I like to convince myself that as a lawyer I am pretty flexible… But if I handled a complex divorce, probate or criminal case (without substantial assistance) I would screw it up. Plus, I likely would not have had the best outcome if one of you had handled that case in your area of expertise. So why is it so many NON-PI lawyers try to handle a complex PI case?
At least once a month, I get calls, either from a lawyer who has now gotten his case in a bind and has to consider non-suiting and starting all over, or from his/her client wanting to sue the attorney for legal mal-practice. The cases follow a similar pattern: 1- the attorney has gotten a good PI case with high damages; 2- The attorney writes a demand letter hoping to settle; 3- the insurance company makes either a piss poor offer, or no offer at all; 4- the attorney files a complaint in the last week before the SOL expires; 5- attorney is not aggressive in proceeding the case through litigation and is all reactive as opposed to pro-active; and 6- attorney then proceeds to screw up the case.
Here are the Top 3 things to watch out for so you don’t mess up your client’s case:
- Scheduling Orders: Every case that languishes with a non-PI lawyer is easy pickin’s for a seasoned defense lawyer. They will get their discovery done and put deadlines for your expert disclosures and your medical proof and….. wait. They know that you don’t know for sure how to take a great doctor’s deposition to prove your damages. They know you do not know exactly how to prove your medical bills and they will object and later file their motions in limine to keep out all of your medical bills and you are going to be sitting there wondering what you are going to now do about it, and it is too late. Not to mention the fact that you have worried about “great” case now for months, usually when you wake up at 3:32 a.m. in a cold sweat.
- IME by the Insurance Company Doctor: Even if you know how to take medical proof, did you adequately prepare within your own proof adequate steps to protect your doctor? Did you set the stage in every case on how to destroy the Defense Medical Examiner and perhaps add serious value to your case? OR – did you allow all of that proof to come in and hurt your client, and yet you hope that your great cross-examining skills will simply win the day? Probably not going to happen.
- Not Listing All of the Best Witnesses in Discovery: This sounds simple, but it is ALWAYS screwed up by the lawyers I help recover in their cases. Everyone asks for my “tricks” or “simple sauce” when it comes to getting large verdicts in every different type of case. One of my simplest “tricks” is just good ole fashioned testimony from lay witnesses. BUT- if you don’t list these witnesses in discovery, it’s nearly impossible without burning a non-suit and starting all over. I have a case going to trial this fall where the initial lawyer simply did not list any lay witnesses, and there were several GREAT witnesses. A jury doesn’t like to see your client get up there and whine and complain about how horrible their life has been! They NEED to hear if from others, even best friends. And these witnesses, if prepared carefully, will relate to the values of the jurors in the box.
- Not SPENDING THE MONEY to get GREAT PROOF:
Okay, here is another one that I just cannot leave out. Lawyers who handle PI cases simply will not SPEND THE MONEY necessary to make a good case GREAT. They won’t pay the extra money to do the following:
- Get Medi Visuals to SHOW THE JURY” the damages hidden inside a person’s neck in a soft tissue injury; to show video of an ACDF neck surgery; to show how a doctor butchers a person’s knee in a knee replacement!
- Video Tape EVERY deposition. Folks, it is so cheap and easy to pay just a little more to preserve a lying corporate rep. And yet the payoff is PRICELESS!
- Go meet with your doctor’s before EVERY doctor’s deposition. Every. Single. Time. Show him your exhibits you propose to use. Tell them what the insurance defense attorney is likely to throw at him. (He will appreciate it!) Get examples of those honkin’ needles they plunge into your client’s neck and make it an exhibit.
- Pay the money to get the best experts. Yes, I know it is expensive, but it is an investment, and is what is best for your client. And get them early. I have experts on stand-by in my tractor trailer wrecks where it is extremely important to get as much information as early and often as possible.
Last year we paid out over $450,000 in referral fees to guys just like you. We are on the verge of topping that number in August of this year. It is a huge part of our business, and we would love to add you to our list of brother and sister lawyers to help get the best result for you, and especially your clients.
If you have a case and simply want some advice on what your next action items need to be, CALL ME I am accessible and here to serve.
Remember, you can NEVER settle your case for what a jury might provide your client at trial. The 7th Amendment is a beautiful thing!