Small Claims Court – St. George, Utah

Small Claims Court – St. George, Utah

Local attorney briefly explains how the small claims court process works in Southern Utah. One thing of note is that, at the time of the video was shot, the maximum amount one could be awarded in small claims court in Utah was $10,000.00 (ten thousand). That amount has since been raised to $11,000 (eleven thousand).

The small claims court is set up to be simple. The point is to provide access to the law to people who have issues to deal with that are too small to justify hiring expensive lawyers and utilizing the standard litigation process required by the higher courts. Don’t take that to mean that hiring a lawyer for your small claims case will not be helpful. It certainly will be. For example, our firm has an undefeated record in the Washington County Small Claims Court. That is not because it is easy, or because the local courts are biased in our favor. Rules of civil procedure and discovery still apply. If a form is filled out wrong, or papers are not served correctly, your case could be dead from the start. It is also not because we only take slam-dunk cases to trial. It is simply because we are willing to put an enormous amount of time and effort into each and every one of our cases- no matter how small the case may appear to some. We know that even a relatively small case is a huge deal to the person who is directly affected by it. We want to represent you as strongly as you would represent yourself if you had all our years of law school and experience. If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys about your potential small claims matter, give us a call. No case is too big or too small. At McMullin Legal Group, we get it, and we can help.

Washington County Utah – Small Claims Court

For complete information on how to handle a small claims matter on your own, check out the great resources at https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/smallclaims/

6 Ways to Resolve Your Utah Personal Injury Case

6 Ways to Resolve Your Utah Personal Injury Case

There are six ways to resolve a personal injury or automobile accident case in the State of Utah.  This article will explain your options and increase your understanding of how these processes work.  This will enable you to make a more informed decision about how you should proceed with your claim.  A qualified attorney will be able to guide you further in the direction that will best serve your needs whether you are in Cedar City, St. George, Provo, or Ogden. For more specific information on your case, call our Southern Utah Lawyers for help.

#1 Settlement

The first and most common way to resolve a case is a settlement.  This option involves no one getting sued, no one going to court, no one being placed under oath, and no one being served.  It’s much cheaper and easier to facilitate the resolution of a case with a fair settlement than through any other means. However, in order to reach a sufficient settlement, you will need to be armed with all the information you need in order to arrive at a fair settlement amount.  Most personal injury attorneys, including lawyers in Cedar City Ut, will meet with clients for a free initial consultation and can help you understand all that needs to be considered before you accept a settlement offer.

A case is worth what you have the leverage to negotiate for.  So both sides are going to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a case.  Both sides will look at the facts and damages and compare them.  If they come up with numbers that are somewhat similar, then the case will likely settle.  However, sometimes the numbers are very far apart and in those types of cases, a settlement is not likely to work.  Other factors that could hinder a settlement are that there may be a dispute about the facts in regards as to what happened in the accident or the insurance company may even deny any fault on their side or accept only a percentage of fault.  They may also have a big problem with some of the treatment that was given and the charges associated with that treatment.  The insurance company may also fail to recognize that the injuries sustained in the accident will have long lasting effects on the claimant that will affect quality of life or ability to earn income or that may require continued medical treatment.  These could be reasons that the case won’t settle and you would have to consider one of the other options that we will discuss further in this article.

Lawsuit 

Although mediation or arbitration could occur without filing a lawsuit, they are both more common after filing a lawsuit. So a lawsuit would commence with one of really five different options.  Continue reading to find out to better understand what those options are and how each one could benefit or be more difficult considering the circumstances of your particular case. For specifics, call our St. George Ut Lawyers.

#2 Mediation

This is the second quickest way to resolve a case. It is actually a settlement, but it is done through a formal mediation process.  Mediation is a collaborative meeting where you and your attorney meet face to face with the attorney and the insurance company from the other side and discuss why you are so far apart and see if that helps.  These meetings are confidential and informal.  Also because they are less formal or threatening it is easier to preserve relationships if per chance parties involved in the case happen to be friends or family.

When both sides come face to face sometimes the insurance company is not as likely to just make a completely low-ball offer to you and sometimes you are able to reach a place that seems fair for both sides.  Typically, you will go and meet in separate rooms in the same building, the two opposing sides, and the mediator will bounce back and forth between the rooms and argue against both sides and point out your cases weaknesses so that both sides are more likely to meet in the middle.  This back and forth process allows both sides the opportunity to understand the other’s point of view and clear up any misunderstandings.  It can be very effective if both sides come willing to compromise and consider all that is presented by the other side. Call today for a free consultation with a Cedar City Utah Lawyer.

