by Raymond P. Wendolowski, Jr.
When a client makes the determination to send a claim to a law firm, one of the most important steps is to be prepared for the obstacles you are likely to face throughout litigation. If you believe that you have a valid claim and intend to file suit in the future, it is important to do a number of things to be prepared for contested litigation. Although the large majority of all lawsuits are resolved without the need to attend a trial, there are still things that must be done before trial that can be difficult for a client to manage within the relatively brief time frames that the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure set forth, and to alleviate this problem it is helpful to follow a few easy tips.
Before you contact a law firm about filing a lawsuit, you should gather all of the relevant information about your claim. This includes contracts, invoices, and any other documents you may have relating to the incident in question. It is important to keep all of this information in its original form, and to preserve the records as fully as possible. If some records have been misplaced it is not necessarily the death knell to your potential claim, but losses should be minimized as much as possible. Putting all of the information together regarding your lawsuit also means creating and keeping a list of all people who may have witnessed any portion of the events surrounding your claim. Although your attorney will ask you about potential witnesses as well, it is helpful to have this information together ahead of time while the information is as fresh in your mind as it will be.
You should also be prepared to be actively involved in litigation, which means being prepared to answer questions from your attorney, reviewing pleadings and other documents your attorney provides you, and being prepared to attend and testify at potential depositions and an eventual trial. This may involve travel and missed time from work, but it is necessary to properly litigate a case. Even though most cases do not go to trial, it is prudent to be prepared in the event they do. As a wise man once said, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and maybe wind up somewhere in the middle.” Your case may in fact be resolved by way of a default judgment, but if the defendant files an answer or other pleading and attempts to defend, you should be ready to work to defeat the defense.
Your attorney will do everything in his or her power to ensure that your case is properly and quickly litigated and will seek to provide you with the best result you can possibly obtain. However, your attorney cannot litigate your case without your help. You must be prepared and be active in order to provide your attorney with the information needed to support and develop your claim. Without your help, your attorney may not have the information or the leverage needed to properly litigate or settle your lawsuit. If you fail to prepare and be actively involved, you may wind up simply wasting some time and money filing suit when you could have possibly obtained a favorable result with some simple preparation and a willingness to be involved throughout the process.