For twenty-five years I have been working for families that have been harmed in some way by the carelessness or negligence of another. Despite what television may depict, attorneys do not do all of their fighting in court. In fact, most of the battles take place well before a case ends up in court and, frankly, the better the lawyer, the less likely it is that there will ever be a court battle.
When it comes to car and truck accidents, the best lawyer a family can hire is one who recognizes that hard work on the front end of a case can pay off in spades for his or her clients; both in terms of saving them time in reaching a fair resolution and, more importantly, genuinely balancing the books in terms of receiving fair compensation for their clients’ harms and losses.
In most cases where liability is clear and the harm is not seriously questioned, the lawyer’s job is to stay engaged with all concerned and shepherd the client through the process; run interference between the client and the big insurance company, collect the medical and billing records, collect lost wage or income information, prepare a demand brochure and, hopefully, settle the case. However, when the negligent party’s insurance company denies liability or refuses to recognize that your client was genuinely harmed, the lawyers job suddenly becomes difficult.
In my mind, this is really where the rubber meets the road in terms of lawyering. What does the attorney do when the insurance company tells him to “go away?” Some lawyers, for whatever reason, hang it up and hand the case back to the client. (Every injury lawyer knows this happens because we have all been called by someone who had a case handed back to them.) Others file suit no matter how bad the facts are; convincing themselves that the insurance company will fold at some point. (Don Quixote!!)
In my opinion, the top personal injury attorneys are those who go to work and dig deeper when the insurance company denies liability. There can be game changing evidence beyond what is found in the police report, but it won’t find itself.
For example, I was recently hired to represent two young women who were traveling through Arkansas when a dark colored car driven by an older woman veered into their lane and forced them off the interstate. Their car spun through the wet median and slammed into the retention cable on the opposite side. The cable then threw their car back into the center of the median like a giant slingshot.
According to the accident report, an elderly woman was pulled over by a State Trooper further down the interstate and identified (at least in the report) as the driver of the vehicle which had run my clients off the road. However, after the insurance company completed its investigation, I received a letter advising me that it would not be accepting responsibility.
I telephoned the adjuster and learned that, based upon his interviews of the State Troopers involved, there was simply no evidence that the woman identified in the report had been driving the vehicle that forced my clients’ car off the road. She was just randomly pulled over several miles down the interstate because she was driving a black car. There was no evidence linking her to the wreck. End of story. Go away.
I contacted the trooper who investigated the accident, as well as the second trooper who pulled the woman over down the road, and confirmed that neither really knew the reason that particular woman had been pulled over or just how it was that her information had made it into the police report. To me something was missing. There had to be an explanation.
To try and get to the bottom of it, I sent Freedom of Information Act requests to the Arkansas State Police for all audio and video from the car and/or body camera for the trooper who pulled the woman over. When a disk finally arrived, I was able to watch the State Trooper pulling over a lady in a dark car, and I could see and hear him speaking to the woman and explaining to her that she had apparently run a car off the road. She was seemingly ignorant of this and he sent her on her way. It still made no sense. Why had he pulled HER over?
The answer came when I dug a little deeper. Again using the Freedom of Information Act, I ordered the 911 calls for the accident. When the disk arrived, I put it into my computer and started listening to one 911 call after another. Caller after caller alerted the State Police to a white car crashing in the median and, time and again, the callers were advised that the dispatcher was aware of the accident and thanked. After listening to ten or eleven such calls, I was beginning to think I had struck out, when a caller suddenly said something different.
A gentleman told dispatch that he had just witnessed a dark car run a white car off the interstate. He provided the cars license tag number and said that the vehicle was then directly behind his and that he had maintained sight of the vehicle since the accident and finally, thankfully, he provided his name and telephone number.
I pulled up the video of the State Trooper pulling over the older woman and the license tag number matched. I called the witness, who lives in another state, and learned even more regarding the erratic driving of the woman who forced my clients off of the interstate.
Needless to say, once I provided copies of the disks I had obtained from the State Police to the adjuster who had basically told me to “go away,” his company decided to accept responsibility for the accident. There was no more mystery as to why the police pulled over the elderly woman. Hard work pays off!
Most good lawyering occurs outside of the courtroom. Digging for facts takes time and can be hard work but it can make all the difference in the world to individuals or families who place trust in an attorney to build a case. When hiring an attorney, make sure he or she is not afraid to work hard, dig and get a little dirty!
Mulkey Law Firm takes great pride in the lawyering we do inside and outside the courtroom. You can talk to Bruce about your case any time with no obligation. Just call his cell: (479) 936-4384. Click HERE to learn more.