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You are encouraged to conduct your own research, whether online or at the law library. In fact, we encourage you to speak to as many attorneys as you can to absorb as much knowledge as possible. The more information you have the better off you will be, and the less intimidated you will feel in dealing with your situation.
It’s important to be complete in your discussions with an attorney. What may appear to you as a minor detail may actually make a big difference in the legal analysis of your case. If you want solid legal advice, you must be open, honest, and complete. The more information you provide an attorney during the consultation the better advice you will receive — even if the information/document/recording appears to repeat something already mentioned.
Attorneys are trained to aggressively prosecute or defend clients’ best interests throughout the legal process. But, attorneys’ ability to guide clients is equally important.
Why? Because the case does not belong to the attorney. The case belongs to the client. The attorney’s role in any case is to guide the client to make the right decisions.
For the client to make right decisions, attorneys must be prepared to (1) lay out the options, (2) explain the pros and cons, and (3) recommend the best course of action. With the proper guidance, clients are empowered to make the right decisions.
In some cases, the due date can be as short as 6 months. And in some instances, the due date may require that you first accomplish a previous task. For example, claims against a California public entity or employee must follow the California Tort Claims Act and/or Federal Tort Claims Act, which require the proper submission of a governmental claim.
Whatever the due date is, you must have drafted the right documents, filed the documents at a court with proper jurisdiction, and paid the correct filing fee. A failure to properly and completely follow the rules may result in you losing your case before it even gets started.
Speak to an attorney early and save yourself the headache of losing your claim(s) because of the Statute of Limitations.
The California Judicial Council (the policymaking body of the California courts) has approved forms that can be used instead of drafting a Complaint from scratch.
Depending on the type of case, the issues involved, and the attorney’s preferences, the Judicial Council Form Complaint can be used in lieu of drafting a Complaint. Often times attorneys have a working template in their office that they build upon in drafting a customized Complaint for your case.
Once a lawsuit is initiated and discovery has begun, plaintiffs have a legal right to request the defendant to produce certain documents and things, to answer written questions, and to submit to a deposition. These right are equally shared by the defendant in that your adversary can request the same things from you.
The discovery process is a set of tools that allows the parties to “discover” information and evidence from the other side that they would otherwise not be able to obtain. Through the process of discovery the parties will learn new information, confirm their beliefs, and sometimes contradict what they thought to be true.
If the parties can’t work out their differences, they can ask for the court to step in and make a decision. The method that the parties do this is through a “Motion.”
The party asking for the court to do something will file a motion, and the other party is entitled to file a response. The court may make a decision based on the papers, or the court might entertain oral arguments at a hearing. Ultimately the court will make a decision that the parties are required to follow.
Not all motions are related to difference between the parties. Sometimes the rules of the game require (or encourage) that a motion be filed so that the court can issue an order. In other words, it could be just a formality.
You are NOT required to sign any papers, provide any information, or even speak with the adjuster. In fact, the insurance claim process is completely voluntary. Therefore your attempt to settle the claim(s) without first consulting an attorney can be very risky.
Keep in mind that anything you say, anything you provide, and anything the insurance company finds out can (and most likely will) be used against you both during the insurance claim process and later in the court.
The recorded statement has no rules. Everything is fair game. If the insurance adjuster asks a questions and you answer, then your response becomes part of the recording and you’re stuck with what you said – even if you made a mistake.
A lack of preparation, lack of understanding, or lack of focus during a recorded statement can result in serious problems to your case. In fact, it is not a good idea to submit to a recorded statement without first consulting an attorney.
Often times these forms are not limited as to time, type, or scope. In other words, signing a medical release form can mean that you’ve authorized the insurance company to access your protected health information since your birth, for all types of treatment, and for all areas of your body. Allowing the insurance company to sift through your private records is impermissible in court, so why would you allow them to do it during the insurance claim process?
The better practice is to request these protected records on your own and filter through the documents to make sure that they relate to the claim, can be discovered in litigation, and do not contain mistakes before submitting them to the insurance company.
In other words, it’s not a good idea to sign an authorization or release form to grant an insurance company access to your protected/private records.
Some of these supporting documents are protected from disclosure in litigation. However, if you’ve already given the insurance company a copy of the documents, then there’s nothing to protect because they already have a copy.
For example, California recognizes what is called the “Tax Return Privilege.” Tax returns, both state and federal, are protected from disclosure in personal injury litigation. This extends to all types of tax returns – both personal and corporate. And, this protection even extends to related tax documents such as W-2 forms that employees receive from their employer before filing taxes.
Tax returns and related tax documents contain an incredible amount of private financial and personal information. Other supporting documents requested by the insurance adjuster may also contain confidential or protected information. Make sure you know what you’re doing before handing over any supporting documents.
The insurance company’s fault determination is an opinion – just like you have an opinion. And, it’s common for these two opinions to be completely opposite.
When your opinion and the insurance company’s opinion are different it can be incredibly frustrating. During these times it’s far more beneficial to try and understand why the insurance adjuster thinks this way, rather than raise your voice and yell. Yelling at someone won’t make them change their mind.
There are two ways that parties can remove a potential juror:
A peremptory challenge entitles a party to remove a potential juror for any reason, except discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation. Parties are entitled to a limited number of peremptories.
Separately, parties can remove a juror by raising a “Challenge for Cause.” That means that a potential juror can be removed because of a general disqualification, implied bias, or actual bias.
During the opening statement, the attorney is not permitted to argue the case.
Generally, a party cannot ask leading questions during direct examination. That means a party cannot ask questions that suggest a particular answer or contain the answer in the question.
Leading questions are permitted during cross examination. That means a party can ask questions that suggest a particular answer or contain the answer in the question
The attorneys are permitted to argue and persuade the jury on their version of what happened.
There is no set way on how a jury should discuss the case during deliberation. Some juries will go around the room and each person is invited to voice their opinion. Others will begin to discuss without any particular order. Then there are others who take a vote at the beginning and never end up discussing anything because everyone immediately agrees.
While there are no rules on how deliberations are required to take place, there are rules that state whether a majority or unanimous vote is required – and what constitutes a majority.
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