This Ought to Be Easy
At the insistence of her daughter, co-workers and another lawyer that was a family friend, I walked into my new client’s and eventual friend’s, hospital room. Just one day after her collision with a large commercial vehicle, she had already endured two surgeries. More surgeries and months of painful rehabilitation would follow. After quizzing me about my age and experience, she said “Nate this ought to be easy.” As she lay in a hospital bed, I explained to her what too many people have learned the hard way. Negligent corporations and big insurance companies fight very hard to protect their money.
I assured my new client that my partner Katrina and I as well as our staff were up to the challenge. Within two hours of the time we were hired, we had a professional photographer taking high-resolution images that could be used at trial. By the end of our first day on the case, we had found the isolated lot where the company stored its damaged vehicles. Within 48 hours of the time we were hired, we had engineers mapping the scene. In less than a week, we found the driver of the vehicle. He willing provided us with detail about the vehicle and his dealings with the company.
As is par for the course, the company denied all liability and blamed others. They hired one of the largest law firms in the world to protect their money. Despite their efforts we worked diligently to locate past drivers of the vehicle and obtained a court order to perform a top to bottom inspection of the vehicle. Working with engineers and mechanics, we examined every inch of the vehicle and found a number of failures that caused the wreck that injured my friend. Unlike many lawyers, we did not sit back in our office and wait on a report, we braved 20 degree temperatures, freezing rain and crawled around the truck with our mechanics and engineers to make sure we fully understood the issues and could explain them to a judge and jury.
Having handled hundreds of cases and recovered millions of dollars for clients, we knew that simply identifying the cause of the collision was not enough. We would have to make sure a jury understood our case completely and would deliver justice to our friend and client. We worked closely with economists and life care planners to make sure the jury could completely understand how the negligence of the company impacted my friend’s family and her finances. We worked closely with a videographer to document her journey.
In the weeks leading up to trial we tested our theory of the case and our presentation on not one, but three mock juries. In the end, we were able to prove to the big company and its lawyers that we were prepared to prove its negligence to a jury. With that information in hand, we ultimately achieved a settlement of $3,700,000 for our friend that had suffered numerous broken bones and endured multiple surgeries after her collision with the commercial vehicle. After medical bills, expenses and legal fees, the friend that once told us she wanted a million dollars, received more than $2,200,000.
Our success in this case was not based upon the wreck, but because we dedicated our time, resources (more than $81,000 spent on engineers, economists, focus groups and private investigators) and past trial experiences to the cause of justice for our friend.
"After medical bills, expenses and legal fees, the friend that once told us she wanted a million dollars, received more than $2,200,000."
Never Say Never
For more than 20 years, our client worked diligently serving others as a patient care technician. She loved the satisfaction of knowing that what she did helped to make the lives of others more comfortable. While the work was physically and emotionally demanding and the hours were long, she loved it. Unfortunately, in less than 30 seconds, the negligence of a large furniture company and its driver took her career away from her.
Our client learned what many injured people learn far too late. Not all lawyers have the experience, tenacity or resources to fight big companies. For more than a year, her case lingered with another lawyer. The company denied liability and refused to make a settlement offer. Shortly before her statute of limitations expired, our client and her husband decided to hire The Washington Firm. We immediately did what should have been done nearly two years earlier. We obtained a complete history of the vehicle, we conducted thorough background checks on the driver and we deposed company officials. We uncovered what we believed to be dangerous internal policies. We worked closely with an economist to make sure the jury could fully understand how the negligence of the company and its driver impacted our client.
The furniture company that told the other lawyer and The Washington Firm that they would never pay, ultimately settled the case for $750,000. After paying lots of outstanding medical bills for her knee surgeries, legal fees and case expenses our client received more than $281,000.
After seeing the hundreds of hours dedicated to the case and seeing the more than $23,847 we spent on investigators, economists, videographers and court reporters, our client commented that the other lawyer would have never spent the time and money required to secure justice for her and her family.
