Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why Its Important for the Lawyer to Speak to Witnesses

   Many lawyers do not call witnesses to ask what happened in an accident.  Instead, they rely on second hand information from investigators and police reports.  Sometimes they will subpoena witnesses.  Whenever possible, I call the witnesses.  90 % of the time, after a phone call or cup of coffee, the case has gotten stronger.

   Over the last few months, there has been a number of examples of this.  By calling a name referenced without explanation in an FAA report, I learned about the existence of an eyewitness to an airplane crash.
By calling the doctor hired by an insurer to examine a client, I was able to confirm that injuries had been caused by an accident.  By calling employees on a work roster, I was able to confirm that ignoring safety rules was a common practice. In one particular case involving road maintenance, a witness would regularly call me to share that the highway maintenance crew were continuing the same practice that had caused the death of my client's father.

   Why don't lawyers call witnesses more often?  Part of the reason is that in a busy practice filled with court Orders and phone calls requiring action, it becomes just another thing to do that can be easily put off.  Another reason is simply the naive belief that reports  or subpoenas will achieve the same goal with less effort  by the lawyer.  Finally, one has to admit that getting a call from a lawyer is rarely "good news" and sometimes witnesses will actively try and avoid lawyers.  I try and overcome this attitude where possible by having clients, if possible, tell the witness I will be calling.

   You have to play your hand smartly. See www.Junelawyer.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why Lawyers File Lawsuits

   Few people are excited by the fact that of having a lawsuit.  Every Client asks whether it will be necessary for their case "to go to court."  After the lawsuit is filed , Client ask whether their case will "settle" before trial.  Why, then, when clients want to avoid lawsuits, do lawyers file lawsuits?  The answer is that lawsuits (and trials)  are often required before insurance companies treat clients fairly.  Even then, there is no guarantee.

   Because clients do not like lawsuits or trials, it is my policy before filing a lawsuit for a client to give insurance companies the opportunity to treat clients fairly.  If the insurer does not treat the client fairly, the client decides on the next step. Unfortunately, more often than not, the insurance companies miss out on this opportunities.    
    In my most recent example, a friend had a small motor vehicle accident in which she was injured but, fortunately, after 6 months of chiropractic care at a cost of $7,500, she recovered.  She called me after the motor vehicle insurer, an insurer known for advertising its low rates,  offered to settle her claim by paying $7,500 to the chiropractor and the small sum of $1,500 to the client for the interruption of her life. After the filing of suit and the passage of 1 year, the motor vehicle insurer offered to settle her case by paying the chiropractor and paying the client $10,000 for the interruption of her life.  This shows how insurance companies treat clients that file lawsuits more fairly than clients that do not. 

    I have had other similar experiences in other contexts:   One example is the vessel insurer that represented that, with "a little more medical information," it would be in a position to treat a client fairly only to have 12 months pass with no action. Another example is the airline insurer that represented that, if medical and tax records were provided, it would treat my client fairly in valuing losses only to advise after the records were provided that its lawyer would have to obtain the same medical records a second time directly from the physicians.   

   One wonders whether the insurance companies appreciate their missed opportunities.  You have to play your hand smartly.  See www.Junelawyer.com