To many clients it is a complete mystery as to where their compensation lawyer spends their time in respect of preparing their case for presentation at a settlement conference or a trial. An average claim that is received by our lawyers will see our firm undertaking the following steps:
- Firstly we must investigate the nature of the accident and in particular to determine whether or not an entitlement to compensation (often described as liability) can be established. This will more often than not require us to obtain police reports in the event that our client has been injured in a motor vehicle accident or incident reports if they have been injured at work or a public place, CCTV if footage is available and/or Workplace Health and Safety files should an investigation have been launched. It can be necessary for us to become involved in a coronial hearing and other enquiries in respect of a particular accident.
- Once we have completed our liability investigations it is necessary for us to, after advising our clients that they have a viable claim to proceed with, prepare and draft the relevant Notice of Claim so as to commence the compensation process. This process requires us to cross reference the material that we have obtained through the investigation phase against the various legal principles that apply to compensation claims to ensure that we have properly framed the basis for the factual and legal basis upon which we say our clients are entitled to compensation.
- Once the Notice of Claim is lodged we then make sure that we have properly identified all of our client's injuriesandthe nature and extent that these injuries impact upon our client's lives and in particular their financial circumstances. To do this requires a two-prong approach, the first being obtaining all relevant medical records and having our clients independently medically examined by medical specialists to provide reports which we can rely upon at the settlement conference and at court if necessary, to provide specific evidenceofthe nature and extent our client's injury. Secondly, we must also more often than not, engage in a detailed exploration of our client's financial circumstances, especially their employment conditions and remuneration. The outcome of these two steps ordinarily sees us:
- Being in a position to precisely point to the nature and extent of our client's injuries; and
- Identifying what financial losses our clients have suffered as a consequence of their injuries so as to be in a position to ensure that appropriate compensation is sought.
- Following the conclusion of step 3, it is the time for the preparation of the compulsory conference. The compulsory conference is the first significant event that we have in which to settle your claim. In preparing for and appearance at the compulsory conference we ensure that we have ”dotted every i and crossed every t” in respect to the presentation of your case to ensure that we are best placed to obtain you the maximum compensation achievable. In the unlikely event that the matter does not resolve at a compulsory conference (in excess of 85% of our cases do) the next step is for us to commence court proceedings on your behalf before proceeding through to a mediation. This step largely requires us to merely formalise the matters that we have undertaken in steps 1 to 3 and to frame them in appropriate court documents and go through a second process of disclosure. At the conclusion of this conference we will ordinarily participate in a mediation which is similar to a compulsory conference but is more often than not shared by an independent senior lawyer (often a Queens Counsel Barrister) to give parties a further opportunity of negotiating a settlement of the case. In the very unlikely instance of the matter not resolving at mediation (in the last decade our lawyers have only had to progress past a mediation once) it is necessary for us to prepare for a trial and to present your case before a Judge at a trial and to obtain a judgment in respect to your claim.
The above process all takes considerable time and varies from case to case. We always try to keep our clients informed of the various time frames and the time that is being spent on a matter.