Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have time to file suit?
This is a very important question. There are statutes of limitations for every civil case in Wyoming. The statutes of limitations are different, depending on the kind of case. It is very important that you have an attorney evaluate the statute of limitations as soon as possible. If too much time goes by, you can lose your right to file suit forever.
Also, for many cases, an extensive amount of work needs to be done before suit can be filed. First, the case has to be evaluated by the attorney to determine if it is a lawsuit that is valid under the law, and whether it makes economic sense for the client to file the suit. A person may have a valid legal claim, but if the cost more to prosecute the case than can be recovered, it does not make sense to file the lawsuit.
I often turndown cases that are probably valid lawsuits, where the potential client has waited too long for me to adequately evaluate the case before expiration of the statute of limitations. This is particularly true of medical negligence cases which are always complex. Before any medical negligence lawsuit can be filed, it needs to be referred to a qualified expert for evaluation. This can take considerable time, usually at least two to three months. If a client contacts me 30 days before expiration of the statute of limitations, which is usually two years in the medical case, there is simply not enough time to adequately evaluate the case and file suit. People need to keep in mind that proper pre-filing preparation is essential in every case, and the attorney needs to have the time to do his job right. Don’t wait until the last minute.
What information do I need to provide my lawyer?
In nearly every personal injury case, the medical records are essential. Usually, I need to have the records for the previous five years before the injury and up to the present date.
While every case is different, all auto and semi tractor trailer kinds of cases require the accident report, or reports if there is more than one collision involved, and usually tax returns for the previous five years before the injury. Medical cases always require extensive medical and physical rehabilitation records on the patient for five years before the injury. Further, almost all cases require tax returns.
If you have kept a diary or any writing concerning the case, that information should also be provided to your attorney. If you talk to any insurance adjuster, this information is very important. Usually, insurance adjusters record the conversation. Either a transcript or the recording itself should be provided by the insurance company.
How will I pay for my attorney and the costs of the case?
I usually do not charge for initial consultations. Almost all of my cases are handled on a contingency-fee basis. This means that I am paid from a percentage of any settlement or judgment obtained on behalf of the client. The percentage charge depends on the complexity the case, and needs to be discussed with the client.
Every contingency-fee agreement is in writing before I can file a lawsuit. My agreements are patterned on the suggested pattern agreement created by the Wyoming Supreme Court. Every client is provided with a copy of the applicable rule on contingency-fees, which is attached to the agreement.
Lawsuits are very expensive. Expert witnesses (e.g. medical experts, accident re-constructionists) can cost a great deal. Many cases require extensive depositions taken before court reporters. Court reporters charge for their time. Most modern cases require extensive travel. Even exhibits blown up for courtroom use are expensive. Most citizens cannot afford the cost of the lawsuit. That is why most of the time our firm advances the expenses on behalf of the client. Usually, we do not expect any recovery of our expenses unless we win the lawsuit.
Sometimes, we will require that the client pay the initial expenses for review of the case by an expert. However, once we accept the case as a bona fide lawsuit based upon a qualified expert’s opinion, we will advance the expenses.
So the answer to the question is that we will pay for lawsuits that we take in most instances. Every case has to be evaluated on its merits and the financial arrangements need to be discussed with the client.
Is what I tell my lawyer confidential?
Yes. In fact, what you tell me or my staff in our initial evaluation of the case, even before we decide to take the case, is absolutely confidential. We respect your right to confidentiality from the first conversation.
How long will a lawsuit take?
The obvious answer is that every lawsuit is different. First, every lawsuit must be evaluated thoroughly in our office before filing. The law and the facts must be completely determined to the extent possible before filing suit. Sometimes, information is not available to us until suit is filed. The power of the subpoena and discovery is not available in some cases until suit is filed. However, as much as possible we should learn about the case before filing.
Once a case is thoroughly evaluated, an estimate of the time it will take to complete the case can be made. The court in which the case is filed will have a great deal to do with the time it takes to complete the case. The caseload of each court is different. The federal courts have a well regulated docket and procedures that speed litigation in the Wyoming District. This is one reason that I have chosen to file many lawsuits in Federal Court and have had an extensive federal caseload for a number years. Also, the federal courts provide us with national subpoena power which is very important when dealing with large corporations that have a national presence; such as most federal motor carriers. There are jurisdictional limits on every court, and the proper court needs to be determined. Generally, we are fortunate in Wyoming that we are able to complete most cases within a year after filing.