Personal Injury Client Guide

You and Your Personal Injury Claim

At Bakke Norman, S.C., we have attorneys experienced in handling personal injury matters. We employ skilled paralegals and legal assistants to help you and your attorney with your file and to assure you of the best professional representation. You are encouraged to contact the paralegal or legal assistant regarding any questions about your case if the attorney is unavailable. A paralegal or legal assistant is not an attorney and is not permitted to give legal advice. However, the paralegal or legal assistant can answer many questions regarding your case. The paralegal or legal assistant will refer questions calling for legal advice to your attorney.

Initial Information

When you are first interviewed, general information is obtained regarding the incident. A questionnaire that collects and organizes necessary information is provided for you to complete and return to the office as soon as possible, or you may view and download the questionnaire here. We ask you to sign authorization forms. Those forms allow us to gather additional necessary information. For example, we use authorizations to obtain school, work, financial and medical information.

You will receive a Fee Agreement regarding the terms and conditions of payment of attorneys’ fees and costs advanced by Bakke Norman, S.C. The Fee Agreement is to be signed by you and the representative attorney from Bakke Norman, S.C. You will also receive information regarding our billing and collection policies. Costs will be incurred and advances paid during our representation, including such things as the cost for obtaining medical records, doctors’ reports and accident and police reports; investigation, expert witness, filing and process service fees; deposition transcript and court reporter fees; and any other costs incurred during the investigation of the claim and possible lawsuit. We will usually advance these fees and costs and recover them at the conclusion of the case. We will discuss the costs and potential benefits of investigators and experts with you.

You will receive copies of all correspondence received or mailed by Bakke Norman, S.C. relating to your case. Please review these materials. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the attorney, paralegal or legal assistant handling your case. We welcome your telephone calls and e-mails with questions about your case or with new information we need. The telephone is an important tool for the ongoing communication between attorney and client. When your attorney is in court or meeting with another client, your call might be referred to the paralegal or legal assistant assisting on your file. Please be prepared to discuss the matter completely with the paralegal or legal assistant. If you must talk personally to your attorney, leave a detailed message, and your attorney will return the call as soon as possible. We will make every effort to respond to your inquiries promptly.

Please begin a journal or diary (tape recording if you don’t like to write) in which you regularly record how the incident has affected you. In it, you should tell how or where you hurt, the things you used to do that you can’t do anymore, the ways in which you used to relax or enjoy yourself that you can’t anymore, the names of people who have talked with you about your injury and their comments, the expenses you have to pay because of your injuries, and anything else you feel is important for us to know and/or for you to remember. Be complete and thorough! If you have any questions, call the attorney, paralegal, or legal assistant assigned to your case.

Investigation

We will promptly notify the other party’s insurance company that you have retained Bakke Norman, S.C. as your law firm. After they receive our letter of retainer, they should never contact you directly. (If they do, let us know immediately.)

We send letters to all the physicians, hospitals and other health-care providers in your case, requesting medical information regarding injuries. Police officers who might have been involved will be interviewed; witnesses will be contacted; and photographs might be taken. Any necessary information from the director of Internal Revenue, employers, schools or other persons is gathered. We must have your cooperation in helping us gather facts about your case.

Evaluation

It is important for you to know that your case can’t be settled until the damages have all been determined, and all investigation has been completed. Until that basic infor­mation is gathered, a realistic evaluation of your claim is impossible. It can take from several weeks to several months to gather all the necessary information. If a trial becomes necessary, it can take a year or more to complete the case. One of the most difficult requests we must make of you is to have patience.

As soon as our investigation is completed and all necessary information obtained, we will thoroughly evaluate your case, arrive at an appropriate settlement figure and discuss it with you. We will then submit our agreed settlement proposal to the appropriate person.

Starting a Lawsuit

If settlement cannot be reached early, we will consider filing a lawsuit. (Occasionally, it is important to start a lawsuit as soon as possible.) No lawsuit, however, will be started without your permission.

A lawsuit is started by delivering to the other party a document called a Complaint. The Complaint is a writing that tells the person or company who injured you that he, she, or it is being sued because of the accident. That other party is called a defendant. (You are called a plaintiff.) The defendant takes these papers to his or her insurance company, which delivers them to its attorneys. The attorneys then deliver a paper called an Answer to us, and then, the case is at issue.

We want to point out that although a lawsuit might be started, settlement is always possible and is very often made just before, and sometimes even during, the trial.

Discovery

Once the lawsuit has started, both sides have the right to obtain information about the case by several methods.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are written questions directed to the other party regarding facts about the case or other relevant information. They are used to obtain information in preparation for trial and must be answered under oath by the party to whom they are directed.

