPAA medical authorizations, and 4-5 additional forms.
#3: If more than one person was harmed, we might refer other victims to third-party lawyers to avoid a conflict of interest. Sometimes, we may have all parties sign a conflict acknowledgment and waiver document.
#4: Assist you with getting quality medical care, treatment, or surgery (via your doctor, or we can recommend well-respected experts in the community).
#5: Immediately help with any pressing family issues that we see time after time in these types of cases.
#6: Determine correct defendants and theories of liability- research law and causes of action.
#7: Coordinate all medical bills paid by health insurance and automobile medical payment benefits.
#8: Coordinate medical liens if necessary (doctors are paid at the end of the case with no out-of-pocket expenses to you).
#9: Obtain traffic collision or other incident report.
#10: Notify all interested parties by telephone and in writing of our legal representation of you.
#11: Have our investigators interview all drivers, passengers, and witnesses in person or by phone, depending on the facts and issues.
#12: Have our investigator obtain declarations, under oath, of essential witnesses.
#13: Send a special questionnaire to every participant asking for their version of the facts.
#14: Send a declaration to the “at fault” person asking him/her/they to acknowledge responsibility for the accident.
#15: Send letter/telephone to each driver and registered owner asking for full declaration re disclosure of all insurance coverage such as auto, homeowner, and umbrella liability policies.
#16: Prepare and send a letter/telephone call to all insurance companies and claim adjusters representing each driver and owner, letting them know we represent you and to direct all communications to our attention.
#17: Depending on the type of case, request specific documents, items, and things from the other side’s insurance company.
#18: Make formal demand to preserve all evidence.
#19: Determine if any of the drivers were operating their vehicle while in the scope and course of employment (the employer may also be liable, and additional insurance/assets may be available).
#20: If another lawyer refers the case, confirm the referral in writing and calendar for a case update every four months.
#21: Send a letter/telephone to each witness with a 4-page questionnaire asking for a detailed description of what they observed.
#22: Send a letter to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reporting the accident according to California law (SR1 report).
#23: Send a letter to the DMV requesting disclosure of insurance information on the other driver (SR19 report).
#24:Investigate the scene of the incident (pictures/videos of intersection/road, skid marks, obstructions, damaged property, view from each driver’s perspective while driving down the street).
#25: Collect and preserve evidence from the collision scene or vehicle, such as broken glass, damaged tires, improperly working seat belts, and torn and bloodstained clothing).
#26: Determine the location of vehicles (tow yard or storage facility) and document damage with photographs and videotape.
#27: Coordinate rental car for the client until property damage is finalized.
#28: Investigate and ascertain costs of repair or replacement value of our client’s vehicle and other property damage (broken cell phone, glasses, and other personal items).
#29: Coordinate and negotiate repair or replacement of our client’s vehicle with the correct insurance claims adjuster.
#30: Coordinate property damage deductible reimbursement to the client from the insurance company.
#31: Coordinate and obtain copies of all medical records and billings.
#32: Coordinate payment of all outstanding medical billings by health insurance or automobile med pay coverage.
#33:Use a special declaration to ascertain all loss of earnings and benefits you sustained or lost because of this collision.
#34: Use a unique document to determine all out-of-pocket expenses and losses you sustained or lost because of this collision.
#35: In wrongful death cases, coordinate independent autopsy if necessary.
#36: In wrongful death cases, coordinate funeral service expenses.
#37: In wrongful death cases, coordinate veteran benefits.
#38: In wrongful death cases, refer the client/family to an estate planning specialist to review and update all estate planning documents.
#39: In wrongful death cases, review all life insurance policies to determine benefits to the client and other survivors.
#40: In wrongful death cases, ascertain financial losses to the family, such as loss of income or retirement plan benefits.
#41: In wrongful death cases, conduct an extensive interview with surviving family members to ascertain relationship and loss (loss of love, society, companionship, and affection).
#42: In a catastrophic injury and paralysis case, spend the day or weekend with the client to appreciate what a “day in the life” is like for the client.
