Articles Posted in Litigation Process

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Last week, Slate reporter Emma Copley Eisenberg did a piece on the “astronomical price” charged by court reporters for trial transcripts.  Eisenberg was stunned by the “outrageous fees” charged by court reporters when she wanted to investigate a case involving a farmer who had been convicted of a double homicide.  When Eisenberg went to the courthouse to obtain a copy of the criminal trial transcript, she learned it would cost her $2400.00 to obtain a copy of the transcript. (Notably, it cost the farmer nearly $7,000 for the original transcript.)  Eisenberg got a quick lesson on something trial lawyers have long known: litigation is expensive.  Why is that?
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As the New Year approaches, many start to think about improvements they want to make in their lives for 2017.   At the Law Offices of John Day, our work involves helping people who have been injured in accidents and, since most accidents are preventable, we thought we would give you some New Year’s resolutions that can help protect you and others. The best part of these resolutions is, for the most part, they are easy and painless to implement (unlike that weight resolution most of us make). Here are our recommendations:

  1. Check your auto insurance and make sure you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. I can’t tell you how often someone calls our office with significant injuries from a car accident who cannot recover any money because the driver who caused the accident did not have insurance and the client did not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. We have written a number of posts about uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and you can find them here, here, here and here. But, our number one piece of advice to protect yourself would be to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with as high of limits as you can afford. You will truly be surprised at how cheap it is and it can mean the difference between receiving compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and injuries and receiving nothing.
  2. Wear your seatbelt. They save lives. Period.

Government regulations get a bad rap. To be sure, if you look long enough, you can find some that will make you shake your head and wonder, but for the most part regulations do a good job of providing protection to the public.  And, they can also be a big boost in accident claims and injury lawsuits.

As proof that regulations are needed to protect the public, one need only look at the tragic hot air balloon crash in Texas that killed the pilot and 15 passengers earlier this year. Many believe this accident occurred because the Federal Aviation Administration does very little to exercise oversight of hot air balloon operators.  In fact, regulations on hot air balloon operators are almost non-existent despite the fact that they often carry more passengers than small commuter planes and helicopters.  Unlike conventional pilots, hot air balloon operators do not have to get regular medical exams and, while the form operators must complete asks about narcotic drug charges, it specifically excludes alcohol- related driving offenses.  In the deadly Texas crash, the operator was taking at least 10 different drugs for various medical problems.  Some of the drugs including oxycodone would have disqualified him from flying conventional aircraft because of their effect on decision-making and reaction times.  Moreover, the operator had been convicted of drunk-driving on at least four occasions.  Of course, regulations do not prevent every accident, but it is probably safe to say that if the Federal Aviation Administration had implemented tighter regulations over hot air balloon pilots that this particular pilot would not have been in the sky with passengers on that fateful day.

Regulations not only provide protection to the public but they also can help your accident claim or injury lawsuit. If you are injured in an accident and you want to recover money for your injuries, you must prove that someone else was negligent, that negligence caused your injuries and the extent of your injuries and damages.  Let’s focus on negligence.  In simplest terms, you should think of negligence as either doing something you should not have done or not doing something you should have done.  Lawyers will often refer to it as a violation of the standard of care.  Part of proving the other party was negligent involves proving the standard of care, but when there is a safety regulation the standard of care has already been established by the regulation itself.  So then, all you must do is prove the defendant violated the regulation.  In other words, the regulation can eliminate one step of what is normally a two-step process.  So regulations can play a critical role in injury litigation.

