Business and Administrative Steps to take before Trial
Here is a complete guide to setting up your products liability case as well as information related to relevant insurance companies and county filing instructions.
- Intake Form:The client intake meeting is a formative experience for your client and the first building block for you in your case. Here you should ask a wide-ranging set of questions regarding the product, its origins, the accident, any injuries, monetary loss from missing work or investments, and medical treatment or bills associated with the accident. The questions and answers here should be the first signs on the eventual path of your case including the product maker’s liability, the client’s injuries, and possible recovery. However, beyond coming to grips with the legal storyline, the client intake meeting should help you build a sense of camaraderie with the client. Try to instill a sense of trust in him or her as well as a sense of your own legal authority. Working on this will be really helpful before you ask to represent the client vis a vis the contingency agreement.
- Contingency Agreement: Before you can actually represent the client, you must gain the client’s consent to representation. Typically, plaintiffs’ lawyers in personal injury actions-including products liability-will work on a contingency basis. This means that the client only pays the lawyer if the lawyer is successful in gaining a jury award or settlement. Then, the lawyer takes a percentage of the total (i.e. 33%) for his or services as well as reasonable costs and expenses (such as photocopying, retaining expert witnesses, court travel, etc.). For more information regarding the structure and content of contingency agreements see Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct §1.5 and the Illinois Supreme Court case Dowling v. Chicago Options Assoc., Inc., 875 N.E.2d 1012 (Ill. 2007). Obtaining client consent via contingency agreement before starting to work on a products liability case is critically important because the costs can rack up quickly: expert testimony to prove the existence of a deviation from standard manufacturing practices; gathering voluminous amounts of records from the defendant; legal research to discern the extent and nature of the negligence; etc. Therefore, save yourself the time and headache by first getting a signed contingency agreement from your client. Here is a sample for Illinois products liability cases:
- Lost Wages Form: One thing to do at the get-go is obtain a record of the client’s work and investment history. This should be largely be done to establish one dimension of damages due to the injury from the malfunctioning product. One way to efficiently do that is through the use of a lost wages form (see below). This will set out where/when/and how much the plaintiff was making prior to the accident. Send this to the plaintiff’s employer(s), possibly with a consent form or a copy of the contingency agreement stating your right to represent him or her.
- HIPAA Form: Besides lost wages, another common and significant source of damages in products liability cases is medical treatment. This can be very costly and time-consuming and should be reimbursed through litigation. Also, medical records are a great source of evidence related to damages and injury. Therefore, obtaining a full medical history and medical bill record is vital to your case but before you do that you must obtain the client’s authority for you to receive them from a medical provider. Use this HIPAA form for you products liability case but feel free to customize it to your particular case needs:
- Records Collection List: The amount of information and the number of documents in an ordinary products liability case can make your head spin. Therefore, before starting out to gather all of it, it is important to have an index of everything you need. Not only will this make you more organized and time-efficient, it will also show you where your strengths and weaknesses are in your case. Starting with the template given below, fill in everything your case should need to be successful and track your progress. This form will serve as a snapshot of your case at any time.
KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Sometimes insurance companies are involved in products liability cases and, therefore, it is important to understand the company implicated in the incident. This company might be the one that you seek reimbursement from after seeking a judgment from the party at fault because that party was insured or has no money to offer. Click on the links below to learn about some of the biggest insurance companies and litigation against them:
- State Farm
- Countrywide Financial
- Liberty Mutual
HOW TO FILE A LAWSUIT
In Cook County, you have to fill out and file a Complaint and Summons form. These documents can be downloaded at their website (http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org/) or picked up at their office at Room 601 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60602. You must also serve the defendant either through the Sheriff’s Office or through certified mail (if the claim is below $10,000). After filing these documents, the county will give you a return date for when you are supposed to come back for your trial. For more information and for all relevant forms needed to file a lawsuit, please visit the Cook County website. Also, to see the costs of a filing you lawsuit, visit this page: http://188.8.131.52/Forms/pdf_files/CCG0603.pdf
The process to start a lawsuit is quite similar in other counties, to find the necessary information see below:
- Office of the Circuit Court Clerk
- 505 County Farm Road
- P.O. Box 707
- Wheaton, Illinois 60187-0707
- Keith Brin, Clerk of the Circuit Court
- 18 N. County St.
- Waukegan, IL 60085
- Will County Court House
- The Office of the Circuit Clerk
- 14 W. Jefferson Street
- Joliet, IL 60432
- (815) 727-8592
- Clerk of the Circuit Court
- 540 S. Randall Rd.
- St. Charles, IL 60174
- McHenry County Government Center
- 2200 North Seminary Ave.
- Woodstock IL 60098
- (815) 334-4000
- Clerk of the Court
- 157 North Main Street,
- Edwardsville, IL. 62025