Depositions

Depositions are opportunities for an attor­ney to ask opposing parties and witnesses oral questions and get oral answers. The witness deposed is under oath, and a court reporter records the questions and answers. A printed transcript of the questions and answers is prepared, which the attorneys can use at the trial. If your deposition is taken, it is impor­tant that you confer with your attorney before the deposition. Your attorney will want you to view a videotape about depositions and, in addition, will want to discuss with you the facts of your case so you are prepared to answer questions completely and honestly at deposition.

Request for Documents

A request to produce documents is a legal request requiring a party to a lawsuit to produce documents in his or her possession. Such documents might include income tax returns, wage statements, insurance policies, auto damage estimates, and so forth.

Request to Admit

A request for an admission about the truth of a matter relevant to your case might be used to narrow the issues at the time of trial. For example, you might be asked to admit that an asset’s market value is a certain amount, thus eliminating the need to have an expert witness testify at the trial.

We generally use all these methods to help us investigate the facts and refine the issues. Remember, the defendant’s attor­neys also have the right to take testimony and submit interrogatories and demands, so you likely will also be asked to answer questions or produce documents for the other side.

Under Wisconsin laws, there are few secrets in lawsuits of this kind. At any time throughout this period, the possibility of settlement might come up again. We will try to discuss settlement as we move along. If anything concrete occurs in any of these discussions, we will advise you promptly. All parties to Wisconsin civil cases are required to take part in alternative dispute resolution, which generally means a process called mediation. We will discuss all options related to alter­native dispute resolution with you.

Mediation

Almost 20 million lawsuits are filed every year. A very large percentage is settled before trial. But, while only a few suits are tried, the people and businesses involved in litigation—even in a suit that eventually settles—know that the time, expense and emotional impact exact a costly price.

Recently, some courts and law firms have started to emphasize alternative methods more to resolve disputes. One such method is mediation. There are many potential advantages to mediation, including reduced costs, faster resolutions and less emotional stress.

In mediation, the mediator has no authority to settle the case and, under most circumstances, he or she will not let the parties know his or her personal opinion about settlement. The mediator’s role is to guide and assist the parties to fashion their own settlement, serving as a facilitator to help the parties reach the desired goal of a resolution of their conflict.

If both parties are prepared to negotiate and compromise in good faith, mediation is inexpensive and cost effective. Recently, most courts require mediation before a trial is scheduled. The vast majority of cases settle during mediation. If the case does not settle at mediation, it will proceed to trial. However, though the case might not settle during mediation, it could settle up until the trial date.

Trial

The great majority of cases never are tried, though lawsuits are started. Often, however, they are settled just a few days before the trial date. If your case cannot be settled for a fair amount of money, we, with your permission, will proceed to trial. The weeks just before the trial date are spent in detailed and intense preparation of your case. What is expected of you at trial will be explained to you in detail well before your going to the courthouse.

Most often, an injury case such as yours results in a trial with a jury of 12 people from the county where the accident occurred. If neither side requests a jury, the judge assigned to the case will decide. As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof in this case. Our job, as your law firm, is to prove to a reasonable certainty, by the greater weight of the evidence, that the defendant’s conduct (or lack of it) caused you to be injured. We must also prove what your “damages” are.

The usual damage categories in an injury case are pain, suffering and disability from the date of the accident to the date of settlement or trial, (sometimes called past pain and suffering); past medical expenses; and wages or income lost in that same period (past wage loss). Future damages—for example, future pain, suffering and disability; future medical expenses; and future loss of earnings—can be recovered if we have medical evidence that the injury is perma­nent and will cause problems over time. Other specific damage categories can be claimed in certain cases.

If you have any questions about which damage categories apply to your case, please contact our office. It is our goal that you be totally informed of all impor­tant elements of your case.

Appeal

A word about appeals is in order. In Wisconsin, the losing side in any lawsuit has the right to appeal a trial decision to the Court of Appeals. An appeal is not another trial. It is a written argument to a 3-Judge Court, supported by documents and transcripts. Occasionally, the Court of Appeals decides that oral arguments from the attorneys involved must supplement the written arguments. Appeals can be costly and time consuming. An appeal can add up to a full year (sometimes more) to a case’s final resolution. We will undertake an appeal only after apprising you fully of the benefits and drawbacks of such actions.

Conclusion

We hope you find this information helpful. Remember that the entire staff of Bakke Norman, S.C. is now beginning to work diligently on your case. You will be kept informed of the progress on your case by copies of correspondence and by direct contact by the legal assistant, paralegal and attorney handling your claim. If you ever have a question about your case, do not hesitate to call.

Please also inform this office immediately of any change of your address and/or telephone number, any change of address and/or telephone number of any of the people who know about your accident and/or injuries, or anything you think has a bearing on the case.

We have provided you information in general on how we handle cases such as yours and on some of our expectations of how you might assist our team in working on your case. Please let us know how we are doing regarding the services we provide to you.

SPECIAL PRECAUTION

Do not, under any circumstances,
discuss your case with anyone except members of this office.

Copyright ~ 2015 Bakke Norman, S.C.

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