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Archive for the ‘Filing a Lawsuit’ Category

The San Francisco Chronicle has been following the story of a BART (the bay area train system) police officer who shot an unarmed man.  The most recent story, found here, highlights a protest that turned destructive last night as demonstrators broke windows in shops and cars, and set fire to several vehicles.  The mob apparently split off of a peaceful demonstration that started at the BART station where the BART officer shot 22-year old Oscar Grant on January 1.  

From the accounts contained in the story, it appears that the destructive mob that formed was infuriated that the BART officer had shot an African American.  The Mayor of Oakland even tried to calm the mob by giving a speech at City Hall.   

The San Francisco Chronicle also reported yesterday that the BART officer involved in the shooting has resigned.  The story is here.  This incident has led to a $25 million claim being filed by Mr. Grant’s family against BART.  

While the angry mob did nothing to solve the problems in this case, the claim filed by Mr. Grant’s family is an example of the civil justice system being used in a quasi-criminal matter.  Clearly, if the BART officer had no reason to shoot Mr. Grant, then he could be charged with murder.  

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a shooting, contact a murder victim lawyer from Rist Law Offices to discuss your case.  We handle all types of crime victim cases throughout West Virginia and California.  We are also available for consultation on crime victim cases anywhere in the United States.  Call us toll free at 866-982-5299.

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The San Francisco Chronicle has been following a story arising out of a New Year’s Day shooting on the BART train system in Oakland.  The most recent story in the Chronicle notes that the family has hired an attorney who will most likely be filing a civil lawsuit.  The article is here.

The most surprising fact about this case is that the perpetrator was a BART police officer.  Video footage has surfaced that allegedly shows an unarmed man face down in the train when he is shot.  

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a shooting or any other serious crime, contact a WV shooting victim lawyer from Rist Law Offices to discuss whether you could have a civil claim.  We handle all crime victim cases on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no fee unless your case is settled or won in court.  For a free, confidential consultation about your case, contact us toll free at 866-982-5299.

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The Charleston Gazette reported today that a West Virginia State Trooper accused of rape has resigned.  The article is here.  The Gazette reported that the woman involved alleges she was drunk and forced to have sex with the Trooper last month after he followed her to a friend’s house.  

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a rape in West Virginia, contact a rape victim lawyer from Rist Law Offices to discuss your case.  Many crime victims believe that they are limited only to the criminal case.  However, rape or sexual assault victims may be able to recover monetary damages in a civil case against the perpetrator and/or any person or business who failed to take reasonable measures to prevent a crime from occurring.  To speak to a rape or sexual assault lawyer from Rist Law Offices about your case, call us toll free at 866-982-5299.  All initial consultations are absolutely free and any information provided to us will be kept strictly confidential.

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The Charleston Gazette reported today that two Danville men are suing the West Virginia State Police over alleged beatings that occurred at the Logan, West Virginia detachment.  The story is here.  This is yet another lawsuit in series of lawsuits alleging police brutality at different detachments in West Virginia.  Alleged brutality in Montgomery, discussed in this blog here, as well as lawsuits in Logan and South Charleston that were mentioned in the Gazette article bring to light a serious problem with police brutality.

Brutality, racial slurs, and harassment have no place in our society and more should be expected from officers of the law.  Actions such as these can be challenged by an experienced West Virginia crime victim attorney in civil court.  Victims of police brutality, racial slurs, or police harassment could recover compensation for medical bills, psychological or psychiatric treatment, lost work and damages for pain and suffering in a civil case. 

If you believe that you are the victim of police brutality or police harassment, contact a crime victim attorney from Rist Law Offices to discuss your case.  We can be reached toll free at 866-982-5299.

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The Charleston Gazette reported yesterday that one Montgomery, West Virginia police officer was fired and another was placed on administrative leave Saturday after the alleged beating of a black man on Friday.  The story is here.  The story reports that two Montgomery officers allegedly hit a black victim over the head repeatedly with a blackjack, repeatedly kicked him, and sprayed him with mace at close range.  Allegations of a racial slur, an officer licking a victim on the neck, and saying a vulgar comment during an interrogation are also reported in the article.

Brutality, racial slurs, and harrassment have no place in our society and more should be expected from officers of the law.  Actions such as these can be challenged by an experienced West Virginia crime victim attorneyin civil court.  Victims of police brutality, racial slurs, or police harassment could recover compensation for medical bills, psychological or psychiatric treatment, lost work and damages for pain and suffering in a civil case. 

If you believe that you are the victim of police brutality or police harrassment, contact a crime victim attorney from Rist Law Offices to discuss your case.  We can be reached toll free at 866-982-5299.

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The Register-Herald published a story about my response to the Forbes report ranking West Virginia last for business and the ridiculous assertion by the West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse that lawsuits are to blame.  The article is here.

In order to move forward in West Virginia we should not focus on where we rank in some survey that is pieced together in a cubicle that is hundreds of miles from the state lines.  We also should not point fingers and try to place blame on anyone.  There are a number of reasons why West Virginia is struggling economically.  The only way to move forward is for the people of West Virginia to come together and focus on keeping the brilliant minds that we have in the state here in the state.  Then we can focus on developing the small businesses that will help our state grow.

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Step 4 – The Lawsuit Process

The following is a brief breakdown of the process of a lawsuit.  This is only a general overview of a lawsuit.  There are many, many more issues that could occur during a lawsuit so it is important to discuss your case with an experienced West Virginia attorney.