"The furniture company that told the other lawyer and The Washington Firm that they would never pay, ultimately settled the case for $750,000."
For most of her life, Attorney Katrina Washington has dedicated time and energy to fighting for those that could not fight for themselves. Whether as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children or as a teen court judge, Katrina has always strived to make a difference. So in 2012, when a U.S. Army veteran and his wife walked into a meeting with Katrina they found an alley. They were upfront and honest about their case. They knew their case wasn’t a big money case, but they wanted to be treated fairly. They had letters from four other law firms that had dropped their case. They even had a letter from the insurance company telling the veteran and his wife they would never pay money on the claim. For us, the letters from the other lawyers dropping the case and the insurance company was a challenge, but more than that helping the veteran and his wife was a calling.
Katrina did what good lawyers are supposed to do. She mapped the area where the wreck occurred. She measured the distance between where the wreck occurred and where the witness that blamed our client parked his truck. She conducted a thorough background check on the supposed neutral witness. She learned that his story was fabricated and red flags in his background indicated that he was biased against certain people. From there, The Washington Firm filed suit and served the trucking company with more than 40 pages of detailed discovery requests. We proudly prosecuted our client’s claim and reassured the insurance company and the trucking company that we would go to trial before we walked away from a military veteran and his wife. In the end, while our client suffered from sprains and strains to his back, the insurance company and the trucking company that promised they would never pay wrote our client a $30,000 check.
"We proudly prosecuted our client’s claim and reassured the insurance company that we would go to trial before we walked away from a military veteran and his wife."
The Denial Dance
On a bright summer afternoon, our client, a classically trained ballerina and her daughter moved hurriedly from day care, to classes at a local college, to work at a part time job and nearly back home. In an instant, their lives were changed as a sales representative for a local food distributor pulled her car into traffic as she attempted to enter an order on her laptop. The collision resulted in a severely fractured leg that would ultimately require the young mother to change her college major and the plan for her life.
At first, the company did what was expected. They blamed our client, saying she was driving too fast. They blamed the weather saying the sun was in the sales rep’s eyes. They blamed the road, saying the steep hill blocked the sales representative’s view. They blamed our client’s car, saying her brakes did not work properly. They did everything accept acknowledge the wreck would never have occurred if their sales rep had not pulled into oncoming traffic.
Here again, the Washington Firm went to work. We canvassed the area, literally walking up and down the street talking to witnesses. Upon learning of the sales rep’s story about the sun being in her eyes, we retrieved National Weather Service reports for the area and disproved her claim. We worked closely with a nationally recognized Accident Reconstructionist to recreate the collision. We used skid mark analysis to measure our client’s speed and again refute their defense. Our lawyers walked the hilly streets more than a half dozen times taking measurements. We pressed the court to force the company to produce items regarding the training and driving record of its sales representative. We learned the sales rep had a history of negligent driving. In the end, a company and insurance company that blamed our client settled her claim for $500,000. After medical bills, legal fees and expenses our received just over $273,000.
"In the end, a company and insurance company that blamed our client settled her claim for $500,000. "
Going The Extra Mile
On an early December morning, our client’s mother received the worse possible call a parent can receive. There had been a terrible collision and her son was rushed to a local hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital, the mother received more heart-breaking news. Her son was in a coma. His vehicle had stopped on the highway and was rear-ended by a negligent driver that sped from lane to lane with an empty trailer as he rushed to pick up horses. The impact was violent beyond imagination and our client’s vehicle enveloped him. The damage would eventually result in paralysis and traumatic brain injury.
Unfortunately, for the mother and her family they would have to fight multiple battles at once. As our client lay in a local hospital fighting for his life, the insurance company issued a letter denying all liability. As the bills mounted and our client’s survival was uncertain, the insurance company had already began acting to protect its $1,250,000 insurance policy. They hired a large law firm. At the urging of a friend and past client of the Washington Firm, our client’s mother called us to fight for her son and her family.
