You have been seriously injured by the careless actions of another person. You have chosen your lawyer carefully. Thank you for asking me to represent you. It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to fight for you.
Please know that I have chosen you carefully as a client as well. I take a small percentage of cases I am asked to handle. I have chosen you because the injury is serious and by holding the defendant accountable in money damages we together can make our world just a little bit safer.
This process will be long. It will be arduous. It will be very expensive. It will culminate in a trial. I prepare each case to go to trial. I must in order to maximize your recovery and ensure the careless party is held accountable. I must prepare each case, from the moment I meet you, as if I will be taking your case before a jury of our peers in a trial.
A trial is war. Everything that happens before that war is preparation for that war. A peace treaty (called a Settlement) may be entered before the start of the war. However, in order to earn for you the best terms possible in that peace treaty, I must show the other side that they face even greater potential destruction in the war.
This long process leading up to the potential war involves the build-up of evidence favorable to your position and admissions damaging to the careless party. This process includes preliminary investigation such as procuring available video, scene and damage photographs, witness statements, medical records, liability expert reports, background searches of the parties, and many other things.
Once the evidence is gathered, it may be presented to the other side with a peace proposal (called a Settlement Demand). Rarely is such a peace treaty successful in accomplishing the twin goals of making you whole and truly holding the wrongdoer accountable. So, a declaration of war, called a Lawsuit or Complaint, must be filed in Court.
The longest part of the build-up of evidence and admissions in preparation for trial is called “Discovery.” Technically, it means that each side gets to learn about what information the other side has. In truth, both sides are fighting to establish favorable evidence and damaging admissions.
It is through the discovery process that the probable outcome of the trial will be made more clear. This is why, it is after the conclusion of discovery that both sides are in the best position to decide whether and under what terms a settlement can be reached. .
There are many tools for discovery but the one most potentially devastating is the” Deposition”. The deposition is a questioning, under oath, of a party or witness. If employed effectively by a skilled practitioner in the art of war, the deposition is the single greatest method of displaying strength and revealing weakness.
In order to minimize the risk that damage can be done to your case during your deposition, I must spend a great effort to prepare you for this battle. And, I spend countless hours preparing to gain damaging admissions from the defendants in their depositions.
Once discovery is complete, the trial may be scheduled. At this point, years may have passed since the day you walked into my office seeking my help. In that time we will have become very familiar with one another. We will have spoken perhaps hundreds of times, met for many hours in preparation, and I will have become intimately knowledgeable about affairs of your life that very few others know. We may or may not become friends, but for certain, there will have been established a mutual respect and a knowledge that we are in this endeavor together, fighting a war, with the only acceptable outcome – Victory.
As trial nears, fear begins to creep in and invade confidence. In war, only one side wins. Fear of death (losing) is inevitable. But, it is imperative at this time to remember, that fear is not one sided. No one wishes to lose. Self preservation is an overwhelming emotion for all. If you have been able to persevere to this point, then you have created the environment to accomplish the best possible peace terms.
But, maybe the best possible peace terms are not enough to accomplish the goal of making you whole or holding the wrongdoer accountable or making our world just a little bit safer. If that is the circumstance, a trial may be the only course.
It has taken tremendous resolve, courage and focus to get this far. The expense will be great and the effort is subject to being completely lost. But remember, you chose me carefully and I chose you carefully, and together, if we do have that mutual respect developed over the years of preparing for the war, we will be successful.
Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured. Tony is a founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is on the board for the Philadelphia VIP, a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys and voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 10 years.