The Case Selection Process
At Eaton Law, attorneys, rather than paralegals or case managers, look at and decide whether a client’s case has merit and should be pursued. Many law firms have case managers or paralegals meet with clients for the initial evaluation of their cases. This is a huge mistake. Attorneys look at cases with a much broader vision of what is possible based on the law, and have the ability to see merit in cases that these lesser trained individuals can not appreciate. We have many clients, especially in cases of medical malpractice, that have been turned down by several law firms that never had an attorney truly evaluate their case.
The actual case selection process is the same for all types of cases. Liability or fault is the first step in evaluating every case. First, we must determine whether someone was at fault for causing injury to our client. A simple example is a car crash where our client is stopped at a light and rear ended. In this case the liability or fault is very clear, simple and easy. However, more difficult liability or fault issues are involved when a person is injured in a hospital through medical malpractice. This is more difficult because several different health care providers may be at fault or partially at fault for the injury. Therefore, the issue of liability or fault may be very easy to determine in some cases, but in more complex matters liability may take a lot of investigation. One important factor in choosing the right lawyer for your case is whether the lawyer has the financial ability to properly investigate your case. In a medical malpractice case, the investigation usually requires hiring other doctors to review the records. Your attorney should advance the costs of any investigation and not ask for money up front to cover his or her costs. Once we determine that someone is at fault or liable for your injuries, we next have to prove that the person “caused” damage or injury to the client.
In order to win a personal injury case it is not enough to prove someone was at fault or negligent, you must also prove the person caused injury by their actions or inactions. For example, a nurse might give the wrong medication to a patient, but it does not cause the patient any side effects or injuries. This is a case where the nurse did something wrong and was negligent, but her negligence did not cause any injury to the patient. Another example is a person that is in a car crash and claims to have a neck injury, but has a prior history of neck pain and headaches. The defense in such a case will argue that the car crash did not cause any new injury to the victim, but rather they are suffering from pre-existing problems. It takes a very skilled attorney to understand the medicine, and make sure the client gets proper and complete diagnostic studies to prove the injuries are new and directly related to the car crash. Many law firms are unwilling to take clients that have pre-existing conditions because they do not know how to prove the crash caused new injuries. At Eaton, we have developed powerful tactics to defeat the defense of pre-existing conditions in order to win large verdicts for clients that the defense argued only had a minor whiplash. Assuming we can prove liability and causation, then we need the last elements of a successful case, which are insurance coverage and damages.
After we have confidence that we can prove liability and causation, we then concentrate on proving that our client has sustained damages or injuries. Sometimes the damages are obvious such as a broken leg suffered in a car crash. However, the proof of true damages in a case is a much more complicated process. For example, if our client can no longer work and needs future medical care, we hire experts to calculate what the value of future medical care and lost wages or earning capacity will be. We meet with the treating physicians of our clients to fully understand their problems and disabilities and how these disabilities will affect our clients life in the future. We may also seek further testing that can prove injuries that are hard to see on simple x-rays, but stand out on other more sophisticated scans such as an MRI. We also present our cases electronically so the jury can actually see the pain, disability and hardship that our clients face from injuries caused by the defendant. Again, it is important to ask any lawyer that you are consulting with how your damages will be presented, and what will the lawyer do to make sure the jury knows all the damages that you have suffered.
Finally, to have a successful case there must be a funding source to pay for the damages or injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence. Unfortunately, many times a client has been injured and has damages, but there is not any insurance coverage or other means to pay for the damages. For example, if a client is hit by a driver running a red light, there has to be a way to pay for the injuries, loss and damages. Either the at fault driver has to have bodily injury insurance coverage, (which is not required in Florida) or the client has to have uninsured motorist coverage on their own policy. If neither has insurance coverage and there is not a separate owner of the at fault vehicle that has coverage, then there is probably no way to recover for the injuries caused by the at fault driver. Therefore, a thorough investigation needs to be performed by the attorney to consider every possible source to pay for the client’s injuries before turning a case down. This is problem that needs the careful attention of an experienced personal injury lawyer to make sure all possible sources of recovery have been considered.