1. Find a Good Fit
The law is a tool. It should be sharp and stable. The lawyer can act as a medium between the law and the client. How well that relationship functions is dependent upon one’s ability to explain, describe, read and question – to actually think through, move and help change an experience. That “one” is both the lawyer and the client. Be practical but value a good fit.
2. Be Responsive
Your attorney will request information from you that could ultimately lead to a better result for you. If you have questions about those requests, you should ask, all while keeping in mind that a timely response shows the other side that you are prepared. Often, a case cannot progress without vital information only you can provide. By timely responding and maintaining those communications, the common goal of progress can be met.
3. Keep it Fresh
Clients should prepare a history of their case. Jot down notes to keep those details fresh. As your case progresses, use a simple calendar to memorialize difficulties or challenges, whether they be medical or otherwise. Provide details on how a collision or injury has impacted you or keep notes on the development of the claim. Be organized in doing so. Keep a list of which professionals have been utilized, whether they be doctors, vocational experts, or other professionals, such as car repairmen or electricians. Most cases rely heavily on expert opinions. Summaries of wage loss and expenses can also be helpful. Your input is important to your case. Write it down; keep it fresh.
They are everywhere- in homes, offices, and shopping centers. Mirrors reflect everything all around. There is no such thing as perfection and mirrors can be blunt in pointing out our realities. We use mirrors to judge and evaluate ourselves. A mirror is not cruel, but truthful. A mirror faithfully reflects what is before it.
During your legal action, counsel will ask you to take a close look at your case and the applicable rules of law. Attorneys may ask you to reflect on your set of facts in ways that cause you to be uncomfortable, unwilling, or even angry. You may feel judged, yet cruelty is not the intent. Be open to these hard conversations. It may be sobering, yet perspective can also offer you feelings of justification and validation. Like self-talk to a mirror, conversations with experienced counsel will place value on the truths before you. Approach these realities thoughtfully. You may just appreciate what you see. (~Inspired by “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath, 1961).
There is a certain finesse in communication and often our non-verbal communication is just as important as our verbal communication. We must consider the messages we are sending: what we say; how we say it; what we do; and how we do it. Successful communication arises when the message sent is the same as the message received. We must work clearly and concisely. We must act with intention. In previous writings, I have expressed the importance of timely responses, and sending a message of readiness. During the course of a case, an employer may be asked to consider offering opportunity for an injured worker to manage light-duty work or an employee may be asked to attend a doctor’s appointment for purposes of evaluation. How either responds will likely be interpreted later by a judge. Offer the light duty employment if you’re able; attend that doctor’s appointment as requested. Behave reasonably. Making your best efforts and sending a message of reasonableness can benefit you both implicitly or explicitly when the time comes for a decision-maker to make his/her judgment in your case.
You should understand the elements necessary to prove your position. Elements are the constituent parts of a rule of law usually consisting of an act or a cause and can be more broadly defined by each component necessary to prove or defend your case or negate any defense. For example, in a negligence case, a Plaintiff must prove the Defendant owed her a duty; that the Defendant breached that duty; that the duty caused damage to the Plaintiff; and a Plaintiff must evidence those damages. A Plaintiff must prove the elements to sustain her claim of negligence. Similarly, elements also exist in a defense. For example, a Defendant may assert the defense of laches, that a Plaintiff unreasonably delayed in pursuing her right or claim. Relief can be denied to a Claimant who has unreasonably delayed or been negligent in asserting a claim. These elements of unreasonableness and negligence must be fulfilled and supported with evidence. You will better understand your case, your attorney’s work and the strength of your case if you better understand the elements of your claim or your defense.
7. Damages Versus Risk Analysis
Plaintiffs often value their case based on damages. They take action to force a Defendant to pay a specific dollar amount. Plaintiffs can also be more emotional about their claims. Calculations are made to include medical bills, pain, suffering, loss of consortium, and other costs associated with their losses. Defendants often value their cases based on risk. They tend to detach from any emotion. Strong consideration is given to the cost of litigation, the cost of paying for expert depositions, and the strength or weakness of those expert opinions. If the risk is high that the costs will outweigh any proposed settlement amount, it is likely a Defendant will strive to negotiate the claim. Be open-minded and have discussions with your attorneys about the value of your case to include both damages and risk analysis.
Kerri Cook Huber
Kerri Cook Huber is a senior associate at Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP in Rapid City, South Dakota. She focuses her practice primarily on workers’ compensation and personal injury. Kerri’s broad knowledge base, strong communications skills, and ability to efficiently manage risks, time and costs make her a well-qualified attorney to assist clients with complex needs.