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CLIENT RESOURCES & FAQ

Phases of a Lawsuit  |  Helpful Links  |  Frequently Asked Questions

To assist visitors to our website, The Quisenberry Law Firm has put together practical information and a list of resources that may aid you in achieving justice in your case. Although we hope you find the links to other websites helpful, the firm is not associated with these sites and cannot maintain any responsibility for the information on those sites, or whether the information is accurate or complete.

PHASES OF A LAWSUIT

Phase 1: Intake  |  Phase 2: Commencement of the Case  |  Phase 3: Discovery  |
  Phase 4: Mediation and Settlement  |  Phase 5: Trial  |  Phase 6: Appeal

Although all cases are unique, the phases of litigation for any type of case are similar. Most of our clients have never before been involved in a lawsuit, so they do not know what to expect when they come to us for help. The following generalized overview of how a case progresses will help to familiarize you with the litigation process.

Phase 1: Intake

You will initially speak with someone in our intake department. This person is qualified to discuss your potential case and will obtain the necessary information and documents to determine whether we can help you with your case. Different information and documents are required depending on the type of case that you have. But our intake specialists will be able to guide you through the process so that we receive all that we need to give you case a proper and thorough review. If the firm believes that it may be able to help with your case, we will ask you to come in and meet with our New Case Manager and an attorney who would work on your case. After meeting, if both parties, you and the firm, are interested in working together on the case, you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement. This document sets forth the terms and conditions of our working relationship, including the fee structure. We are available to go through the agreement with you, answering any questions.

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Phase 2: Commencement of the Case

Once all parties decide that they would like to move forward, and the retainer is signed, our attorneys will immediately begin work on your case. Usually, we have obtained all necessary documents and information during the intake process to draft and file a complaint with the court, but there are times we may need to undertake further investigation. If this is the case, one of the attorneys or paralegals assigned to your case will contact you to secure the additional details.

The filing of the complaint is the beginning of your lawsuit. Your attorney will determine in which venue (courthouse) your case should be filed. Our firm works in both state and federal courts throughout California. A complaint is a legal document filed with the court by the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit). It sets forth the nature of your claim and the name of the person or company that you are suing (the defendant). After it is filed with the court, the complaint will be served on (sent to) the defendant, and they then have an opportunity to answer your allegations. On the rare occasion, the mere filing of a complaint will be enough to cause the defendant to settle your case. More commonly, your case will progress into the next phase of litigation.

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Phase 3: Discovery

The discovery stage is when each party to the action (plaintiff and defendant) exchanges information with each other. Information is obtained through several means, including but not limited to interrogatories (written questions and answers), requests for documents, depositions (oral testimony), and site inspections (experts examining your damaged property). Discovery is an ongoing process lasting almost until the start of the trial.

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Phase 4: Mediation and Settlement

Due to the current caseload of California judges, everyone involved in a lawsuit is required to submit to a mandatory settlement conference. But before that date arrives, your attorney may recommend that you go to a voluntary mediation. (On occasion, a judge will also require you to submit to mediation.) Mediation is similar to a trial, but it is before a retired judge or attorney, it does not take place in a courtroom and it is less costly than taking a case all the way through a trial. Mediations can take a couple of hours or a couple of days. It all depends on the complexity of the issues and the positions of the plaintiff and defendant. A mediation brief, stating your position of the case, will be filed prior to the day of mediation, so the mediator is fully aware of the facts of your case. The mediator will do his or her best to propose a reasonable settlement based on the facts, and if both parties agree with the amount submitted by the mediator, the mediator’s award becomes final and the case is over. All parties and their attorneys are present at a mediation. In the rare occasion, a party may attend by phone.

A mandatory settlement conference is a similar process, but it may take place in a courtroom before the judge assigned to your case or another available judge in your courthouse. The attorneys will present their clients’ cases to the judge, and the judge will make a settlement recommendation. Usually all parties are present, but as with a mediation, there are times when a party will be allowed to attend by telephone. If both sides can reach an agreement, the case will come to an end at this point.

