Interview With Michael Padilla
What does a personal injury lawyer do?
We do a lot of things but primarily in the field of personal injury. When a client comes to us we investigate, evaluate and prosecute claims that are appropriate.
Are there guidelines to know whether a case will be able to stand up in a court of law?
Well, guidelines in the legal world refer to the elements of a cause of action. In a motor vehicle case, it’s the negligence of the other driver that has to be shown. You have to show that the negligence caused injury, and then you have to define what that injury is, what the elements of harm are that you’re seeking compensation for. If you have validity to each of those elements, then you have a viable case that is worthy of prosecution.
What if I can’t afford an attorney for my injury case?
Well in the field of personal injury affordability is not an issue. Because uniformly all the lawyers who practice in that area, this firm included, handle these cases on a contingency. So, if there is no recovery, then there is no fee owed.
When should a claim go to small claims court instead of a personal injury attorney?
Those are the smaller injury cases, where you have minor, less significant injuries and fairly short-term consequences from a standpoint of disability. We are talking about weeks or months and there is no significant economic loss in the way of medical bills or wage loss. Those cases are best addressed in the small claims venue.
Do the damages in my case reflect the cost?
Well, let’s be clear, the costs of a case are completely separate and apart from the damages in a case. The costs in a case are the expenses that are incurred investigating and prosecuting a case such as the filing fee, the court reporter fees for depositions, fees that you might pay to expert consultants such as physicians or engineers, if they’re required in your case. Those are the costs of the case. The more expensive it is from a cost standpoint to prosecute a case the more significant the damages must be. You obviously can’t realistically commit to expend 50 or 60 thousand dollars in costs on a case where the damages are 100 thousand. Because more often than not those costs are not recoverable. So, as a lawyer, one of our responsibilities is to commit the resources that we need to commit the costs to a case to properly and fully develop it. But the costs have no relation to the damages other than the damages being somewhat of a limiter or a governor on what you can commit to a case.
How should I select a lawyer for an accident injury case?
A good personal reference is always the best. Short of that you should do your homework do your investigation and your evaluation of your lawyer. You want someone who has a track record of success, who practices regularly in the area of law involved with your particular injury case; if it’s a motor vehicle case, products case, an engineering case, a job site accident case. Find out what experience they’ve had handling similar cases and also satisfy yourself that the firm can bring the resources to bear that are going to be required to properly present your case against the forces that are going to be coming at you from the other side, which, now a days are considerable.
99% of our injury work is against insurance companies who are in the business of defending cases who have not only an army of lawyers, but an army of consultants, to throw against you and you really want someone pulling for you who can fight that fight.
Is it important to know how long a firm has been practicing law?
It’s a consideration, but it is certainly not the overriding factor. The more important considerations are if you have a firm that’s been around a number of years, established itself in the area of law, the more likely you’re going to get an attorney who’s going to be able to bring to your case the resources that are going to be required to win it.
What if the attorney advertises for many different fields of law?
Well that would concern me. If I’m looking for a personal injury lawyer, I would not want to go to a generalist. Perhaps, inside a firm that advertises multiple areas, there might be a personality that can well represent you. But you’re generally going to be better served with a firm that does personal injury and only personal injury and does it well and has done it a while.
Is going to the emergency room necessary after an accident?
Well, first let’s distinguish between what medical needs are and what I as a lawyer would like to see when I am interviewing a client post accident. From the medical standpoint you want to get what medical attention you believe you reasonably require as soon as possible after an accident. If you have symptoms that are of concern, see a doctor, whether it’s in the emergency room, whether it’s your primary care doctor or an urgent care center, and follow their advice and direction.