When should I hire a lawyer?
It is best to hire a lawyer as soon as you can. Important evidence and witnesses can disappear. Photographs, surveys or forensic examinations may be needed quickly in order to be helpful. However, you should not rush into the decision. Make sure that the lawyer you hire has experience and is qualified to handle your case. Most importantly, be sure that you find a lawyer who is trustworthy and makes you feel comfortable. Pursuing or defending a lawsuit can be stressful and you need to have a good working relationship with your lawyer and the lawyer’s support staff.
What should I ask a lawyer at the first meeting?
You may want to prepare a list of questions to take with you. Many of the questions on this page may be included. Some general questions that you may wish to ask are: Are you familiar with this type of case? What type of fee arrangements do you offer for this kind of case? What does your fee cover? Are there other costs that may be associated with this case? How long will this case take? How will I know what is going on with my case? What are the chances that this case will go to trial?
How much will a lawyer charge for representing me in a lawsuit?
The charges vary from lawyer to lawyer and from case to case, but are required to be reasonable. Our firm believes in an open and honest billing system. At your first meeting with our attorneys, you will receive a customized proposed fee structure for your case. For more information, see our fees page.
In addition to the lawyer’s fee, what other costs may be incurred in a lawsuit?
Costs in many cases may include the court filing fee, court reporter fees for depositions and trial transcripts, expert witness fees, trial exhibit preparation, postage, telephone and copying costs. If your deposition is taken, your lawyer will typically order a copy of the deposition to have a record of what you said under oath. ,Your lawyer may also take the deposition of the other party and important witnesses. In some cases, expert witnesses are needed.
Our firm will not hire experts nor take depositions until we have explained to you why we think these are needed and we obtain your approval.
There are three important factors that can help control the cost of your case: Share complete information with your attorney, select a lawyer who is committed to using your resources effectively and make sure your lawyer works productively with opposing counsel.
How long will my case take?
It is impossible to predict a precise timeline for lawsuits to be concluded. However, most lawsuits in Georgia trial courts generally appear for the first time on a jury calendar 8 – 12 months after the answer is filed by the defendant. If the court where your case is filed is very busy, it may take longer for your case to appear on the calendar.
- Once the case appears on the calendar it can be several terms of court before your case advances to the top of the calendar so that it can be reached for trial. You will likely need to clear your calendar and be available for any week that your case is on the trial calendar.
- Scheduling is largely controlled by a Court Administrator or a judge’s office and depends upon a number of factors out of your lawyer’s control.
- Some factors that influence how quickly your case gets to trial are the number of depositions and difficulty in scheduling depositions, new information that arises during discovery and conflicts with cases scheduled for trial in other courts. Our firm will do its best to let you know as early as possible when anticipated schedules are changed.
How will I know what is going on with my case?
You should receive copies of letters and court filings prepared by your lawyer, as well as copies of documents received from third parties or opposing lawyers. If you call during normal office hours, you will likely be able to speak to the lawyer handling your case. If the lawyer is not available by phone, our attorneys always have access to e-mail.
What are the chances that my case will go to trial?
Most lawsuits do not go all the way through a jury trial to a verdict. Many courts require that cases be submitted to mediation before the case can be set for trial. Mediation is an opportunity for both sides to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case, and this often motivates both sides to try to find a reasonable settlement. Whether or not you settle your case is up to you. Your lawyer will advise you on the pros and cons of settlement and will often make a recommendation.
Common Legal Terms Used In Civil Litigation
Plaintiff and Defendant: Plaintiff is the name of the party bringing the lawsuit. Defendant is the name of the party against whom the lawsuit is brought.
Complaint: This is the document filed with the court and served on a Defendant that begins a lawsuit. It states the facts and legal claims that describe why the lawsuit is being filed.
Answer and Defensive Pleadings: The answer is filed on behalf of the Defendant and responds to each statement in the complaint by stating whether the Defendant believes the statement to be true or untrue. In addition, the Defendant may sometimes state that he/she is unable to determine whether the statement is true or untrue because they do not have enough information. Affirmative defenses may also be included in the answer raising certain legal defenses that would prevent the Plaintiff from recovering even if the statements in the complaint are true.
Cross-claim: Where there are multiple Defendants involved in a lawsuit, each Defendant may bring a claim against the other Defendants for any legal issues that arise out of the lawsuit.
Counterclaim: A counterclaim is filed by a Defendant in response to a complaint and describes claims that the Defendant asserts back against the Plaintiff.
Discovery: Discovery is the general term used by the legal system to describe the process by which information is obtained about the claims and defenses of the parties prior to the trial of the case. Discovery typically includes the following:
Interrogatories: Interrogatories are questions directed to the opposing party seeking information about the claims or defenses of that party. It is very important that you provide complete and truthful answers to all interrogatories served upon you. Failure to provide all of the information related to the interrogatories could lead to the Court dismissing your answer or complaint, or the Court issuing an order requiring you to pay attorneys fees to the opposing party.
Request for Production of Documents: A request for production of documents requires you to provide copies of relevant documents to the opposing party. As with interrogatories, failure to provide all documents requested can have very serious consequences to your case.
Request for Admissions: Parties may serve requests for admission on opposing parties asking that certain facts or contentions of law be admitted for purposes of your lawsuit. The purpose of these admissions is to streamline the process and avoid discovery on issues that are not in dispute.
Depositions: Parties and witnesses are required to come to a lawyer’s office and answer questions under oath. The questions and answers are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter and are used in motions and at trial in the event that a party seeks to change their story. These recorded statements are called depositions and may be used to find out additional information about the case or to pin down the facts prior to trial.
Subpoenas: Subpoenas may be issued to witnesses and other non-parties requiring them to give a deposition and/or provide documents in their possession relevant to the case. A subpoena is an official court document requiring the person served to be present and testify and/or provide documents to an attorney.
Motions & Hearings: Motions are written requests by an attorney to have the court order something done (require a party to respond to discovery for example) or asking the Court to rule in favor of one side or the other on all or part of the case. A hearing is a court proceeding where the judge hears arguments for attorneys regarding the motion. You will not be required to attend motion hearings, but are certainly welcome to attend.
Mediation: Mediation is a process in which the parties meet with a certified mediator to explore settlement of the case. Typically the parties will meet around a table and outline their position in the case. The parties will then separate and the mediator will go back and forth between the parties bringing information, offers and counter-offers in an attempt to reach a settlement of the case. Although you are typically required to be present in a mediation, any settlement reached is entirely voluntary and must be agreed to by all parties.
Arbitration: Arbitration is another alternative dispute resolution process whereby the parties attempt to resolve their differences in front of a neutral or panel of neutrals. Arbitration is typically not required as a matter of law, but may be required by the terms of a contract you have signed. Arbitration works much like an actual trial of your case, requiring both sides to state their case and present evidence, but is a more streamlined process than a full trial. Depending on the terms of your agreement with the opposing party, arbitration may either be binding or non-binding.