You will never be forced into a settlement during a mediation or a mandatory settlement conference. Your attorney will present the facts to you in a realistic manner and offer an opinion as to what you should do, but ultimately it is your decision to accept or reject a settlement offer.

If an agreement cannot be reached through a mediation or a mandatory settlement conference, the case will go back to court and will eventually be tried in front of a judge or a jury.

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Phase 5: Trial

Most lawsuits are resolved without going to trial. This is done through settlement during a mediation or a settlement conference. But there is a small percentage of cases that make it to the courthouse. An attorney’s work on your case becomes quite intense in the weeks leading up to your trial date. During this time, you may be required to come to the office for a day or more to go over facts and to be prepared to testify, if you are to testify in your case.

A trial can be before a judge (a bench trial) or a jury (a jury trial). The procedure is the same for both, except that in a jury trial, the people who hear and decide your case must be selected. In a bench trial, the judge both hears and decides your case.

A jury trial begins with jury selection. During this process, both attorneys, plaintiff’s and defendant’s, have the opportunity to ask questions of potential jurors. Each attorney has a certain number of opportunities to remove jurors from your panel, helping to insure that you receive a fair and impartial jury. Once a jury is selected, the trial proceeds in the same manner for a bench or a jury trial.

During the trial, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence, both oral testimony and presentation of documents, to tell their stories to the judge or the jury. Once all evidence is entered, both attorneys will give closing arguments. If it is a jury trial, the judge will then instruct the jury on the applicable law and send them to deliberate. In a bench trial, the judge takes all the evidence under submission, and will take some time in making his or her decision. Once a verdict has been reached, by either a judge or a jury, it will be read to you and this decision will become final, concluding your case.

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Phase 6: Appeal

Sometimes, one of the parties is not happy with the judge’s or the jury’s decision. There are times when that party has the right to appeal the decision. At this time, if an appeal is a possibility in your case, your attorney will meet with you to discuss the situation and to make the necessary decisions. This is necessary as our scope of employment under the retainer agreement only goes through the initial trial. Sometimes we are able to move forward with you during the appeal phase, but oftentimes it is necessary for an attorney who specializes in appellate law to step in and take over representation.

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HELPFUL LINKS

Insurance  |  State and Federal Courts  |  Helpful Agencies and Organizations  |
  Research  |  Local and State Newspapers  |  Local Links

Insurance

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State and Federal Courts

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Helpful Agencies and Organizations

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Research

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Local and State Newspapers

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Local Links

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Most people who call us have never been involved in a lawsuit and just don’t know what to expect. Below are some of the questions that we are routinely asked by our potential clients. These frequently asked questions are provided for informational use only. Please see our disclaimer for additional information.

What is Insurance Bad Faith?  |  What is a class action?  |
  Why would I want my case brought as a class action instead of as an individual case?   |
  What is a construction defect lawsuit?  |  What is a contingency fee?  |
  What is a statute of limitations?  |  How do I know if I have a case?  |
  How quickly will you let me know if you can take my case?  |
  What if you are unable to accept my case?  |  Why should I choose The Quisenberry Law Firm?

What is Insurance Bad Faith?

An insurance policy is a contract between the insured and the insurance company. The insurance company must act fairly and in good faith when dealing with its insureds and their claims. If the insurer unreasonably withholds benefits or unreasonably delays payments, it has violated the covenant of good faith. You may then have a lawsuit for insurance bad faith in which you can sue for actual damages (contract benefits) and consequential damages (such as emotional distress). In some cases, punitive damages may even be awarded.

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What is a Class Action?

A class action is a lawsuit where one person brings the suit on behalf of himself or herself, as well as on behalf of all others similarly situated. The person bringing the suit, and sometimes it may be a couple of people, is known as the Class Representative(s). They are able to move forward on behalf of an identifiable group of people when everyone has the same or a similar claim. The facts and the issues of law must be common for everyone in the class and the Class Representative’s claims must be typical of all of the class members’ claims in order for a lawsuit to proceed as a class action. The final determination in the case is binding on all class members and, if it is a successful suit, all class members may receive a benefit, money or otherwise, from the lawsuit.

