Litigation is unpredictable. That said, here are the basic stages your case can go through. It is not unusual for these cases to take months or even years from the day you call me to the day you cash your check, but many cases settle quickly. It is important to remember that, even for cases that go the distance, there are any a few times when your time and effort (as opposed to mine) will be necessary.
The first thing we need to do is discuss your safety and take appropriate action. With that handled, we’ll need to get the basic information: who did what to whom when and where did they do it. Once we have this information we can discuss your goals and options and give you the information you need to decide whether to take the next step.
If you decide to proceed we will sign a contract that lays out what I will do for you and your responsibilities as a client. Of course, you will never pay anything unless I recover money for you.
Once you are signed up, I will use the basic information you provided to conduct a thorough investigation. This includes identifying witnesses and documents that prove that he did what you say he did and often, involves locating and speaking to other women who were treated the same way. In these cases, it is incredibly important to make it a “he said, they said” rather than a “he said, she said.”
With the investigation complete, we will file a lawsuit with the appropriate court. A lawsuit begins with a document called a complaint. In the complaint, we tell your story. The complaint can be the first significant thing the judge reads about your case and we want to make a good impression. If your harasser has insurance, it is also the document that will let the insurance company how big a deal your case is. I will draft the complaint, but you will review and approve it before anything gets filed.
Discovery refers to the formal process of exchanging information during a lawsuit. These means gathering and reviewing documents (your lease, any text messages or emails, etc.) and using them to show the other side how strong your case is. The other side must also give us the documents we ask for. There may also be depositions, which are formal interviews conducted by the lawyers. You will kept in the loop and prepared at each step.
After discovery ends, the harasser’s lawyer may ask the judge to throw out the entire case or particular claims without a trial. If I do my job and the case is strong, this shouldn’t happen. Sometimes, we will ask the judge to throw out some of the harasser’s defenses before trial as well. Thee requests are made in writing and called motions. Many cases settle after these motions are decided but before trial.
Very few cases actually go to trial. Trials in these cases tend to be relatively short, taking about a week or less to present. If your case goes to trial, there will be no surprises for you. I will walk you through every part of the process and make sure you feel prepared.
Very, very, very few cases will involve an appeal. An appeal happens when the losing side believes that the judge or jury got things so wrong that an appellate court (usually three judges) will see the error and think that without the error the other side would’ve won. These don’t happen often but they can add 18 months to a case.
Settlement can happen any time. A settlement just means that the parties agree to compromise. You are the master of any settlement. I won’t ask the other side to settle for any amount without your permission and I wont’ accept any settlement offer on your behalf without your permission. You will be in total control.