Find out the Court in which your lawsuit was filed
Often, personal injury lawsuits are filed in a County Court of Common Pleas. For example, if you live in Toledo, your case may be filed in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas. However, in some situations lawsuits are filed in different Courts for a variety of reasons which your lawyer should be able to discuss with you before the lawsuit is filed. It is becoming more common, and important, in our increasingly internet-savvy society, that Ohio Courts make available to the public the "Docket" (or legal filings for that case) for each case that is filed. Why? It is public record. More importantly for you, as the client, you are able to find out and keep track of what exactly is going on with your case. Most clients are unaware that many Courts allow access, via the internet, to legal filings by your lawyer. Also available are: Court Decisions and important dates such as scheduled trial dates, deposition dates, and pretrial hearings.
If your Case is filed in a County Court of Common Pleas, many courts have their dockets online
If you don't know what Court your case is filed in, ask your lawyer. Using a search engine, find the online clerk of courts website. After that, simply entering the name of the Plaintiff will take you to another screen which will allow you to view the "Docket." This will usually show the dates and list what is taking place in your case and what has been filed. If you are not familiar with the internet or are having difficulty, most county clerk of court offices are very helpful and friendly and can walk you through how to find your case. If the Court does not yet have the information online, you can always go to the clerk of courts and ask to review the file at the clerk's office. However, you will not be allowed to take the file from the clerk's office but you should still be able to find out the same information about your case.
A few Courts scan in all filings so that you can read them
This is not quite so common yet but some Courts such as the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and Stark County Court of Common Pleas actually scan in all filings. This can be very helpful and can provide you with a wealth of additional information concerning the ongoing status of your case as well as understanding the arguments being presented by your lawyer and the lawyer or lawyers on the other side. While some lawyers may find this a burden if their clients are calling in and continuously asking about the issues of the case, you should expect your lawyer to take the necessary time to explain and answer the questions you have. This may be even more important if you are the Administrator of an Estate and need to inform others who may be affected by the circumstances of the case. As a suggestion, it may be a good idea to write questions down and schedule a time to meet with your lawyer to review questions you have concerning your case.
What does it mean if there is no activity on the "Docket" for my case?
It could mean nothing as there are a number of reasons why there could be inactivity on the "Docket" of your case. However, you should feel comfortable contacting your lawyer to discuss any questions you have and the status of you case whether or not it has been filed with the Court. The legal process is often slow for a number of reasons as there are many steps in litigation once a lawsuit is filed. Most importantly, you should know the lawyer handling your lawsuit and be able to find out answers to any questions you have about your case.
Should I expect my lawyer to explain to me how to access and interpret on-line dockets on the internet?
Some lawyers are up-to-date on this rapidly-changing technology and some have staff who handle this. In the future, some Courts, such as the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas will begin to require lawyers to file electronically. Federal Courts already have such a system in place. If you are deciding on which lawyer to hire, it is important to openly discuss with the lawyer the computer technology the lawyer is trained to use, and uses, as well as the lawyers' background and skill in handling your particular case. Some lawyers and their law firms now have the ability to set up and arrange on-line meetings and video conferences in which you can participate from your home with new software such as WebEx. These new software programs also allow lawyers to conduct on-line meetings with clients and share access to legal documents and provide on-line updates regarding your case. However, there is no substitute for an in-person meeting.