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Why would i want my case brought as a class action instread of as an individual case?

Sometimes there are so many people harmed in the same way by the same defendant, that it is more efficient and less of a burden on the court’s resources, for a lawsuit to proceed as a class action. There are also times when the individual person’s damages are so small that with the current costs of litigation, it would not be practicable to pursue an individual lawsuit. In these instances, a class action lawsuit may be the best way for you to pursue your case. The goal in a class action lawsuit is the same as for an individual case: to get you fair and adequate compensation for the harm done to you.

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What is a construction defect lawsuit?

Construction defect includes any failure to construct a home or building in a reasonably workmanlike manner. There are many types of defects, and chances are you may not know how your home is defective. What you will know are the symptoms of the defects, such as roof or window leaks, cracking in your concrete, doors that swing open after being shut, cracking tiles and space between hardwood floor boards growing larger, just to name a few. You will know that the defects are causing physical damage to your home. By filing a construction defect lawsuit, you are going after the parties responsible for the defects in your home, usually the developer, builder, contractor or subcontractor. The goal of the lawsuit is to have all potentially responsible parties involved as defendants so that you can deal with all of the defects to your home at once.

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What is a contingency fee?

There are really just two ways that an attorney gets paid for his or her work. Either we work on an hourly basis or on a contingency basis. Most of our cases are on a contingency fee basis. What this means is that if we are able to recover money for you, we share in a percentage of that money. If we are unsuccessful in obtaining money for you, we receive no fee from you. We work this way since we believe everyone should have access to the justice system, not just the wealthy who can afford to pay an attorney an hourly fee. Our firm is dedicated to the rights of plaintiffs, the rights of those harmed by large companies and employers. By working on a contingency fee basis, we are giving the everyday person the ability to take on the large multi-million dollar company, helping to make sure that businesses and employers are abiding by the laws of our society.

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What is a statute of limitations?

In general, a statute of limitation sets the time period during which a lawsuit must be filed. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the defined time period, the Court will not allow you to pursue your case. In other words, the passage of time alone can extinguish valuable legal rights, and what is important is that you seek legal counsel to protect your rights as soon as possible. If you think you may have a case, we suggest that you contact an attorney as soon as possible so that you do not miss the time allotted by the law to file your case.

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How do I know if I have a case?

Call us. Although we cannot give legal advice to someone who is not a retained client, we will happily, and at no charge, review your potential case to determine whether it is a matter with which we can help. Case review usually consists of a telephone call and review of your documents. We may also need to schedule an in-person meeting, but our New Case Manager will walk you through the steps and let you know what we need along the way.

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How quickly will you let me know if you can take my case?

We understand that lawsuits can be difficult for people in many ways and you may be under pressure for a quick response. If there is a deadline looming, please let us know during your initial telephone call with our New Case Manager. In general, we get back to you as quickly as possible. The length of time it takes us to analyze your case just depends on the specifics of your situation. Are there a lot of documents? Will legal research need to be done? When are you available to meet with us? Again, we do our best to get back to you just as quickly as we can.

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WHat if you are unable to accept my case?

Unfortunately, we are not able to help everyone who calls us about their potential case. We know how difficult it can be to find an attorney. So, if we cannot help with your case, we will do our best to put you in touch with an attorney who can.

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Why should I choose The Quisenberry Law Firm?

Our attorneys are skilled in what they do and have earned a reputation in the community for the highest standard of legal work and ethics. We are dedicated to our clients and believe strongly in the rights for which our clients are fighting, from holding an insurer accountable for its actions during the claims process to forcing an employer pay overtime and abide by the laws of our state. Our attorneys fight harder for you because they believe in you and your rights under the law.

The firm is also known in the community as a team of strong litigators, willing to take the case all the way through trial. Defense counsel representing the insurers, large companies and employers know that we cannot be bullied or buried. They know to take us seriously. If we take your case, our reputation will work to your advantage.

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