#43: Conduct a professional asset background check of the defendant (real estate, bank accounts, investments, beneficiary of an estate plan).
#44: Coordinate and plan traditional and highly focused digital media coverage to assist the client with obtaining a favorable settlement or trial result.
#45: Initiate settlement and jury verdict state and national database search re similar settlements and verdicts.
#46: Pull and review prior cases handled by our firm together with previous legal analysis and legal pleadings, discovery, and trial items.
#47: Put together and discuss with you our draft settlement demand package and/or presentation (written demand letter setting forth and attaching copies of all important facts and evidence like traffic collision or incident reports, witness statements, theories of liability, description of injuries, damages, future medical issues, treatment, surgery and damages, all medical records and billings, loss of earnings, other out of pocket losses, our assessment of similar state and national settlements and verdicts with attachments, a summary of similar cases and results by our firm with attachments, supporting medical, economic, accident reconstruction, biomechanical expert opinions as needed, photographs, videos, charts, graphs, draft lawsuit and related items and things).
#48: Prepare draft jury instructions and draft of opening and closing arguments (few lawyers do this early in the case). Here’s what they look like in our civil cases.
#49: Coordinate settlement dialogue as needed and communicate all essential facts and opinions to the client for a final decision.
#50: Apply over three decades of experience to negotiate a settlement for total value pursuant to the client’s authority.
#51: Follow up with all the above until everything is done and all necessary information is obtained and concluded.
#52: When the case settles, ensure all contractual and statutory liens, including automobile med pay, health insurance, and Medical/Medicare liens, are negotiated, reduced, and paid.
#53: If appropriate, help coordinate using a structured settlement annuity to maximize your net return on the settlement.
#54: If a client is a minor, we prepare and coordinate a final minor.
If Case is Not Settled and Litigation Becomes Necessary
#55: Do additional research on law and available causes of action (if needed).
#56: Prepare Superior Court Summons and Complaint alleging all viable causes of action.
#57: Coordinate the filing of the Summons and Complaint with Civil Cover sheet with the clerk of the Superior Court.
#58: Calendar all post-filing filing dates (10-20 different items) and service on defendant and for return of Summons.
#59: Review assigned judge and file document/motion to request new judge if necessary.
#60: Contact and retain trial consultants and trial-related experts.
#61: If necessary, use investigator and/or online services to locate defendants for service.
#62: Prepare Statement of Damages and coordinate service of process on the defendant.
#63: Special letter to the defendant with a copy of the lawsuit explaining the defendant’s first-party bad faith rights against his/her/their own insurance company.
#64: Review incoming Answer, Demurrer, or Motion to Strike from defendant’s lawyers hired by defendant’s insurance company.
#65: Initiate a telephone call, email, or video to defense counsel to introduce ourselves and discuss case issues and possible resolution.
#66: Review the defendant’s initial Judicial Council Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, Inspection Demand, and Notice of Deposition (discovery).
#67: Send an instructional letter to the client with the defendant’s initial discovery.
#68: Calculate and calendar all dates the client’s discovery responses are due.
#69: If the defendant served a Demurrer or Motion to Strike, prepare and file Oppositions and calendar all response and hearing dates.
#70: As required by the Code of Civil Procedure, review the client’s responses to all discovery and prepare and service original verified responses to the defendant’s attorney.
#71: On behalf of a client, prepare and serve the client’s initial discovery to the defendant (Judicial Council Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, Request for Admissions, Demand to Produce Documents, and Notice of Deposition.
#72: Prepare and serve deposition subpoenas on all witnesses and third parties.
#73: Calendar and appear at court-ordered Case Management Conference (and all subsequent hearings).
#74: Prepare client and attend client’s deposition at defense attorney’s office.
#75: Take the defendant’s deposition (traditional or video) at our office.
#76: Take depositions of all important witnesses.
#77: Review incoming Demand for Independent Medical Examination (IME) from the defendant.
#78: Prepare and send a special letter to the client with a copy of IME and coordinate final IME instructions and date.