#3 Arbitration

Often times when you file a lawsuit instead of actually going all the way through to a formal trial and courthouse, like you see on television, you could actually go to an arbitrator to decide what is going to happen with the case.  An arbitrator is typically just a very experienced attorney who sits and acts as the judge and jury.  Both sides present their case.  You will be given the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses.   You still follow some of the same types of procedures that you would follow in court, it’s just you are not in court.  This saves you time because you don’t have to be on the waiting list for a courtroom. You will most likely meet in your attorney’s office or in a conference room somewhere.  The arbitrator will hear and see the evidence and testimony on both sides and then decide what happens on your case. McMullin Legal Group utilizes multiple conference rooms available from our own office in St. George Utah, all the way up through Cedar City and on to Northern Utah.

In Utah, there is something called a 321 arbitration.  That’s where someone that’s been hurt in a car accident can actually force the insurance company into arbitration.  Whereas, normally, for arbitration, both sides would have to agree that they will arbitrate rather than going to a trial.  But with 321 arbitration you can force the insurance company into it.  The drawback is that there is a cap and your case has to be worth less than $50,000 in order to utilize that option. And if you do utilize that option and you were to win, it is possible that the insurance company could just appeal for a trial de novo and actually take you to a jury trial anyway, thereby defeating the whole point that you wanted to save time and money. However, this is discouraged by the fact that there is some risk for the party that requests the appeal.  If the defendant requests the appeal and they are not awarded at least 30% less than the arbitration award, then they will be responsible for the plaintiff’s expenses with a cap of $6,000. So they can be risky in some circumstances but they can be a great option as well.

#4 Bench Trial

This is like what you see on TV that takes place in the courthouse but does not require a jury.  A bench trial can be a quicker option than a jury trial because time does not have to be taken to choose a jury and instruct them on the legal rules and proceedings of the courtroom.  Also the wait time to get on the schedule is not typically as long as the wait for a jury trial.

Also another benefit of a bench trial over a jury trial would be if there is potentially damaging evidence or irrelevant facts that could sway the jury that may be presented.  For example, testimony could be given in a jury trial that the defendant was a gang member.  This could sway the jury’s decision based on emotions of the jury.  In this type of situation a judge would be more neutral.

In a bench trial, the judge makes the procedural decisions and hears the evidence. He is actually the finder of fact.  Meaning the judge not only rules on the legal issues but he decides what happened in the case and how much the case is worth and gives an award.  Both sides will be allowed to present their case by calling witnesses, showing evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that one party is at fault.

Typically, insurance companies in Utah are not huge fans of bench trials and they actually prefer juries.  This is because juries tend to be pretty defense minded in Utah and fairly conservative in their awards.  Insurance companies would rather take their chances on a jury trial. The good people of Cedar City Utah and St. George Utah generally don’t enjoy suing one another. Our Cedar City Attorneys are able to explain the process in a way that a jury will understand.

#5 Jury Trial

A jury trial is the big deal with all the hoopla. That is type of dispute resolution that takes by far the most time to schedule, prepare for, and to go through.  Often times a jury trial will last multiple days.  The judge rules on procedural and evidentiary issues in the courtroom.  His job is to decide what the jury can and cannot be allowed to see and hear in the case.  He will make decisions as to who can be a witness and what they can testify about as well as what documents or physical evidence can be presented.  This prevents the jury from hearing irrelevant, prejudicial or untrustworthy testimony or evidence in the case that the jury should not hear.   The jury is the finder of fact and so they will decide what happened at the scene of the accident and who is actually at fault and ultimately how much the case is potentially worth.

With any of these options you an appeal a decision from a trial but you have to appeal on a legal issue and go to appellate court and the case will become exponentially even more expensive and more time consuming. So these above resolutions are really, in a sense, final resolutions.

#6  Small claims

In Utah, the justice court is the small claims court.  You can bring a dispute to small claims court as long as the dispute is not for more than $10,000 total that you are disagreeing about.  So if you are involved in say a minor car accident, where you did get hurt, but it’s not a huge case, small claims would be an action that you can consider.  The benefits of small claims over all of the other options are that it is much faster to get to the resolution and it is cheaper to file.  The filing fee for a small claim can be as little as $60 if the claim is for less than $2,000 and as much as $185 if the claim is worth between $7,500 and $10,000.   Small claims cases in some counties in Utah are now automatically referred to mediation.  If that occurs, you will be asked to attend a mediation conference and if a resolution is not reached there, then a trial date will be set.  Your mediation conference is confidential and anything said there cannot be used against you in court.

