I’ve been a student of chess since age six — forty six years, and I am still learning the game. I expect I will still learn until the day God takes me home (and afterwards if there is chess in heaven).
In many ways law is like chess, especially because, as in chess, no two games are alike, so in law no two cases are alike. Each move in chess, and sometimes each move in law, changes the game, sometimes a bit, sometimes radically. My love for both chess and law lies in the kaleidoscopic possibilities inherent in both.
Therefore, when clients try to compare their cases to others I must resist the urge to groan. I take a deep breath and gird my loins for an explanation, not because my clients are dim, but because I sometimes find it difficult to adequately explain to them that no two cases are alike.
Although most cases share basic qualities (as in chess both sides can play a knight) the specifics of each case differ. For instance, a child who suffers a broken leg may get less than a forty year old who needs his leg to work.
Although both the child and the adult suffered the same injury, and we may feel that the child should get more than the adult because we naturally feel more for the child, the adult will recover more money because the adult works and has missed work because of his injury.
Lesson: Don’t compare your case to someone else’s before you know all the facts. In chess terms, don’t assume someone has the advantage before knowing the entire board.
Clients sometimes confuse playing devil’s advocate with actually advocating a different position from their own. It is my duty as your attorney to not only present all the evidence that is beneficial to your case but to inform you of that evidence which weakens your case.
There is no such thing as a perfect open and shut case. All cases have flaws. What may appear as an open and shut case to you may not in actuality be such. Understand also that you are not a trained lawyer. Lawyers see many many things that you do not see. When I or another lawyer tell you about the problems you have with your case we are not saying that you have a bad case, and we are not advocating for the other side, we are merely pointing out to you the weaknesses in your case that have to be overcome if we are to prevail.
Clients often ask me, “How can X do this?” It is not safe to assume that an employer knew the law and should have voluntarily refrained from taking the objectionable action. If an employer or an adverse party takes what you think is an illegal action — such as placing you back at work if you feel like you can’t go to work, getting a particular medical record, etc. — the question should be “What are the legal consequences to their case or to themselves should they take a particular course of action?”
A good example of this is when an employer fires one of my clients after being injured. My client asks me “How can the employer do this?” I reply that they have done it. It is a fait accompli. Your employer firing you is a fact. If you show up on the premises unwanted they have the ability to call their security or the authorities. So the question “How can they do this?” is irrelevant. The relevant question becomes, “Have they engaged in retaliatory discharge or breached some other state or federal employment law? And what kind of compensation can I demand?”
This is when you need the protection of an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney knows the proper steps to take — and the time frame in which to take them — in order to hold the offending party responsible and bring a judgment or settlement down in your favor.
Potential clients often call me wanting tips on how to handle the case themselves. Many believe that there is some magic bullet that I can tell them that will ensure their benefits are forthcoming.
There is no such thing as a magic bullet in the law. Any lawyer worth his salt must first gather all the information relevant to your case, interview the appropriate persons, collect the appropriate evidence, and proceed accordingly. This takes time and patience.
With all due respect to car mechanics, handling a legal case is not like changing the spark plug. There are many factors to consider, not the least of which is a plethora of rules, statutes, and regulations which govern a complex area of the law such as personal injury or workers compensation. There is simply no substitute for an experienced personal injury attorney.
In negligence cases, if your case is viable, you are entitled to a plethora of damages. These include having your medical bills paid, pain-and-suffering, lost wages, and more. You should discuss with an experienced personal injury attorney what kinds of damages you are entitled to given your particular case.
Many clients are under the impression that the insurance company will cut them multiple checks for each of these damages. This is not the case. The insurance company in an automobile wreck case will cut the separate check for your property damage but only one check for your bodily injury. Your medical providers must be paid out of the bodily injury money if they have not been paid yet.
Moreover, your lawyer’s fee will come out of that second check. It is crucial to sit down with your attorney when the insurance company has made their final offer. Have him or her detail all the costs and expenses which will be deducted from the bodily injury check. Doing this thoroughly will save you much aggravation later on, especially if some medical bill has not been paid, and the provider now expects payment and no more checks are forthcoming.