By: Kevin P. Fine, Personal Injury Attorney
If your injuries are causing long-term losses and life-altering changes, you are simply not going to get fair treatment without the right kind of help. You also should not make a rushed decision about who can provide that help. Do your homework. Shop around. This section of the article can help you know what you are looking for in a lawyer.
Your Case May Not Settle—What Then?
It is better for everyone if you claim can reach a settlement without a jury trial. But too many cases settle because the attorney for the injured person is unwilling or unable to go to trial. In such instances, it is likely that the client is settling for less than fair compensation.
Here are two recent stories from our own clients that help illustrate why hiring the right lawyer is so important if you have been injured in a way that has lasting consequences. The names have been changed for privacy reasons.
Death from Carelessness
John and Cathy had been married for almost 4 decades. Cathy underwent what was supposed to be a simple surgical procedure. Three days later, she was dead. John had good reason to believe that the doctor performing the surgery had blown it, and that Cathy had died because the doctor was really careless.
Of course, the doctor and his insurance company didn’t want to accept that they had just cost Cathy her life and John his long-time companion. They offered nothing to try to recognize the harm they had caused John, and, in fact, took the position that John was a liar.
Eventually, John contacted an attorney, and that attorney contacted Robert Tolman at the firm of Davis Miles. We united our knowledge and resources behind the task of proving that the doctor’s careless actions cost this life. No offer was ever made and the case was tried in front of a jury. Over 20 witnesses, including 9 doctors testified. Over 120 exhibits were shown to the jury. Ultimately, the jury was able to see that the doctor was responsible for what had happened, that the loss was great, and awarded John accordingly.
Spine and Head Trauma From Thoughtless Actions
Mary was sitting in a hotel atrium when a heavy object fell from a cleaning cart eight stories above and struck her on the head. This impact damaged her neck and hearing, leading to neck surgery and a constant ringing in Mary’s ears.
The hotel did not want to take responsibility for what its cleaning crew had done to Mary. Mary found an attorney, and that attorney brought the matter to Robert Tolman at the firm of Davis Miles. We put our collective knowledge and resources behind Mary’s case. Eventually, the matter was tried to a jury, who concluded that the hotel was responsible, that the consequences to Mary were serious, and awarded fair compensation.
Most Attorneys Not Right for Serious Injury Cases
Many other examples can be given, but these are illustrative of a very important point—if you want to get fair compensation for a serious injury, you need to have an attorney who is ready, willing, and able to take the case to trial. The insurance company has lawyers that know how to go to trial and win against injured people. Consequently, if the company knows (and they do know) that your attorney is not ready, willing, and able to take the case to trial, there is little incentive to treat you fairly. Although you probably don’t actually want to have your case presented to a jury, for you to settle reasonably well, your attorney must be ready, willing, and able to take your case to trial. So what does it take for an attorney to be ready, willing and able to take your case to trial? The next section will explain.
Ready, Willing, and Able
So, what kind of attorney meets the criteria of Ready, Willing, and Able? An attorney who:
1. Has years of experience proving cases like yours (or the attorney will not know how to prove the harm and losses you’ve suffered)
2. Enjoys a solid reputation among other lawyers (or the attorneys on the other side will know they can play games)
3. Has significant jury trial experience representing plaintiffs (or the attorney will be too nervous to concentrate on getting your case right)
4. Regularly goes to trial on personal injury matters (or the attorney will not be “sharp”)
5. Trains him or herself in the latest knowledge about jury trials (or the attorney will overlook what we now know about how to best present information to the jury)
6. Has obtained large verdicts from a jury (or you don’t know if the attorney is any good)
7. Has access to the significant funds it takes to run a serious injury case (or the insurance company attorneys know they can just stall, and “starve” your attorney out)
8. Is surrounded by a team of competent attorneys and staff to support the effort (an attorney is only as good as his support staff)
9. Has the experience, reputation, and connections to bring in the right experts and consultants on your matter (like with other professions, part of the battle is “who you know”)
10. Limits his or her number of clients in a way that allows him or her to personally work your matter (do you really think the volume practice advertisers are diligently preparing their cases?)
This list will significantly narrow your options—from thousands to tens. I do not know all of the attorneys that fit this description, but there are not very many. The most limiting factor is the jury trial experience. It is becoming difficult to find attorneys who have tried enough jury cases to really be effective. That is why, as in the cases shared above, many attorneys bring their matters to those few attorneys for help. I am a past-president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and I am considered a good lawyer, but I do not yet fit the criteria set out above. I left my own practice to work with an attorney that does, and to learn from him, with the goal of meeting the criteria myself one day. That attorney is Robert Tolman. Mr. Tolman is a Certified Specialist in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death. He and I represent seriously injured clients here at the law firm of Davis Miles, PLLC.
The second hardest quality to meet is finding a firm that can afford the cost and time to properly represent a seriously injured person. Mr. Tolman and I practice with a big law firm for a very good reason—resources. Our team at Davis Miles offers what you need to make sure you are treated fairly after a serious injury: Attorneys with meaningful experience and the backing of a law firm big enough to withstand the “siege” approach often applied by big insurance companies against the “little guy.”
READY, WILLING, AND ABLE AT DAVIS MILES
We are not the only firm that meets the standards you should seek in an attorney for a serious injury claim, but our team at Davis Miles is one of the few. If you have had to change the way you live because someone else caused you a severe injury, please contact us so we can provide you some information without charge and without obligation. This information will help you in making this very important decision.
You can order information about injury claims and about Davis Miles by clicking here, or contacting our team at 480-733-6800.