01 Dec November Trials, Debt Collections & Happy Holidays
Welcome to the Newsletter
Rana Law Group Newsletter
In this issue:
- Insights from November Trials
- Debt Collection Lawsuits
- Happy Holidays!
Insights from November Trials
I took two cases to a jury trial in November, which is fantastic in this post-COVID era. Both trials were spine injury cases sustained in automobile crashes. I am happy to report the first case resulted in a verdict close to seven times the pretrial offer and twice the other driver’s automobile policy limits. Unfortunately, the jury in the second case felt sorry for the young defendant/other driver and somehow came to the conclusion that my client, who was rear-ended, was 90% at fault. We are filing a motion for a new trial based on the result and the judge’s comments after the verdict where he said that may have been one of the oddest results he has ever seen.
Results notwithstanding, I always learn something every time I walk into the courtroom because all cases, judges and juries are different. In speaking with several jurors after the cases concluded, several comments stood out, which is good to know for all injury cases, regardless of whether they may one day go to trial (probably less than 1% of cases in our office go all the way to trial):
1. Gaps in treatment are fatal to a case. If someone is injured in a crash and alleges he/she still has permanent injuries on the day of trial, the jury wants to see some medical treatment, no matter how fruitless. That includes therapy, cortisone injections and even surgery. If the argument is “I am in a lot of pain”, the jury wants to see some efforts to address that pain. That includes gaps in treatment throughout the injury phase. While life happens, juries are less forgiving with “life came up” excuses for not getting medical care.
2. Medical records/inconsistencies are crucial to the defense. In many cases, the defense will parade around the police report (for phrases like no injuries at the scene) or inconsistent statements in the medical records (the crash was 50 mph, then to the next provider 30-40 mph, or something like missing a body part). These are ridiculous arguments but they land with the jury. It is important to remain consistent or simply tell the truth rather than just guess. A simple “I don’t know” is perfectly fine. It is also important to properly get all complaints documented to every provider. The absence of a complaint to one provider is used as “evidence” to argue you were not injured.
3. Facebook/Social Media photographs are used out of context. The defense loves parading around photographs of the injured person doing things, however, we all know social media is not real life. While I can put the photographs in context (such as this is a snapshot into that moment, it does not show the before/after), it is better if we do not have to explain the photographs at all. We now have a strict policy about privacy settings and posting on social media.
4. Appearances matter. That applies to both the injured party (plaintiff) and the person who caused the crash (defendant). In our society, we generally like to reward people who look good and appear wealthy. That includes helping injured people or punishing the at-fault person. My clients may not always like it, but I make sure we plan out haircuts, outfits and the “perfect” look beforehand.
5. Juries generally get it right. Certainly there are outliers (such as the 90% fault on a rear-ender) but, in general, juries get the result right based on the evidence. I cannot think of a single jury out of the 16 trials I have done so far where I felt the jury phoned it in. On ones where we received less than what we wanted, I was able to pinpoint their reasoning based on the evidence the jury heard.
Debt Collection Lawsuits
For anyone in debt, the holidays can be particularly difficult. People go into debt for all sorts of reasons, including medical billing or unpaid credit cards. Medical providers and credit card companies typically sell their unpaid balances to debt collection companies. These companies aggressively attempt to collect the debt outside of court and, if they are unsuccessful, will pursue litigation. This debt can hang over people like a bad cloud but, what many people may not know is some debt collectors use illegal predatory practices to further add insult to injury.
If you or someone you know finds themselves in this situation, it is best not to ignore any lawsuit or summons if you are served. If you miss the court date, you will receive a notice of default judgment where you are given another opportunity to appear. If you do not appear again, the court will enter a default judgment. After a certain number of days, the judgment is final and the debt collection company can begin garnishing wages and bank accounts or even attempt to levy against personal assets. To avoid this, speak to a lawyer.
What people do not realize is these debt collection companies often break the law in their attempt to collect the debt by violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA allows a debtor to countersue the debt collector if they violated the law. Hiring a lawyer to fight these companies ends up being a lot less expensive, especially if the lawyer can potentially get the debt thrown out completely. This is also a better alternative than filing for bankruptcy. If you or anyone close to you is being sued for unpaid debts, please contact me and I can put you in touch with an attorney I trust so you can put your mind at ease for the holidays.
Unfortunately, the two civil trials in November and the office move put a damper on my Thanksgiving holiday. As many of you know, my wife and I typically go to Chicago to celebrate with family. We have a fun little tradition where we go Black Friday shopping, which includes visiting the Christkindlmarket and Eataly. I also try to sneak some Stan’s Donuts if my wife isn’t watching.
I plan to make it up to family and friends by going all out for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The house is fully decorated and there will be some roaring fires in the wood burning stove. This year, since we are in town all December, we will be able to go to many of the holiday parties as well, so there should be plenty of socializing to make up for last month. I hope you all get to celebrate with family, friends and good food!