What Steps Are Necessary In Order To Proceed To Trial With A Personal Injury Case?
To proceed to trial with a personal injury case, the first step is to hire the right attorney—one who isn’t afraid to try cases, but willing to step into that arena, regardless of the cost and the amount of time it will take. Even the best trial lawyers lose sometimes, which can be particularly difficult to swallow when the attorney has become immersed in the client’s story. Clients need to remember that the defense gets paid to defeat them, so finding the right attorney with the right temperament is crucial. There are some big mill firms that have very good trial departments, but there are many that prioritize quantity over quantity.
The second step is to prepare the case for trial, which means preserving all of the evidence, including video footage, photos, past and present medical reports, medical bills, and liens. In many cases, I advise clients to keep a diary or daily record of how they’re feeling. In my experience, clients sometimes have debilitating pain in the beginning of their case, but as their pain levels off and they reach maximum medical improvement, that becomes their new norm—to the point that they can’t really articulate what they’re feeling, because it feels “normal.” This is where having kept a journal becomes indispensable, as this allows clients to read past entries and reflect on what they’ve written. For example, they might remember that they didn’t use to have to roll out of bed and sit on the edge for a minute before standing, but could just hop out of bed. Small details like this can be gold in preparing a case for a jury.
I also advise clients to mentally prepare themselves for what is ahead. We don’t run from the fact that the insurance company is going to insinuate that they are making up everything for financial profit. Even if the plaintiff didn’t miss a single doctor’s appointment out of 20, the defense might attack the most unsuspecting detail, such as the plaintiff having stayed out late one night to remember what it felt like to be “normal.” The defense will assert arguments that have no validity in an attempt to make the plaintiff look back, but as personal injury attorneys, it is our job is to prepare our client for those attacks, and to know how to counter them.
Some of my clients have been followed by people conducting surveillance. We prepare our clients for this possibility, because we want them to be on the same page as us so that we can approach each obstacle in the case with a team mentality. Our entire team is one cohesive unit that is in it together.
I have also had really great success with something called psychodrama, which is a psychological therapy technique that is done with a trained and licensed psychotherapist. In essence, this enables the plaintiff to relive past traumatic events in order to understand the current situation. For example, in a car crash case, we would act out what happened by putting the plaintiff in the position they were in, with the sound of squealing tires, the smell of rubber, and the sight of twisted metal. This puts the plaintiff back into that place that no else could possibly understand—not even their own attorney.
This technique can be especially helpful when defense counsel doesn’t even know their client. Countless times I have watched defense attorneys introduce themselves to the defendant on the day of trial or the first deposition.
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