6. How long does it take to get to trial?
It was not so long go that some cases would drag on for five years before getting to trial. The system was not as bad as that portrayed in Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," but it was frustrating for people involved in lawsuits.
However, a few years ago a law was passed that said every case had to either settle or go to trial within a year and a half. The aim was to clear a large backlog of Court cases. This aim was successfully achieved. Today, most cases are either settled or tried within twelve to fourteen months.
7. What happens just before and during trial?
The parties are informed of the trial date well in advance, to give them time to complete discovery, try to settle the case, and prepare for trial. If a case must go to trial, it will be before a judge alone, or before a judge and jury.
A trial is an expensive and time-consuming process, requiring an enormous amount of advance preparation. Documents prepared include: exhibit lists, witness lists, trial briefs, motions in limine (rulings on evidence), verdict forms, and jury instructions (in a jury trial). In addition, witnesses must be informed and subpoenas issued.
Fees paid to the Court include jury fees and Court reporter fees. Parties must be prepared to take time off work to be in trial.
The decision at the conclusion of the trial is clear-cut. Only one side will win. Naturally, there are no guarantees. At the end of trial the successful party will submit a Memorandum of Costs, asking the other side for reimbursement of all fees paid to the Court; service fees, deposition costs, and xeroxing and postage costs.
If the case involved a written contract saying the unsuccessful side will pay all attorney's fees, the successful party will submit that request to the Court.
8. How doe the appeals process work?
It is most important to file the Notice of Appeal within the required time limit. If it is not filed on time, the appeal will not be considered. State and Federal Court Rules provide guidelines.
Once the Notice of Appeal is accepted and filed, the Court of Appeal will set a schedule for filing briefs. There may be oral argument at Court, which will be presented by the attorneys.