If mediation was unsuccessful, the wait time is still shorter than a jury trial and you could potentially get on the court’s docket only a few weeks out.  Whereas with a jury trial or a bench trial,  you typically don’t expect to meet before a judge and have a case done for over a year from the time that you filed the lawsuit.  That’s another reason that oftentimes people will opt for mediation and arbitration because you can typically get those done in more like three to nine months rather than potentially a year or more like a jury trial would take.  In a small claims court, a judge decides what happens to the case and will issue an award right there.  They are not as time consuming and a little bit easier to get done and cheaper for the client.  So if you have a smaller case, this is an option you will want to consider.

Summary

In summary, this article has presented the six options that a citizen has when seeking resolution and fair compensation for damages.  These options apply to Utah cases whether the crash occurred in Salt Lake city, St. George, or Cedar City. In order to consider all the costs entailed in that claim, it would be wise to seek legal counsel from a qualified personal injury attorney.  Remember most attorneys provide the initial consultation free of charge and will help you make an informed decision about which legal route you should pursue.  They will likely ask you questions that may cause you to think of expenses and repercussions from injuries sustained in the accident that you may not have considered.  If you hire that attorney, they will work on a contingency basis. This means that you pay nothing for his services until your case is settled. If you are in need of a Cedar City Ut Attorney, give us a call.

Cedar City Utah Attorneys

McMullin Legal Group is in Southern Utah and we are here to help. Give us a call at 435-673-9990. Our primary focus is helping car accident victims in St. George and Cedar City, Utah.

This article and others on this site does not constitute a legal opinion or advice. Interactions on this website do not create an attorney-client relationship and does not serve as a replacement for consulting with an attorney. McMullin Legal Group expressly disclaims all liability relating to actions taken based on contents of this site.

St. George Attorney: What Happens After the Trial?

St. George Attorney: What Happens After the Trial?

Question: After the trial, if we win, how long does it take to receive the money?

St. George Attorney Answer:

If the verdict is in your favor, it can take weeks to a month to process and finalize the result of the trial. As long as the defense does not appeal the outcome of the case, both attorneys will then determine the final numbers in regards to the verdict and award, including interest, court costs, deductions, and attorneys’ fees.

What happens if we lose?

If all goes well with the help of your St. George attorney, you will not lose. In the case that you do, your attorney will talk with you about possibly appealing the verdict. That is an expensive route to go, but your attorney can help you decide if that will be the right decision. It is important to remember that losing is a possibility. Proceeding to trial carries risk. It means that you think your case is worth significantly more than what the adjuster believes it is worth. There is always a possibility that you and your attorney are wrong.

If we lose, can I still get a settlement?

In a minority of cases, the insurance carrier might offer a small settlement in order to avoid an appeal on your part. This isn’t likely. Concentrate on working with your attorney in St. George to win your case at trial. If your lawyer and you are both well prepared and liability is clear, you will most likely win.

St. George Attorney: How do I make a Good Witness?

St. George Attorney: How do I make a Good Witness?

Question: What should I remember in order to be the best possible witness?

St. George Attorney Answer:

Remember that the trial key to winning your case. You can’t be perfect, but this is your only chance in court, and it is important to make it count. These are some tips to prepare you to be the best witness you can be as you answer questions from both attorneys:

  • Study your interrogatory responses. Get access to your deposition transcript and study that as well. Be sure that your answers and testimony are consistent throughout the case.
  • Don’t bring up insurance. If anything about insurance is brought up into the case, the judge will probably declare a mistrial, and you will go back to waiting for a trial date again.
  • Dress professionally. Don’t wear anything gaudy, bright, or lots of makeup or jewelry. Dress simply and in a professional way, as though you are going to a job interview or church function.
  • Look over your medical documentation so you have a review or picture in your mind of the dates you went to which doctors or treatments, and how your injury progressed.
  • Don’t exaggerate any points. Exaggerating anything about your injury or situation will only hurt your case.
  • Don’t be sarcastic or comical. A court-room is not the place to be funny. It is alright to laugh if something comical occurs, but it is not appropriate for you to be a comedian.
  • Be polite to all parties in the courtroom. You will appear credible and likeable to the jury if you are courteous. Address the judge by “Your Honor,” and the lawyers by “Sir” or “Ma’am.”
  • Maintain your composure. A defense attorney’s easiest tactic to winning a case is to cause you to lose your temper. If you are getting flustered and being badgered by the lawyer for the defense, be courteous. Your calm demeanor will work in your favor with the jury.
  • Listen intently to all questions as you are being examined. Do not anticipate the question or answer before a question is complete.
  • Make eye contact with the jurors. They will find you more trustworthy if you can look them right in the eye. This is very important.
  • Speak clearly. Answer with “Yes,” and “No,” and not with answers like “Yeah,” “Uh huh,” or “Mm hmm.”
  • Do not look to your attorney when being cross-examined. It seems suspicious. You are the witness. Just be honest and answer simply, in the best way you can.
  • Be yourself, even if you are nervous. The jury will expect you to be nervous. You will loosen up a bit as the case gets going.
  • Again, be honest!

