Everyone has questions when it comes to something as complex as the law. We work hard to make it less confusing. Here are answers to some of the basic questions that may be on your mind, but don’t hesitate to email us or call if you have others.
- How should I select a lawyer and what criteria should I consider?
Yellow page ads, websites, and other advertising claims placed by many personal injury law firms emphasize catastrophic injuries and tout experience in handling these sorts of cases. You need to look past the advertisements to make an informed decision. You want an experienced jury trial lawyer with a successful track-record in your kind of case. Ask how many similar cases the lawyer has actually tried and the results of those trials.
Additionally, there are peer reviewed sources available on the internet you can examine to determine how the lawyer is regarded by other lawyers. Some sites you may want to review are: The Best Lawyers In America (limited to the top 5%); The American College of Trial Lawyers (limited to the top 1%); The American Board of Trial Advocates (limited to the top 1%); and Super Lawyers (top 5%, top 50 lawyers, and top 10 lawyers in Oregon). All of the above are glimpses into the professional standing various lawyers have accrued within the legal community as determined by their fellow attorneys.
Attorney websites can be helpful as you can glean information about a firm’s prior cases and professional standing. Once you have a “short list” of potential lawyers, call the lawyers and ask for an interview. It's important that you feel you can talk to your lawyer. Do you like them, and are you comfortable with them? How does your family feel? Does the lawyer speak in terms you can understand? You may also wish to consult various professional writings for insight into the firm’s citizenship and philosophy. For instance, our firm’s philosophy is captured in the article “Personal Authenticity.”
- Do I have a case?
It’s usually difficult to tell if there’s a legally and economically viable case without first investigating the facts and potential evidence.
Our office believes facts are crucial— perhaps even more important than the lawyer's talents— despite impressions of dramatic cross-examinations and blazing closing arguments promoted by the media.
A competent lawyer should offer to investigate all available facts, evaluate whether the facts support a viable case, then give you their professional opinion. It isn’t necessary to sign a fee agreement in order for this to occur, although you would need to sign authorizations to obtain medical records and possibly other kinds of records.
The two most important questions that must be answered to determine whether or not you have a viable case are: (1) whether the potential defendant is at fault due to an illegal or wrong act and, if so (2) what are the legal consequences or damages caused by the illegal or wrongful act? Taking these questions in reverse order, it’s generally obvious when someone's been seriously injured. You already know this; otherwise you wouldn’t be looking for a lawyer. The first question concerning fault is more difficult, and can have many legal facets. Just a few of the potential issues pertaining to fault include: determining who can be held legally responsible for your damages; which state’s laws apply; what is the statute of limitations applicable to your claim; can you actually collect on a judgement against the potential defendant; what insurance is available to fund any recovery; and, must any governmental bodies be properly served with time-sensitive notices?
- Is it a case your office will handle?
Our practice is limited to representing seriously injured persons. We don’t represent insurance companies, in fact we sue them. Not every lawyer does plaintiffs’ personal injury work. It’s a narrow area of the law. We can say we’re willing to evaluate your case and offer you our professional opinions on the merits and value of your potential case. Furthermore, we’re willing to pay the necessary expenses involved in this essential work-up. If we decline your case, you won’t owe us anything.
- If I do have a case, what is it worth?
AnswerWe start by asking, “What's the verdict range if a jury finds fault?” A separate, but related question is, “If we do win, where’s the money going to come from to pay the verdict?” Is there a threat of bankruptcy? What insurance policies may apply? For example, one in eight Oregon drivers is uninsured, and many have only the minimum insurance protection ($25,000) the law requires. Does the “family purpose doctrine” apply? If there is insurance are there any coverage defenses?So, what happens when you're seriously injured and the defendant is either uninsured or has the minimum insurance policy limits? Here’s where we may look for potential third-party liability based on whether additional defendants or a defective product may have contributed to your injuries, or your own insurance policy’s “under-insurance protection” to help adequately compensate you.
- What happens if you take on my case? How does it work?
Once we've accepted a client into our firm, both partners, our on-staff investigator, and assistants come together to learn everything we can about your claim. We tap the expertise of our associated Medical Doctor when appropriate.
Research, questioning, interviews, and analysis are conducted and disseminated throughout the firm. Every team member is involved with each case. This means our clients always have quick and direct access to someone who knows their file. Once we've done the groundwork, we then craft each case by hand. After painstaking preparation, both partners—two of the best trial attorneys in America—try the case together in a court of law.
- How long will it take to get to trial and to finish my case?
This really combines two separate questions. In most Oregon counties you can get a trial date within one year of filing a lawsuit. Appeals can significantly add to the length of time it takes to finally resolve a case. Fortunately, appeals don’t happen very often. Approximately 2% of the cases that go to trial are appealed to appellate decision.
Alternative dispute resolution is the good news here, which in most cases means mediation. We mediate all our cases and settle more than 80% of the cases we accept without the necessity of trial. We suggest you read our article on “Mediation From a Plaintiff's Perspective” for additional information on the mediation process.
- What would Barton Trial Attorneys charge to represent me in a case like this?
We charge a contingency fee that’s standard in the profession. The sliding contingency fee percentage depends upon the stage of litigation at which the case resolves. If we accept your case we'll advance all costs necessary to make sure your case is properly prepared to be mediated and then tried before a jury if necessary. This starts with us retaining the best experts possible as early as is necessary.
Most people don't appreciate how difficult it is to find medical and industry experts to testify in court when involved in claims against doctors, hospitals and society's major institutions. Doctors who testify against the “brotherhood” never receive future referrals from their peers and are socially “black-balled” from their various professional associations. Likewise for other professionals. We strive to locate the best experts for your case no matter where they live or how much they charge.
- If you’re so good, why isn’t your office in a major city? How would we work together?
In the 1980’s Bill had a national plaintiffs’ practice requiring him to travel the country and practically live in airports. During that time he tried cases in Hawaii, Nevada, and West Virginia and handled cases in Louisiana and Florida. In 1983 he served as president of the Western Trial Lawyers Association which included the thirteen western states. After much reflection and soul searching, the decision was made to limit the number of cases we accept.
Bill has a condominium in Portland and Brent lives in Oregon City. We have a downtown Portland office and are in Portland or the Willamette Valley on a weekly basis to meet clients and witnesses or appear in court.
Occasionally we’ll still go out of state, but we now tend to limit our practice to a few major Oregon cases. No matter where the lawsuit is filed or the client lives, today’s technology allows us to effectively represent and maintain close contact with our clients from our Newport and Portland offices.
Harold Nash, our full-time investigator, also travels nationwide, if needed, to assure all the evidence is quickly identified and evaluated. We have a retired surgeon, Dr. Richard Beemer, on staff to review medical questions with the assistance of an experienced registered nurse.