Getting to Know The Litigation Process

Depositions

Depositions are part of the discovery process in a case. A deposition is a recorded statement under oath. The purpose of a deposition is discovery of facts to help ascertain the parties' strengths and weaknesses in the lawsuit. The scope of discovery that can be asked in a deposition is very broad. A lawyer is entitled to ask questions regarding any matter, which is not privileged, and is relevant to the subject matter of the lawsuit.

Settlement vs Decision to Go to Trial

The attorneys at The Whittemore Law Group, P.A. are first and foremost trial attorneys.  However, most cases are resolved by a settlement reached between the parties. In reaching a settlement, Defense attorneys are familiar with which firms are willing to go to trial and which firms will settle a case to avoid going to trial. This can impact your ability to recover damages to which you are entitled. Our ability and willingness to try complex cases to verdict can produce fair and just settlement offers to our clients. Whether we reach a settlement that is in your best interest, or we go to trial, we will work diligently in order to meet your goals.

Length of Trial

Trials can last anywhere from one day to one month. Some could possibly last longer. Criminal trials, depending on the type of charge, or whether there are multiple charges, are typically shorter than Civil trials. Whether it is criminal or civil, trials do not occur as they appear on television - they do not begin and end within an hour segment.

Voir Dire

Voir dire is the only portion of the trial where the parties and their lawyers have the opportunity to pose questions to prospective jurors.   This process is designed so that the parties can decide who they think should be the jurors in a particular case. The goal of jury selection is to seat a fair and impartial jury.

Judge’s Role

The presiding Judge is the particular Judge assigned to hear the case.  In most circuits cases are randomly assigned to a Judge upon the initial filing of the lawsuit. With some exceptions, the Judge presiding over a trial is usually the same Judge that has presided over pretrial conferences, motions and other hearings leading up to the trial.

Verdicts

At the conclusion of the trial after all of the evidence has been presented and both the plaintiff and defense have made their final arguments, the Judge will instruct the jury on the law and how to apply the law to the evidence in the case. Then, the jury will be sent into deliberation and asked to reach a verdict and determine whether to award damages. There are two types of damages that juries can award a plaintiff – compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate for the injury or loss suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s conduct, and punitive damages are designed to deter and punish such wrongful conduct.

How a jury calculates a verdict

A verdict in favor of the plaintiff allows the jury to award a financial remedy to an individual that has been wronged, injured, or experienced a loss.  The calculation of the verdict lies within the discretion of the jury to determine an amount of compensation which properly reflects the plaintiff’s loss.  In some cases it may be simple to calculate the damages based on medical bills or lost wages.  Other damages, such as those which arise in a wrongful death case, are much more difficult to determine.  How do you truly measure the value of a life?  How do you adequately assess the value of the years lost with a spouse, child or family member?  A jury will rely upon the instructions from the Judge in making its determination, but a large part of this calculation will rest upon the common sense and conscience of the jury.

Comparative Negligence

Often times a jury may decide both parties are partially at fault.   If appropriate, the jury may be asked to apportion fault to the parties by assigning a percentage of fault to the plaintiff and a percentage to the defendant.  The law in Florida allows for what is called “Comparative Fault” or “Comparative Negligence” – which is the apportionment of fault for each person the jury finds responsible in causing injury to a person.