HOW TO HIRE A LAWYER
Concentration in Personal Injury
In selecting a lawyer to handle your personal injury case, we feel that it is important for the lawyer to devote the majority of his or her practice to this niche area. Practicing exclusively in the personal injury arena gives us an important advantage over lawyers who aren’t fully devoted to this complex practice area.
Who will Handle your Case?
It is important to understand and meet your legal team. Be certain that you meet the lawyer who will be handling your case. Avoid the firms that will refer your case out entirely.
Open Line of Communication
PayneMitchell Law Group’s policy with its clients is to have an open and immediate line of communication. Your phone calls will be returned by a lawyer within 24 hours. With a significant personal injury case, it is important that you be able to access and communicate directly with the lawyer handling your file.
Ask the lawyer who is handling your case about his or her trial experience. Select a lawyer who has experience as the lead lawyer in a significant number of personal injury trials. This experience will be invaluable in advising you, and ultimately in presenting your case to a jury if a settlement cannot be reached. Andy Payne and Jim Mitchell have both tried numerous cases as lead lawyer in both state and federal courts.
Certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization is important. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization provides certification in the area of personal injury trial law. Currently, less than 3% of the attorneys in Texas have gained this certification. By hiring a lawyer who is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, you can be assured that they have tried a significant number of personal injury cases as lead lawyer, and have met rigorous requirements concerning knowledge, experience and character as set forth by the State Bar of Texas. For more information regarding board certification, see www.tbls.org. Andy Payne and Jim Mitchell are each Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Additionally, Andy is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Lawyers are judged through many peer review processes. Martindale-Hubbell is an attorney listing agency which rates attorneys based on their legal expertise and ethics. The highest rating is an AV rating. PayneMitchell Law Group has achieved this rating with Martindale-Hubbell. Local publications also provide a peer review and listing process. In Texas, Texas Monthly magazine has a list of top lawyers in the state, and Andy Payne and Jim Mitchell have both been consistently listed as “Texas Super Lawyers.” Likewise, D Magazine in Dallas rates the top lawyers in Dallas. Andy Payne has consistently been selected for D Magazine’s Best Lawyers List.
It is inappropriate for a lawyer or a representative of a lawyer to contact you as the result of an injury. In fact, personal contact is prohibited by the State Bar. Likewise, an attorney with a reputation for ethical conduct will not only deal better with you, but also with the opposing counsel and the courts. Talk to your lawyer about his thoughts on ethics.
Contact us for a Free Consultation
Perhaps most important in your decision to hire a lawyer is a personal meeting. Take the time to meet the lawyer who will be handling your case and ensure that you are comfortable with his representing you in front of a jury. Contact us at 214.252.1888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Every case begins with a detailed client meeting. In this meeting we learn about the facts that brought the client to see us. We exhaust the client’s knowledge of the incident and the product or procedure involved. In this initial meeting, we also begin to understand the depth of the client’s loss and lay the groundwork for gaining a more detailed understanding of the legal damages.
First 30 days
Within the first month of the initial client meeting, we conduct an aggressive pre-suit investigation. We interview all key fact witnesses, and when appropriate take sworn statements. Many times, we hire liability and damage experts to help in the evaluation and analysis of the case.
We are generally ready to file the lawsuit within 45 days, if not sooner. By that time we have key witness positions solidified, experts hired and the case 90% ready to try. Now we’re ready to prepare the lawsuit and detailed written discovery questions.
An early and aggressive discovery plan involves filling in the gaps we could not close during pre-suit discovery. By relentlessly pursuing damaging documents and testimony at the onset, we are better able to resolve the case early on by settlement or trial. This allows our clients to put closure to a devastating portion of their lives, while also providing financial support as quickly as possible. Generally, the defendants have 60 days from the time we file the lawsuit to answer written questions and provide documents. The following few months are consumed with taking depositions (sworn statements) from witnesses and the opposing parties.
Our experienced lawyers will develop themes that will be woven throughout the trial presentation. Different ways to present the key evidence will be explored. Just as important, we will consider how to best address and explain the weaknesses in our cases. During this time we will also explore settlement options with the opposing party.
Final Trial Preparation & Trial
The weeks before trial involve the final decisions regarding the order and presentation of evidence. We also spend significant time and energy determining a juror profile. In developing this profile, we look for common backgrounds and characteristics of jurors that will be favorable and unfavorable to our case. We will also finalize the order and presentation plan for all of the evidence. This methodical approach allows for a seamless, persuasive presentation of evidence at the trial. Trials usually last 1-2 weeks for most cases. Exactly when a case gets tried depends on the judge and the court. For most cases, the trial will occur by 9 months to 15 months after the lawsuit is filed.
Depositions are formal interviews taken by lawyers of witnesses and parties. These question-and-answer interviews are conducted under oath and are many times videotaped. The depositions may be used in front of the jury.
Mediation is a structured settlement discussion. Mediation is court ordered in almost all civil cases. In mediation, a third-party lawyer who is unfamiliar with the case and neutral as to sides conducts the mediation process. During the mediation, lawyers for both sides will make general opening statements. The rest of the mediation day will be spent in separate rooms, with the mediator taking offers and demands between the parties. Mediation is a useful process, and many cases are settled during mediation.
Petition or Complaint
A petition is filed in State Court. A complaint is filed in Federal Court. Both of these documents are what is traditionally thought of as the “lawsuit.” The petition or complaint is filed to initiate the lawsuit and make initial allegations against the defendant. As evidence develops, the document is changed to match the evidence in the case.
This is the day that the Court chooses to set your case for trial. Unfortunately, your case is not the only case which will be set on a specific day. Generally, the Court will set ten to fifteen cases for trial on the same day. The Court will then take the oldest case first. Many times you will not get “reached” at the initial trial setting, and the Court will then reset your case for a new trial date. This is a standard procedure, but unfortunately it requires the litigants to be prepared for trial on several different occasions.
Legal rules allow the sides to exchange “written discovery.” This is generally in the form of interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions. Interrogatories are simply written questions that the opposite side must answer under oath. Requests for production require the other side to produce documents and things, such as vehicles or other evidence involved in the case. Requests for admissions require the opposite side to admit or deny certain facts so that issues may be narrowed for trial.