In California, What Should I Look For In A Lawyer Handling Serious Injury Cases?

Michael E. Gatto - Personal Injury - General - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Michael E. Gatto

The Van Blois Law Firm
Oakland, CA
Phone: 510-635-1284
Fax: 510-635-1516

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I’ve been taking on the most serious injury cases for 20 years, and I can tell you from personal experience that the lawyer you choose to handle your case makes a big difference. I can tell you what I think makes for a great trial lawyer, and it boils down to this: I often handle cases involving life-changing injuries. Success in these cases means ensuring my clients get the money necessary to ensure they will be able to take care of themselves and their families.

I tell my clients that what I bring to the table is proven trial skills backed by my track record, a deep understanding of the subject matter, an unwavering willingness to go to trial to get the best result, and the war chest and access to well qualified experts to figure out and present the case. You should get a lawyer who is not only willing to take your case to trial to get every dime you deserve, but also has the trial skills to deliver.

Question: Does reputation really matter?

Answer: Imagine you’re an insurance company. You get a call from a lawyer you’ve never heard of saying if you don’t pony up a million bucks, they’re going to take your big corporation to trial. How worried are you? Probably not much.

Now, imagine you’re that same insurance company, but the attorney on the phone is the guy who thumped you in the last two jury trials. When that guy calls and says you need to pay up now, odds are you’re going to take him a lot more seriously.

If you want to be in the best position to win, you need an attorney with a reputation and track record of willingness to go to and succeed at trial. You want someone who, when they say they’ll take your case all the way to trial, leaves the insurance company lawyers staying up at night worrying. That kind of respect only comes from having a reputation.

Question: What kind of trial skills make for a great injury lawyer?

Answer: I love my job. If I didn’t love it, just as a starting point, I don’t know how I could be successful. You have to want to be in there fighting with everything you’ve got. I think great trial skills start there.

I love making a difference for my clients, and I love getting into the courtroom on their behalf. There are people who have a passion for music or sports or great food. My passion is getting in front of a judge and jury. I honestly don’t know how you can be a great trial lawyer if you don’t start with the desire to get in the thick of things. It’s like trying to be a great boxer without really wanting to step in the ring.

If you sit in a room with a lawyer and you don’t feel their energy for taking your case, alarm bells should be ringing in your head.

A trial is all about convincing people that your side is right. It’s about doing the work, making the case, having an innate ability to get to the ideas and points in your case that prove you’re on the right side of things. If you sit down to talk to a lawyer and they can’t convince you they’re right to handle your case, how are they going to stack up when they’re in front of 12 strangers trying to win your case?

Great trial lawyers have a track record and they have that reputation with insurance companies.

Question: How does having a lot of resources help?

Answer: A law firm without the resources to prepare for trial from day one will have to cut corners and hope their bluff isn’t called. Hiring experts and keeping up with an insurance company that is willing and able to throw money at winning their case isn’t cheap, and that cost falls on the law firm. After all, injury lawyers only collect money if and when they win your case.

I am confident about the clients I decide to take, and I’m willing to spend money on them because I believe in their case and I fully expect to win. You can’t go halfway on a major injury case, and you have to be putting the pieces in place from the start as though a trial is inevitable, because if and when that trial comes you need to be ahead of the game, not trying to catch up because you didn’t have the money to spend at the start.

I’ve worked for 20 years to establish a reputation for willingness to go to trial, for thoroughly working a case, and for succeeding at those trials. I want insurance companies to know that I aggressively prepare for and am willing to take your case to trial. I believe this commands respect and increases settlement offers for cases that should be settled. For those that go to trial, the aggressive, that thorough hard work will pay off.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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