A.  Filing Complaint

A lawsuit begins when a complaint is filed.  It is a good idea to serve an initial set of discovery (see below) along with the complaint in order to get the case moving faster.  The complaint needs to be filed within the statute of limitations.  It is important to discuss the statute of limitations with your attorney at the initial meeting and to calendar this date. 

B.  Serving Discovery

Discovery is the investigation part of the lawsuit.  Formal discovery will include a set of questions called interrogatories being sent to the other party along with requests for documents and possibly requests for admissions.  Requests for admissions ask for the other party to admit facts that are relevant to the lawsuit.  Informal discovery will include witness interviews and possibly meetings with experts.  An opposing party has thirty days to answer discovery requests, or forty-five days if the requests are served with the complaint.

C.  Answering Discovery

Chances are that the other side will serve formal discovery.  You will have to meet with your attorney to prepare responses to the discovery questions.  These also have to be answered in thirty days.

D.  Depositions

Depositions are where a party’s attorney sets a formal time to ask questions of key witnesses under oath.  Depositions are important for determining the strength of a case and what witnesses will say at trial.  A deposition is recorded by a Court reporter. 

E.  Expert Discovery

Expert discovery can include site visits, interviews and depositions of experts.  In a personal injury action, it is common to hire expert witnesses to discuss medical damages, monetary losses and/or any other specific area where an expert’s testimony is necessary.

F.  Settlement Negotiations – Mediation

At any time during the lawsuit settlement negotiations may be ongoing.  Sometimes a formal negotiations session known as a mediation is conducted.  The parties will agree to this session and will pick a mediator who will listen to both sides and will work to get the case settled.  Mediation is a good opportunity to hear another person’s view of the strengths of a case.

G.  Trial

If the case does not settle, it will proceed to trial.  A trial can be as short as one day or take many months.  Most trials are two to four days in length.  In personal injury actions, a jury will almost always hear the case.  At the end of the trial the jury renders a verdict. 

H.  Post-trial

A trial usually marks the end of the litigation process.  If the jury awards money to the Plaintiff, the Defendants will have to pay the money plus interest.  If there were any problems at the trial they could be appealed.  Appeals will possibly be discussed in a later posting. 

From start to end, a lawsuit can take more than two years.  It is important to discuss your expectations with your attorney prior to proceeding with a lawsuit.

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Step 3 – File a lawsuit

The decision to file a lawsuit should be discussed at length with your attorney.  A lawsuit can take upwards of several years to resolve, especially if the case is tried to a jury.  Additionally, the filing of a lawsuit does not mean that the case will settle or that a recovery will be won at trial.  Cases can and do result in no recovery if a jury does not find a party liable for the crime.  On the flip side, if an insurance company or third-party are unwilling to negotiate a reasonable settlement, a lawsuit will force them to respond and eventually the case will be resolved.

A lawsuit must be filed within a certain amount of time known as the “statute of limitations.”  Generally speaking, in a personal injury action in West Virginia, the statute of limitation is two years from the date of the injury.  Be sure to discuss the statute of limitations with your attorney at your first meeting with him or her. 

Once the lawsuit is filed, the case will progress according to the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure (if the case is filed in state court).  The lifespan of a lawsuit and what to expect will be discussed in Part IV.

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Step 2 – Make a claim

Once information has been gathered about the incident and you have hired an attorney, a claim will be made against the wrongdoer and any potential third parties.  This is usually done through a letter that highlights the issues of the case, summarizes the damages, and states a demand to settle the case.  In some cases a demand is not appropriate at this stage due to ongoing medical treatment.  This initial letter is sometimes referred to as a “demand letter.” 

A third party will usually forward the demand letter to their insurance company or perhaps a private attorney.  The insurance company will review the claim and the third party’s insurance policy to decide whether there is coverage for the type of incident that occurred.  Usually a claims adjuster will be assigned to the case and will send a letter to the attorney stating that the claim is being reviewed. 

Once the demand letter is reviewed, negotiations to settle the case will usually begin.  This process can take thirty to sixty days.  If it appears that the third party or their insurance company are not taking the claim seriously or they fail to respond, then a lawsuit will be filed.  Filing a lawsuit will be discussed in Part III.

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One of the first questions we hear from new clients is, “how long does a lawsuit take?”  The following is the first in a series of posts written about the process of a West Virginia crime victim filing a lawsuit.

Step 1 – Meet with an Attorney

The first meeting with an attorney can be difficult for a crime victim.  Many people have reservations about resorting to the legal system to get recourse for a wrong.  A lot of clients tell me that they never thought they would need a lawyer or that they never thought they would file a lawsuit.  Some even seem to feel embarrassed that they have gone to an attorney.

Remember, the reason that you should hire an attorney is to help you recover from a serious injury or accident and to get fair compensation for a wrong.  The purpose of our civil justice system is to place a person who has suffered a wrong in as good a position as they were in prior to the incident that caused the injury.  Seeking the help of an attorney is a smart first step to recovering from a serious incident and/or injury.

When you go to the first meeting with an attorney, be prepared to discuss all aspects of the incident and any treatment that you have received.  The following is a list of items to bring to this meeting:

  • Medical records
  • Medical bills 
  • Health insurance information
  • Other insurance information – including homeowner’s policies
  • The date and time of the incident
  • The place of the incident
  • The name of any agency that investigated the incident (police, fire, etc.)
  • A list of injuries you suffered
  • A list of medical providers you have seen
  • The total medical expenses to date
  • A summary of any property damage
  • Any other information that could be important to the case

 

Once your attorney has reviewed this information and discussed the case with you, he or she will discuss whether they can help you with your case.  If the attorney thinks that you have a viable case, a claim will be made against the party that caused the accident.  The claim process will be discussed in Part II.

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