St. George Attorney: What is a Trial like?

St. George Attorney: What is a Trial like?

Question: When will the trial take place? What is the trial like?

St. George Attorney Answer:

It is not possible to determine an exact answer to this question since there are so many variables that affect when your case will go to trial after litigation begins. These factors can include:

  • The number of cases awaiting trial in your jurisdiction.
  • The number of judges available for the trials waiting.
  • The amount of time it takes for discovery on both sides to be completed.
  • Other possible factors.

Your St. George attorney will help you to ascertain an approximate guess about when your case will reach trial. In some cases and jurisdictions, it takes a matter of months to reach your trial date, but in others it can be several years to get to trial after your lawsuit is filed.

How much notice will I get before the trial?

In most cases you will get plenty of notice to make preparations with your attorney before your trial. But in some jurisdictions, there may be several “false alarms” that cause you to prepare for the trial many times before your trial really occurs. Your attorney will explain this process to you, but sometimes the court will set a number of cases for trial, but only a small percentage of those are actually reached to be heard.

What happens in a trial?

In simple cases, the trial typically follows a particular format.  Depending on the jurisdiction, your trial will generally follow this pattern, with some variations:

  • The trial will begin with the judge calling all participants into the courtroom, including you, the defendant, the attorneys, and jurors.
  • There will be a jury selection process. In some jurisdictions, the attorneys for each side will ask the prospective jurors questions in order to select the jury. These questions will determine whether there is any existing bias among the prospective jurors that will affect the case.
  • The final jury selection is similar to a lottery. But initially, jurors may be excluded from the final selection for a number of reasons at the judge and attorneys’ discretion.
  • Once the jury selection takes place and 6-8 people are chosen for the case, the attorneys for each side will make opening statements. These statements summarize the case briefly from each point of view. These allow the jury to have an idea of the main points of the case. These statements take approximately 30 minutes or less to deliver.
  • After each opening statement, your attorney will make your case for the court. You and other witness will be called to testify on the witness stand. The witnesses might include your employer, family members, doctor, and any witnesses to the incident. This is called direct examination.
  • After your St. George attorney completes direct examination of each witness, the defense attorney will be allowed to cross-examine each witness as well. Any witness, including you, may be examined on the witness stand by the attorney for the defendant.
  • There will be one more opportunity after the cross-examination for your lawyer to ask a few more questions of any witnesses, in a brief process called re-direct examination.
  • This will conclude the presentation of your case by your attorney. At this point, the defense attorney will present the case of the defendant. He or she will call witnesses for their side. Your attorney will also cross-examine these witnesses, in a similar process to that above.
  • After both sides of the case have been presented by both of the lawyers, meaning all evidence and questioning is concluded, there will be closing arguments. In this process, the attorneys will make a summary and final statement of their respective side of the case for the jury. Each lawyer will ask for the verdict they desire. Your attorney will give his or her closing statement first, and then the defense attorney will follow. Sometimes your attorney may be allowed a short rebuttal period after the closing statement from the defense.
  • At this point, the judge will give instructions to the jury regarding the law applicable to the case. This instruction can take an hour or sometimes more, and is dependent on the judge. These instructions from the judge are the final statements that the jury hears before deliberation, and so the judge is prohibited by law from influencing the jury with his statement in one way or the other.
  • After the instructions from the judge, the jury will deliberate and discuss your case in detail in a closed room. This could take several hours. It just depends on the complexity of your case.
  • Once the jury has deliberated and found a verdict, the judge will call all parties to return back to court. The verdict will be announced to both parties. The verdict will inform you if you have won the case, and if you have been awarded any money for you personal injury claim.