Once the medical records, photos of scene and damage, authorizations to obtain all medical, hospital, ambulance call, diagnostic records are exchanged, then the lawyers generally request the Court to schedule a “Preliminary Conference.”
A “Preliminary Conference” (or commonly referred to as a “PC”) is held within months of a Request for Preliminary Conference. The plaintiff’s attorney usually makes the request, although some defense law firms file prior to the plaintiff. Once it is scheduled the attorneys meet (usually outside the courtroom) and work together to complete the proposed “PC Order.” The Order mandates that the litigants exchange all records, authorizations, etc. and that they must attend a deposition. A deposition is a statement, made under oath with a court reporter who transcribes the testimony. (I will describe this in another blog). The PC Order puts deadlines on the lawyers and requires them to return to the Court at a later date to advise the Court that they have complied with the Order.
The PC also mandates that the insurance company (via defense counsel) reveal the insurance policy limits, usually within 30 days of the PC Order.
The Order also requires the plaintiff to attend one or more physical examinations to be performed by doctors selected by the defendants. The Order sets the time and place of the examination, as well as a time frame as to when the defendants must deliver a written report of the examinations to the plaintiff’s lawyer.
This PC Order represents the first time that the Court convenes with the lawyers for both sides. It is important because once it is completed, the litigants may proceed to trial.
Many victims of accidents ask their attorney the most common question in the area of Personal Injury Law: “How long will my lawsuit take?” The PC Order generally permits the litigants to complete their “discovery” within 6 to 8 months. Once the “discovery” is completed, it becomes a matter of waiting in line for a trial date. So, it is important to work on the early components of a lawsuit in order to proceed to a “PC Conference.” It establishes a time line that will permit the client to go along with the process.
The plan that our firm has to move lawsuits along is to 1) negotiate with insurance companies while you 2) have already filed lawsuits. The injured person has the benefit of a path to settlement AND a jury trial.