In the lead up to the launch of Signup to Settlement: A Personal Injury Law Boot Camp, we asked our followers what their number one F.E.A.R. (False Expectation Appearing Real) was about beginning to practice personal injury law. One response was, “I am afraid I will make a mistake and lose the case.” Another lawyer responded, “I don’t want my client to lose, based upon my lack of knowledge and skill.” Let’s unpack these two answers and see what we can learn.
Practicing personal injury law is like a baseball game: generally, you will have time to think about what you need to do, before you are forced to act.
Let’s imagine you are the shortstop for your baseball team. It’s the bottom of the ninth inning, the bases are loaded with no outs, and the game is tied. Suddenly, you realize you have no idea what you are going to do if the ball is hit to you! What should you do? Call “time out”, meet with your teammates and determine a strategy. Problem solved. Now you know what to do, play the infield in and, if the ball is hit to you on the ground, throw home for the force play.
When practicing law, you can always “phone a friend”. Remember the television show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? If a contestant did not know the answer to a question, they could phone a preselected friend. When practicing tort law, you can phone anyone you want! This includes other plaintiff personal injury lawyers.
Here is the beginning of a solution:
Step one, when starting out as a new personal injury lawyer, is to have lunch with three of four established plaintiff personal injury lawyers.
These face-to-face meetings will open the door for you to call or email these lawyers with questions. Further, the Consumer Attorneys of California and the American Association of Justice have list servers that allow you to post questions to hundreds of plaintiff lawyers at the same time. Caveat. All new personal injury lawyers need to familiarize themselves with their jurisdiction’s applicable statutes of limitations for personal injury, property damage, professional negligence, medical malpractice, government liability, fraud, breach of contract, and product liability cases. Some jurisdictions have very short government claims limitations. Also, you never know when a person will decide to contact you the day before the applicable statute of limitations is running. You need to be able to identify those circumstances.
Second, with serious injury cases, be careful to protect and preserve any product that could potentially give rise to a product liability case.
It’s hard to make a product liability claim without the product. In serious car accident cases, the vehicles need to be properly recovered and stored. Automobile crashworthiness or defect cases depend on an analysis of the vehicle post-accident, to determine a theory of liability. If a fire was arguably caused by a defective product, that product needs to be properly preserved and stored. When first talking with prospective clients, keep an eye out for evidence that needs to be preserved while the potential for a claim is being investigated.
In summary, most automobile and premise liability personal injury claims are straightforward and can be handled by newer lawyers that have taken the time to educate themselves about the basics of personal injury law. Remember, if you are unsure of what to do next, phone a friend. If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a competent personal injury lawyer, check us out at http://signuptosettlement.com/bootcamp.