A question we are commonly asked here at Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf by our clients is, “Why do cases take so long?”.
And the answer is simply that all cases, whether they are personal injury cases, a breach of contract case, or even a criminal case, go through some form of what we as lawyers call, “discovery”.
Discovery is a process that the parties go through before trial, in order to exchange information. This process requires that each party disclose to the other party, the names of all witnesses who have knowledge of the case or any documents that might be related to the case.
Once all required information is exchanged, the parties engage in depositions; a question and answer session, under oath, of those parties having knowledge of the facts of the case. The parties could be an eye witness to a car accident or a treating doctor to an injured in a personal injury action. In some cases, such as a medical malpractice case or products liability case, after discovery has been completed, the parties may be able to hire expert witnesses to opine on various issues such as the standard of care in a surgical procedure, or the proper design for an automobile.
Once the expert discovery has been completed on both sides, the parties then have a full and complete assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. It allows the parties and the court to make an assessment of whether the case should go to trial, and if it is going to settle, what the appropriate value of the case is. Even after discovery takes place, some cases still must proceed to trial in order for a result to be obtained. Please keep in mind, that over 90% of all cases settle prior to the time of the jury verdict.