Happy New Year!
One of the interesting things we see each new year are the new laws that go into effect. The State of Iowa adopted some new rules for smaller court cases that will help anyone who has been hurt in an accident get a fast and fair trial.
The cases that make the news are the big ones – the cases in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or in the millions of dollars… and we handle those cases. We also handle much smaller cases – and let’s face it – most auto accident cases are smaller than that. In many cases our clients simply need our help to get their medical bills paid, along with a few thousand in lost wages.
When it came time for settlement discussions, one of the hard realities was that the trial process can be expensive and can take a long time – often up to two years or more. If even a simple case has to go to trial, it may cost thousands of dollars even before attorney’s fees. For smaller cases, that could be a problem!
Now, the State of Iowa has adopted some limited and simplified procedures for cases worth $75,000 or less. How does this help?
- FEWER DEPOSITIONS – a deposition is a procedure where one party can take a party or witness’ testimony under oath for later use. These cost money – typically to pay for the court reporters who transcribe the testimony. The new rules limit the number of these that can be taken – which saves money (and if you’re a plaintiff in a civil case, chances are that any dollar saved by your attorney on your case is another dollar in your pocket at the end!)
- FEWER EXPERT WITNESSES – sometimes insurance companies will hire expert witnesses to try to defeat your case – often these are doctors who will examine you (or maybe just look at your medical records) and tell the jury that you weren’t hurt, or accident reconstructionists, who can sometimes use junk science to explain how this car accident couldn’t have hurt you, etc. These rules limit each side to one of these witnesses.
- ALLOWING MEDICAL EVIDENCE WITHOUT A DOCTOR’S TESTIMONY – In most cases, the insurance company will deny that you needed any medical treatment for the car accident, for example. The old rules required you to have a doctor testify that you were hurt and that the accident caused your injuries. This isn’t the case any more – now you can get the doctor’s medical opinion into evidence without having him there at trial – and this was probably the single biggest cost for plaintiffs in small cases.
There is more to it, but a good Iowa lawyer will know all of the ins and outs. If you need one – feel free to give me a call or send me an email. All we do is help injured people.
(Howard Zimmerle is a car accident and personal injury lawyer in the Quad Cities. He handles cases as far west as the Des Moines area or as far east as the Chicago area. You can contact him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)