Making A Personal Injury Claim After A Florida Car Accident? You Will Be Judged
I just had a frustrating experience with one of our personal injury clients, and thought I might use the experience as an opportunity to explain an aspect of personal injury cases that many people never consider.
Today’s frustration arose when my client failed to show up for her deposition. There was no late night email, or early morning phone call, or any warning provided that she wasn’t going to be there. When the time for the deposition to commence came and went, there was still no phone call, text, or any notice given by our client that she wasn’t going to be there. After the insurance company’s lawyer, the court reporter, and I set there staring at each other for a while, I asked my office to call the client.
Our client answered the phone comfortably after the first ring. She wasn’t rushed, or hurrying to the deposition. She wasn’t on her way at all. The only explanation given was, “I totally forgot about it [the deposition].” This, despite the fact that we had provided her with a copy of the Notice of Deposition, emailed copies of documents to review to her, and had a comprehensive pre-deposition preparation session the week before the deposition. Nevertheless – “I totally forgot.”
I am a reasonable person. I understand that people generally have a lot of things going on in their lives, and that they might forget to meet a friend for lunch, or to run by the dry cleaners on the way home from work. But most people only have one personal injury lawsuit pending at any given time.
Personal injury lawsuits necessarily involve one side asking the other side to give them money. The side being asked to pay the money doesn’t really want to pay it, and in fact will go to great lengths NOT to pay it. Our legal systemplaces the burden on the Plaintiff (the party requesting the money) to prove to the other side, or a jury, why any money should change hands at all, and if so, how much.
Defendants (the parties being asked to pay money) take a huge number of variables into account when deciding whether to pay, or how much to pay. In other words, they essentially sit in judgment of the Plaintiff — about fault, and medical bills, for example. In addition, Defendants (usually via insurance companies and their lawyers) are also judging the Plaintiff on other factors perhaps less directly related to their accident.
For example, in determining whether to pay, or how much to pay, Defendants ask these kinds of questions, “What kind of person is the Plaintiff?” “Is the Plaintiff trustworthy?” “Is the Plaintiff the kind of person a jury will like, or relate to?” “What kind of appearance does the Plaintiff make?” “Is the Plaintiff taking this case seriously, and will that be conveyed to a jury?” “Is the Plaintiff a fake or a fraud?” “Is the Plaintiff trying to hide something?”
When Plaintiffs fail to show up at case-related events, or show up late, or show up inappropriately dressed, or act inappropriately, or speak untruths (even if they are not case-related) these actions will be judged by the Defendant (or a jury), and these action will negatively affect the outcome of the case – regardless of how “good” the accident facts are, or what kind of medical treatment has been received (unless we are talking about a brain injury – which might explain some of these behaviors – but not my client on this one.) All personal injury Plaintiffs need to understand that they will be “judged” even if they never walk into a Courtroom, regardless of how “fair” they think it is.