Litigation Newsletter

Statutes of Limitations

If you have been injured whether physically or financially and you believe that you have grounds to file a lawsuit against the party responsible, how long do you have to file? This is one of the most important questions in any potential litigation. All potential lawsuits come with an expiration date, known as a statue of limitations.As its name implies, these time limitations are set forth in statutory law, independently established by the legislative bodies of each state (as well as by the federal government, for federal causes of action). Because the statute of limitations for each cause of action varies from state to state, it is important to bring your case to an experienced attorney in your state as soon as possible.

Interrogatories and Other Written Discovery

In our legal system, we have determined that it works to everyone's advantage if there are as few surprises as possible in the course of a lawsuit. Since the late 1940s, the federal court system has required disclosure of all relevant facts and documents to the other side prior to trial, and virtually every state has followed its lead. That disclosure is accomplished by discovery. Discovery is generally accomplished either in writing interrogatories, requests for admissions and requests for production of documents or through deposition testimony.

Deposition Testimony

In most civil actions, both parties have the right to engage in discovery to gather facts from the other party and sometimes from third-party witnesses. When discovery is conducted through an oral or sometimes written interview, this is known as a deposition. Depositions are intended to gather background on the facts of the case, establish evidence that can be used at trial or in pleadings and "lock in" the stories of the parties and the witness.

Stages of Litigation

Since much of the publicity on legal matters focuses on the verdict or end result of a lawsuit, most people have a limited understanding of the many stages involved in the litigation process. Litigation is a broad and encompassing term that describes the process of garnering information and resolving legal disputes in court. Through litigation, individuals and businesses resolve a variety of disputes ranging from insurance payouts for personal injuries to trademark questions to contractual disputes.

Types of Pre-Trial Discovery

Discovery refers the process of obtaining pertinent information through the exchange of documents and testimony prior to trial. Discovery allows each party to learn about and analyze the facts of the case, so that the matter may be contested fairly.

Taking Control of Your Case

Civil legal cases can be tortuously long, slow affairs. It is not uncommon for a simple auto accident claim, for example, to span two years or more from inception to completion, especially if the case goes to trial. During this entire process, your attorney will work hard to ensure that you receive the best representation he or she can offer and, hopefully, secure a successful settlement or judgment on your behalf along the way. There are a number of things you can and should do, however, to help your attorney advocate more effectively for you.

Federal Trial Practice

The federal court system receives its power directly from the US Constitution. As a result, the federal courts hear many important legal issues, but the daily legal business of the country tends to revolve around the more flexible state courts.

Tax Litigation

While most taxpayers do not experience difficulties with tax issues or resolve their problems at an early stage, individuals with continuing tax disputes may choose to resolve their claims against the Internal Revenue Service in federal court. Taxpayers can bring tax litigation in one of three federal courts that operate independently of the IRS. Depending on the case, the Claims Court, District Court or Tax Court may provide the appropriate forum. The taxpayer may choose to bring his or her dispute in these courts prior to completing the IRS internal appeals process, but some judges will not hear a case that has not been through this administrative procedure. Additionally, a tax court judge may fine a taxpayer if he or she feels that the lawsuit was brought to delay tax payment.

Children Traveling Alone

Millions of unaccompanied children between the ages of 5 and 12 (called "unaccompanied minors" by the airlines) travel on the major airlines every year. Airlines usually accept these children as passengers but impose restrictions and sometimes extra fees. Before you put your child on an airplane unaccompanied by an adult, learn what the airlines require, what your obligations are as a parent or legal guardian and what you can do to minimize problems during your child's trip.

Chronology of an EEOC Charge

If an employer discriminates against an employee while making hiring and firing decisions, the employee may choose to file a charge with an independent federal agency called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC handles all types of discrimination matters, including those relating to hiring and firing decisions. The following provides a chronology of how the EEOC handles complaints that it receives.

State Appellate Practice

The United States contains two co-existing judicial systems. One system includes the range of state and local courts established by individual state governments, and the other is the federal system created by the Constitution and Congress. The state courts have the general power to decide most cases within the confines of the US Constitution and Supreme Court decisions, the individual state's constitution and state law. The great bulk of legal proceedings take place at the state level because federal courts can resolve only those matters granted them by the US Constitution. Therefore, the general legal business of the country tends to occur in the state courts.

Mediation

Mediation, which can be described as "assisted negotiation," is the fastest growing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method. Many courts now require that disputes be mediated before they are heard in court. Mediation is different from arbitration in that the parties create their own settlement terms with the assistance of a neutral mediator. The mediator's job is to keep the parties talking and to move them toward compromise. To accomplish that, the mediator engages in discussions with both parties to identify the core issues and obtain agreement on minor issues. The mediator then proposes various settlement options. Lawyers are essential to this process because they can point out the risks of the various settlement proposals and help the parties focus their energies on solutions that best meet their legal needs. Because mediation is not binding unless the parties reach an agreement, the only risks are the time spent and the possibility of disclosing to the other side potentially damaging facts.

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