As a personal injury attorney, one becomes somewhat accustomed to dealing with catastrophic injuries while evaluating them in an objective fashion. As the attorney, I make decisions logically as I evaluate the case. On the other hand, as the injured client, your perspective is that you want justice and an apology, and at times, a cage fight with the at-fault party. I’ve been there and I understand how you feel.
What they say is true: when answering the question, “How much is a broken arm worth?” it depends if it’s my arm or your arm. My arm is worth a lot. Your arm is not worth as much. Right?
When analyzing a situation that you are emotionally involved in, you’re going to analyze it more favorably to yourself. You see what happened the way that you want to see it, not the way that eight detached jurors would see it.
I was very upset when going through the legal process for my son’s accident, but I could appreciate that I was biased in the situation and I knew that I had to trust my legal team for objective analysis. Sometimes your lawyer will tell you something that you absolutely do not want to hear or refuse to believe. I will tell you a little story about that from Josh’s case.
Under Ohio law, a pool facility like the one where Josh was injured can have customers sign a “negligence waiver.” This means that if an injury occurs because of the pool’s negligence, the injured person will not be able to make a negligence claim against the pool. This was one of the major defenses that the pool owners used to attempt to have my son’s case thrown out of court. They were arguing that my wife and I had completely waived our right to bring a lawsuit by signing the pool membership application. They argued that “the plaintiffs expressly assumed the risk of personal injuries.” It all came down to whether or not the membership application that my wife signed when we became members contained a legal waiver that was actually enforceable.
If we were right that the alleged waiver was not enforceable, the case was probably not going to be tossed out of court. If the defense was right, the case was going to be lost. Attorney Dodosh brought me some legal research on this issue which indicated that, when evaluated objectively, it was actually a close call: we might be right or the defense might be right.
I didn’t want to accept that there was even a possibility that the defense could be right and that the case could be thrown out of court. In my personally involved emotional state, I was of the mindset that any case law or legal research that supported the defense’s position was just stupid and outrageous. That would not be justice! The diving board that injured my son did not even comply with code. So what if we had signed a negligence waiver!
As an attorney, deep down I did realize that the waiver issue was a problem and that the defense did have a legitimate argument. I recall going into Attorney Dodosh’s office (he was writing a legal brief on the issue at the time) and telling him, “Whatever you do, win this.” I wanted to make the point that whatever we needed within the bounds of law and ethics, we were going to do. It had become personal.
Lesson to be learned: Because your attorney will logically evaluate your case while you will likely emotionally evaluate your case, at some point your attorney will probably give you news that you do not want to hear.
Although I know from personal experience that it can be very difficult, you need to be able to take a step back from your case and realize that you are emotionally involved. You need to realize that your attorney is basing their evaluation of your case on logic and reason backed up by experience handling cases of the same nature.
The “two forces” of your emotion and your attorney’s logic will likely butt heads at some point. It happened to me and it will probably happen to you. You have to make sure that you trust so you will be able to let them do their job.