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Recently the investigation into the Chattanooga bus accident that claimed the lives of six children and injured dozens more has revealed parents, faculty and students had all complained about the driving of bus driver, Johnthony Walker. Ask any defense lawyer and they will tell you that prior complaints can present a huge problem for the defendant if certain requirements are met. Continue reading

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Let me begin with a disclaimer. This is not a political article, but it was prompted by some political news. Earlier today, I was reading an article about the litigation Donald Trump currently has on his plate. Mr. Trump is currently involved in 75 active lawsuits ranging from spats with pageant contestants to allegations of fraud to multi-million dollar real estate lawsuits. But, it was not the number of lawsuits that prompted this post, because in fairness, there are companies with larger litigation dockets. Instead, what caught my attention was this portion of the article:

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Now wait just a minute, I am not going to talk politics. I am going to talk about disclosure and hindsight. Whatever your opinion on Hillary Clinton, most people think it was a mistake for her not to have disclosed that she was suffering with pneumonia. Day in and day out, we counsel our clients on disclosure and here are some thoughts on the issue: 

  1. What you think is important is not what everyone else thinks is important. HRC said she did not disclose the pneumonia because she did not think it was a big deal. But, she is not the decider of what is a big deal in an election. That is the voters’ job. The same is true of litigation: the ultimate decider is the jury. So we tell our clients that everything needs to be viewed through the eyes of jurors.
  1. Non-disclosure almost always does more harm than disclosure. Because some hubbub had already been made about her health, HRC probably thought it would be better keep her pneumonia diagnosis to herself and her camp, take some antibiotics, solider on and avoid providing any fodder to Trump, the media, etc.   This is not an unreasonable position on its face. The problem comes when the information comes out anyway. With HRC, her stumble or collapse (depending upon your political affiliation) outed her illness. As a result, the focus is now two-fold: her health and her transparency. The same is true in injury litigation. Let’s say you have a prior back injury that you think is unrelated to the current back injury you received in a recent tractor-trailer accident and so you decide not to tell your lawyer or the other side about it when they ask you under oath. Let me be clear: this is a horrible plan. The other side is going to have full access to your medical and pharmacy records and the power of a subpoena. Defense lawyers get paid a lot of money by the hour to find things that hurt your case. A good defense lawyer will leave no stone unturned and when they find it you, just like HRC, will have two problems: the old injury is now known and your non-disclosure has now also created a credibility or transparency issue for the jury. Recall point 1; the jury gets to decide what is important and if you win.

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Almost any coach will tell you that fundamentals win games. While lawsuits are definitely not a game, they are about winning. So just as a good baseball coach will instruct you to field a grounder with your glove on the ground and your bare hand above the glove, we want to tell you four fundamentals you can do to help win your lawsuit. Continue reading

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I know you may think this article is about politics and it surely could be. The rhetoric in this election year has been meaner and uglier than I can remember. But, I am talking about lawyers. While mean is not the quality anyone is usually looking for in leaders, family or friends, contrary to a lot of folks popular belief, it is also not the quality you should be seeking in a lawyer. Let me explain. Continue reading

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Last week, a question was posted on Avvo (a legal Q & A site) seeking advice about what should be done following a car accident. The questioner was worried about getting sued, and the primary source of his anxiety was because he had substantial assets including investment accounts but he only had $100,000 in automotive insurance coverage. In particular, he wanted to know if he should  hire his own lawyer separate and apart from any lawyer hired by his insurance company?   Before I get to that, let me start with something more important.   Continue reading

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A few weeks ago, I received a voicemail from a lawyer indicating he would like me to be a witness in a case and wanted to talk to me about my recollections surrounding the event at issue. I will confess my response was to cringe a little. As a trial lawyer, I am intimately familiar with the litigation process so nervousness about the process, etc. was not the issue as it understandably is with some who get a subpoena. Instead, my cringing had more to do with the time involved in being a witness and getting involved in a conflict with folks that I happen to know. But once the cringe moment passed, I realized this was an opportunity similar to the one I received when I was called for jury duty. It was an opportunity for me to be reminded of what it is like to be a part of litigation in a role other than as a lawyer.

So I thought it might be helpful to write a few posts about the overall process of being a witness in hopes it might be helpful to others in the same situation. Let’s start with the cardinal rule: any trial lawyer worth his or her salt does not want you to testify at a trial without knowing what you intend to say. So that only leaves a few options. Continue reading