Is Arbitration Ever An Option?

Arbitration is almost always an option.  The questions arises, is it the best option?  That in some cases, it is absolutely the best option.  And I think it’s important to clarify the difference between different types of arbitration. 

Non-binding Arbitration
Non-binding arbitration is a dispute resolution process that many times the court orders you to go through in order to see if you can’t resolve the case short of trial.  Because it’s non-binding, when an award is issued by an arbitrator in a non-binding arbitration, it has no legal affect on the parties whatsoever. 

Binding Arbitration
The second kind of arbitration is a binding arbitration, in which either the parties agree that the arbitrator’s award is going to be the final number and the final verdict amount.  In that case then, it very well might be a good option, because arbitration’s a cheaper, faster, and in some cases more fair way of getting the facts into the hands of a finder of fact, and to have an award issued. 

In Conclusion
The short answer is  arbitration is almost always an option, and in some cases it is the best option.

Why Is Going To Trial So Expensive?

I get asked this question routinely:

“Why is going to trial so much more expensive than other aspects of a case?” 

And that’s a really good question, because that’s sometimes a misunderstood aspect of litigation. 

The Proverbial Ducks In A Row
In order to go to trial — you have to have all your ducks in a row — you have to present the evidence in favor of the plaintiff.  The plaintiff has the burden of proof to prove his or her case.  In order to do that, many times you have to hire expert witnesses to provide qualified testimony about the nature and extent of the injuries.  You have to spend money to prepare detailed exhibits.  Sometimes they’re electronic exhibits.  Sometimes the  exhibits you’re presenting, require a great deal of expert involvement.  Sometimes just in order to prepare the exhibits for a jury’s review, you have to spend thousands of dollars just to have an expert review the data underlying those exhibits and approve the exhibit itself. 

Going To Trial Is Expensive But Sometimes Necessary
Unfortunately, that’s the reality that we live in, and the insurance companies know that and they know that in many cases plaintiffs will settle short of trial because they don’t want to spend those costs.  And they also know that in some cases, some attorneys will they themselves accept less than fair value for a case in order to avoid going to trial.  That’s not my policy and that’s not something I would ever recommend on behalf of a client of mine, because I believe that the preservation of the  jury-trial system is fundamental to our rights as an American democracy or Republican system, however you want to define it.

What Percentage Of Cases Go To Trial?

Ten percent or less.  That’s a national and California state average. The fact is that the vast minority of cases end up in trial.  And that’s a good thing for everybody. Because my clients know once they have to go through trial, that the amount of cost that I spend is going to reduce the amount that they’re going to get in their pocket.  So many times my clients authorize me to settle my case short of trial, just because they know that they’re going to be better off by settling short of trial.  In some cases, though, the only way you can get justice is by taking it to trial.

Personal Injury Attorney Provides Personalized Service

First Things First
The first thing that we do when we take on a case is we personally come to your location to go over all the necessary paperwork.  That’s right.  If necessary, we will come to your house or your place of employment to save you the inconvenience of travel.   We will come after hours or during the work day, whatever is most appropriate.

At the point that we make the decision to make you as a client a priority of ours — by accepting your case — then we take all the necessary steps to not only keep you well-informed about what to do and what not to do, but to immediately document any injuries by taking photographs, documenting damage to any vehicle or other property by taking photographs immediately; we send our investigator out to do a full investigation of any accident site or location where you got injured if liability is at issue, among other reasons. 

Here Is A Partial List Of What We Handle During Our First Meeting With You:

  • We go over all the necessary paperwork
  • We explain everything to you 
  • We give you a seven-page printout of what to do and what not to do 
  • We explain how best to handle your injuries from the point that we meet you to the point that everything is resolved and your case is finished 

Personal Injury Fees

Routinely, we get asked about the topic of fees, “Are there any up-front costs or fees?”  Or, “How much will it cost to hire you as my personal injury attorney?”

So, What’s The Deal With Fees?
That’s a good question because with some attorneys there is a fee for consultation, cost advance and things of that nature.  In my case, we advance all costs, we charge you nothing up front, and if we don’t recover anything on your behalf, we’re not entitled to any recovery for ourselves.  So in a very real sense, I think it’s important to understand that once we take on your case, both you and I are in the same boat. 

We Have An Equality Of Interest 
I have an interest in doing the best possible job, in maximizing your case and your recovery, as you do.  And the only thing that we ask in return is that you are diligent and responsible and take our advice with regard to following up on medical care, documenting injuries, not doing anything stupid by going out and getting hurt again if you can at all avoid it, and staying in contact with me and my firm.

Why You Should Hire An Attorney Who Specializes In Personal Injury

Question: When hiring a personal injury attorney, what are some of the top things that a person should think about?  You mentioned already — if a client comes in and gets the brush-off from an attorney, then it probably doesn’t bode well for a lot of attention that they’re going to get.  What other kinds of things should a person be looking for?

Stephen Counts: I think even more important than first impression is determining at the outset whether the attorney that you’re interviewing focuses exclusively on personal injury and serious bodily injury as their practice area.  They don’t have to be a Certified Specialist, but you do need to confirm if they are focused on plaintiff-oriented personal injury claims as their primary area of focus. 

Why You Should Hire An Attorney Who Specializes In Personal Injury
The reason for this is clear.  Many people might be referred to a family friend or an acquaintance that is an attorney, and that attorney is licensed to practice law, but that attorney is not going to be able to advise you as to the ins and outs of the claims process like somebody who is vastly more experienced.  If an attorney takes more than 200 cases any given year involving bodily injury, that attorney is going to have a lot more experience dealing with that particular area than somebody who practices business litigation or bankruptcy or family law or something of that sort. 

In other words, a person driving a Ford wouldn’t hire an Audi mechanic.  In like manner, a person with an injury claim wouldn’t hire a probate attorney.  If you need a personal injury, please call my office: (714) 851-2890.

How Should I Choose a Personal Injury Attorney?

Question:  How should I go about choosing a personal injury attorney?  I mean, I can open up the Yellow Pages and just throw a dart in there and find one, you know?  But is that really the most effective way to hire the best attorney I can?

Stephen Counts:   The best thing to do is to speak to the attorney directly.  You can tell a lot about an attorney, as well as any individual, by speaking with them directly.  And their answers to your questions, their ability and willingness to be responsive, to give you answers to the questions, to provide assistance and things of that nature, is key.  If you call an attorney’s office and you feel on that first call that you’re being shrugged off as less than a priority, then in my experience that is more than likely going to be the first of many times that your calls are going to be sloughed off, as it were, as being less than important.

So you only get one chance to make a personal impression.  And if that first impression is less than stellar, you should probably consider a second consultation with another attorney.

Question:  So how do you find most of your clients, or how do your clients find you?

Stephen Counts:   Well, the firm that I’m a part of — Russell and Lazarus — relies on a combination of internet advertising as well as Yellow Page advertising.  I personally rely on personal referrals as well, as do the other attorneys in the firm.  The website that I personally maintain is http://www.orangecountyinjury.com/ and that website will provide any potential client with a wealth of resources, provide them with a case submission form that they can fill out, and provide the information to me so I can immediately contact them back and already have a good idea of what type of a case that I’m looking at.  And that way my advice can be on-point, it can be prompt, and it can be — above all else — helpful to the person who needs the help at that point, which is the injured party. 

Question: So you do not slough anybody off?

Stephen Counts: Absolutely not!