New York, NY
I represent all types of accident victims who have suffered injuries through the fault of others. Whether it's a motor vehicle accident, trip/slip and fall, injured on the job, wrongful death, products liability, toxic torts and many more, I help my clients receive compensation for their medical bills, lost time from work and the pain and suffering they have endured and will continue to endure from their accident.
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This question is easy. By far, the most frustrating part of my job is that the documents we need to prove our case are usually in the sole possession of the very person (or company) we're suing. Plaintiffs have the burden of proving their case. It's the plaintiff that must produce evidence sufficient to prove their case at trial. Defendants can sit back and do nothing at trial and still win if Plainitff hasn't proven their case. However, the only way to obtain the evidence we need to prove our case is to request it from the defendant. For example, if we have a client that tripped and fell because of a defective sidewalk, we have to prove "notice". Which means we have to produce evidence which would show that the defendant knew the sidewalk was defective but didn't fix it. This can come in the form of prior complaints, repair orders, maintenance and inspections records, etc. However, it is the defendant who possesses these documents. Thus, the only way we can win our case is if the person (or company) we are suing actually turn over the very documents that would incriminate them. So when we request the records from the defendant and we get the standard "none in our possession" response, there is simply no way to know if this is truthful or not.
Before I answer this question, keep in mind I am definitely the exception and not the norm when it comes to the amount of hours I work. My day usually starts in Court, so it depends on what I'm doing on a given day. But usually I have to be in Court by 9:30-10. I usually leave the office around 6pm. I do not bill by the hour though, I get paid on a contingency fee (percentage of case I settle). If I had to watch my billable hours, I would definitely be working longer hours. I have friends that work over 60 hours per week. The amount of hours you work really depends on the field of law you are specializing in.
The bottom line is, if you don't feel you can be fair and impartial based on the facts of the case which the attorneys tell you about during jury selection, then you won't be on the jury. For example, if you're sitting on a car accident case and either you or somebody close to you in your life has been in a car accident and that experience would make it difficult for you to judge the facts of the case fairly, then you will be dismissed from the jury for cause.
We have something similar here to what you described in the UK, but it's very rarely used. Defendants can make motions for costs and/or sanctions based on "frivilous" lawsuits. However, this is rarely, if ever, granted. The lawsuit would have to be so blatantly frivilous which is usually not the case when dealing with what many believe are "frivilous" cases. While many people may not agree with someone's reason for suing, and may believe their case is "frivilous", that does not in and of itself make a case frivilous. If there is any legitimate basis for the lawsuit, then a defendant will not be granted costs and sanctions. There is a current system in place that does work for cases that have no legitimate basis. Many medical facilities have been shut down and their owner prosecuted for "treating" these plaintiffs and billing insurance companies. They, along with plaintiffs who fake accidents, can be brought up on charges of insurance fruad. If it is proven that people are intentionally faking accident to make up bogus claims, I have no problem with harsh punishments for these people. They actually make my job harder trying to prove my cases are legitimate because of the negative publicity these people give lawsuits.
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I wouldn't say that a "huge percentage of cases" are overweight people who are "repeat suers", but unfortunately they do exist. And the reason I say unfortunatley is because everyone hears about these types of cases, or the McDonalds "hot coffee" cases, but don't hear about the legitamate claims because those don't sell newspapers. And these "frivilous" cases make it much more difficult to bring legitimate claims because the public has such a distorted view of all lawsuits and bunches the frivilous ones together with the legitimate ones. I would strongly urge anyone who is reading this to watch the HBO documentary "Hot Coffee". It definitley gives a different persective of lawsuits and hopefully will change your view and others about legitimate claims. But to answer your question, I do not believe that a large percentage of cases are repeat suers. It is well under 50%, probably closer to 20%. I feel that it probably just seems higher because those are the cases that are talked about most often and making the headlines.
No problem. Yes, Judges are subject to quotas. However, the more important question is, do the judges care? Some do and some don't. The ones that do try very hard to settle cases prior to trial. This way they move the case and they can get a new trial. The more they move, the better it looks for them if they want to get ahead (become an appellate court judge, etc). However, all too often, judges simply don't care. They're content with what they do, and if they're not looking to get ahead, there's no incentive for them to work hard. But there are some who do want bigger and better things, and when you get assigned to those judges, you definitely feel fortunate.
I think it really depends on the person. I, for example, do not take offense. I take it with a grain of salt and just laugh at it. However, there are attorneys out there who are highly offended by it. The main reason is that “ambulance chasing” really isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Back in the 70's and 80's, there were a lot of “runners” employed by firms who had hook-ups at hospitals and police stations that would alert them to potential cases (this is where the term came from). This is highly unethical and illegal. Now, however, it’s more about the advertising, which is completely ethical and legal. So some attorneys do get offended since that’s really not the way the business is run anymore.
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