Filing A Lawsuit

It may be necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain an adequate recovery. This is a legal decision that should be made by your attorney with your input. Before filing suit in your case, we will obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit should be filed.

Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is always possible. Negotiations continue and only a small percentage of lawsuits actually go to trial.

At Houck | Reynolds, LLC, we can handle your case no matter what lawsuit dispute resolution method you need to pursue. Contact us today to set up an appointment and discuss your case with an experienced Atlanta attorney.

The following steps are necessary to bring a case to trial:

A. Pleadings

Pleadings are the documents parties file in court that form the basis of a lawsuit. This is intended to be general information only. Each case is unique.

  • Complaint. A lawsuit is filed against an opposing party by filing a document in court known as a complaint. The person who brings the action is the plaintiff (you). The person against whom the action is brought is the defendant. The complaint is a statement of facts alleging the names of the parties and alleging why the conduct of the defendant entitles the plaintiff to recover damages.
  • Summons. Once the plaintiff's complaint is filed, a "summons" is issued to be served on the defendant by an officer of the court, usually a deputy sheriff or process server. This informs the defendant that a suit has been filed and that a response must be made within 30 days or a judgment will be taken against him.
  • Answer. The response filed by the defendant is called an answer, which is prepared by the attorney for the defendant. The answer sets out all the reasons why the defendant is not at fault and why he should not be responsible for your damages.

B. Discovery

Once the answer is filed, both sides have six months to "discover" facts concerning the opposing party's case. Normal discovery proceedings include interrogatories (written questions that must be answered under oath), depositions (verbal questions that must be answered under oath), production of documents, and sometimes medical examinations.

  • Interrogatories: Each side may serve written questions on the opposing party, called "interrogatories." We will serve interrogatories on the defendant on your behalf, and the defendant will serve interrogatories on you. You are required to answer these questions within 30 days, in writing and under oath. Our staff will assist you in preparing your answers.
  • Depositions: A "deposition" is an oral and transcribed statement, under oath, which may be used by either side in a lawsuit. It has the same effect as testifying at trial. It is used to learn as much as possible about the other side's claims or defenses.

The lawyers normally agree in advance where the deposition will be held. It is usually in the office of one of the lawyers.

You are required by law to give a deposition. This is not something in which we have a choice. Because of this, we will need your full cooperation. Prior to the deposition, we will go over the facts of the case with you and help you prepare by answering any questions you might have.

Your deposition is often the most important part of your case. It is important that you be prepared well in advance of the deposition date.

In giving a deposition, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Always tell the truth, even if it hurts your case.
  • Answer only the questions. Do not make any voluntary statements or speeches.
  • Think before you make any answer to any questions. If it concerns a matter about which you do not know, or a detail you do not remember, you may so state.
  • Always be polite.
  • If you are worried about the other side asking you a particular question, tell your attorney beforehand so he can help you with your concerns.

Frequently, the other attorney will ask you questions which will seem to have no bearing upon the case. Nevertheless, it is your duty to answer these questions, notwithstanding the fact that they may irritate you. Never conceal prior injuries or prior illnesses. Remember, the other side has the means of obtaining such information.

Mediation

There are occasions when the parties submit the dispute to "mediation." This is when the parties meet with an independent third person, usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge, who assists the parties in arriving at a settlement. The results are not binding. It is informal and less expensive than a trial. If this is an option in your case, your lawyer will discuss it with you.