Our first step was to rush to the wrecking yard before the car was used for scrap metal and obtain high-resolution images that we planned to use at trial. From there, we conducted a thorough investigation into the life of the man that drove the speeding truck. We worked closely with a local engineer to perform skid mark calculations. We served the driver and his insurance company with a subpoena for the black box data from his truck. We tracked down witnesses and took recorded statements from them about the driver’s actions on that morning. Within a month, we knew beyond all doubt that that the driver was negligent. Unfortunately, the story did not end there. The insurance company still refused to pay our client.
Faced with stubborn indifference towards our client and his family, The Washington Firm propounded a 48-page lawsuit to the driver and his insurance company. Less than two weeks after receiving our petition and discovery requests, the insurance company and their law firm reluctantly agreed to pay our client their full $1,250,000 policy. Their again, the story does not end.
At discharge, our client and his mother were given notice of a hospital bill in excess of $800,000. The money that our client’s mother wanted to use to retrofit her two story home to care for him and to buy a van to take him to doctor’s appointment was vanishing before her eyes. Not only that, government officials had told the mother that her son would be unable to receive the disability benefits that he had paid into while working as a security guard because the insurance company had tendered the $1,250,000 insurance policy. It didn’t seem to matter that our client and his mother had not received one cent at that time.
Recognizing that service to our clients does not end when the check is tendered, The Washington Firm, worked aggressively to have the hospital release its lien and accept less than 10 cents on the dollar for payment. After that we partnered with a local probate lawyer to craft a plan that would not exclude our client from receiving the benefits that he had paid into while he worked. We met with case workers from government offices. Next, we worked with a local banker to develop a trust for our client’s needs. In less than four months, our client went from receiving a letter stating that he would not be paid to having a trust worth more than $755,000 established to provide for his needs. As we took care to make sure the trust was properly constructed our client also received lifetime benefits in addition to the trust to assist with his care. His mother bought the special needs van and a brand new one story home to care for him.
"Less than two weeks after receiving our petition and discovery requests, the insurance company agreed to pay our client their full $1,250,000 policy."
At the insistence of a local judge, after more than two years of fighting and spending more than $100,000 on two other law firms, our client a small business owner called the Washington Firm for trial counsel. While the case had been badly managed before we were hired, we believed we could salvage the most valuable part of the nearly $1,000,000 breach of contract suit. As required of any good law firm, we dove into the case looking to protect our client’s interests as best we could. After about a year of prep work, numerous meetings with our client and his staff and reconstructing the entire series of contracts (which included complicated oil and gas interests as well as construction management issues), the case went to trial. For nearly a week we fought the two lawyers and their combined 60 years of experience. More than once before trial started they impolitely laughed as if to say we didn’t belong on such a complicated and valuable case. What they didn’t know, is we had tried more than 70 combined cases at that time.
As humbly as we could, we held our peace during the insults and prepared for trial. I used the skill and experience learned as a former assistant district attorney to ease the other side’s expert into a web of provable lies. Katrina used her background as a marketing manager to research the expert’s claims as he testified. The more he spoke, the more we smiled on the inside, we knew we had him. We used technology and trial experience to advocate for our client.
As witness after witness accused our client of mismanagement and came up with reason after reason not to pay the money and convey the property due to him, we exposed their lies, misconceptions and deceit. By the end of the week in trial and the submission of a dozen questions to the jury, the jury returned a verdict in our client’s favor on all questions in less than 15 minutes. The lawyers that once patronized us were visibly flustered. As the parties prepared to exit the courtroom, a key witness and corporate officer for the other side asked me for my business card and proclaimed, “You’re a bad boy! If we ever need another lawyer, we will call you.” Her lawyer looked on in disbelief. He clearly did not appreciate the gesture and vowed to appeal the verdict. After more than a year of appeals, the verdict was confirmed.
In more than 20 combined years of practice, we have learned to neither underestimate nor fear the opponent.
"By the end of the week in trial...the jury returned a verdict in our client’s favor on all questions in less than 15 minutes."