#79: Prepare and respond to IME with special pleading regarding specific terms and conditions.
#80: The client appears at IME with our office, either recording or videotaping the examination process.
#81: Receive and review the defendant’s doctor’s IME report and findings (generally about a month after the IME).
#82: Receive and forward the defendant’s supplemental discovery (Special Interrogatories, Request for Admissions, and Inspection Demand)
#83: Prepare and serve on the defendant our client’s supplemental discovery (Special Interrogatories, Request for Admissions, and Inspection Demand).
#84: Prepare for and attend continued Case Management Conference or initial Status Conference and set a trial date.
#85: Prepare and send letter to client with all mandatory trial-related dates.
#86: Coordinate pre-trial settlement mediation or arbitration if the court orders or considers useful by counsel.
#87: Prepare mediation or arbitration briefs and documents.
#88: Prepare client for mediation or arbitration.
#89: Appear with the client at mediation or arbitration and present the case.
#90: If the case is resolved via mediation or arbitration, prepare settlement documents and file notice with the court.
#91: If the case is resolved via mediation or arbitration, coordinate the deposit of settlement funds into our attorney/client trust account.
#92: If the case is resolved via mediation or arbitration, disburse funds to the client with a detailed final financial statement.
#93: If the case is not resolved via mediation or arbitration, continue with pre-trial preparation and requirements.
#94: If required, file opposition to the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
#95: If required, prepare and file the plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
#96: Prepare Demand for Exchange of Expert Information and serve notice to the other side.
#97: If ordered or coordinated, prepare for and attend with the client a court-ordered pre-trial Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC).
#98: Prepare and serve a response to Demand for Expert Exchange.
#99: Notice and take depositions of expert witnesses.
#100: Coordinate other side taking depositions or our client’s expert witnesses.
#101: Coordinate and comply with all mandatory pre-trial discovery and trial document dates (about 75 specific dates).
#102: File jury fees.
#103: Schedule a pre-trial issue conference with opposing counsel.
#104: Obtain all final medical records, billings, and other evidence (photos, videos, and other items) that will be used at trial.
#105: Participate with opposing counsel regarding pre-trial stipulations to save time and money.
#106: Coordinate the appearance of trial witnesses at trial.
#107: Issue subpoena’s to compel the attendance of trial witnesses if needed.
#108: Prepare all pre-trial Motions in Limine.
#109: Prepare and coordinate with opposing counsel Joint Exhibit List.
#110: Prepare and coordinate with opposing counsel Joint Statement of the Case.
#111: Prepare and coordinate with opposing counsel Joint Stipulated Facts.
#112: Prepare and coordinate with opposing counsel Joint Jury Instructions.
#113: Prepare and coordinate with opposing counsel Joint Witness List.
#114: Prepare and coordinate with opposing counsel Joint Verdict Forms.
#115: Attorney pre-trial final preparation re voir dire (jury selection questions and strategy), opening statement, direct examination, cross-examination, and closing argument.
#116: Finalize all evidence and exhibits.
#117: Prepare and participate in the trial (usually 1 to 3 weeks). This may include one or more mock trials with clients and experts.
#118: If appropriate, review and file Opposition to the defendant’s post-trial motions (Motion for New Trial, Motion for Judgment Not Withstanding the Verdict).
#119: If necessary, attend the post-trial hearing(s) to oppose the defendant’s motions.
#120: If necessary, coordinate with the client on post-trial appeal issues and representation.
#121: During each item above, always prepare for, and anticipate the opportunity to get the case settled to the clients’ satisfaction.
#122: If the case was referred to us by another lawyer, pay an attorney to attorney referral fee pursuant to California State Bar rules and regulations.
So what do you think? Did you have any idea that all of these things may apply to a single case?
As you can see, each client we represent deserves and requires all of our team’s time and attention. With this in mind, I’ve got to get down to the courthouse for an afternoon hearing.
Stay safe, enjoy the journey, and never stop making each day your masterpiece!
Client and lawyer testimonials can be viewed here.