2020 brought many challenges, and with those challenges, many opportunities to think about how we handle cases. 2021 will bring continued challenges as new “normals” evolve.
We were fearful when the pandemic began that as soon as trial dates got postponed, so would the ability to settle cases. We were pleasantly surprised that many defendants and insurers were not only willing but eager to try to resolve major cases, and we were able to resolve many trucking cases in 2020. Unfortunately, some defendants and insurers chose to use the pandemic as an excuse to delay.
While some trials are resuming around the country, the way they are proceeding is nothing like the trials to which we are accustomed. Many are virtual. If they are in person, people are wearing masks and spread out through larger than normal rooms. These circumstances make it much more difficult to truly connect with jurors, and this is not likely to be good for plaintiffs. I am not saying you can’t win a big verdict virtually or wearing a mask; I am just saying it is different. That said, if the choice is to go to trial virtually or in a mask versus waiting another year or two or more to reach trial, in most cases (but not all), I would lean toward the virtual or masked trial.
Regardless of the how and when of trial, I strongly recommend that you consider the length and complexity of the trial. We are always looking to make our trials shorter and simpler, with fewer issues for the jurors. We have been doing this for years with increasing success, and it will be even more important in the COVID 19 and post-COVID 19 world. I have done a few presentations this last year on shortening trials, and it seems to be striking a chord. I am happy to discuss this more with people who are interested. It is a work in progress.
As you proceed with trucking cases in 2021, here are a few additional thoughts:
- Focus on violations of duties.
- Source the duties from industry materials, as opposed to paid experts.
- Keep it simple – you don’t want the “many” violations to diminish the “major” violations.
- Focus on the violation(s) that cannot be explained away.
- Focus on the systemic violation(s) at the corporate level if those exist in your case.
- Spend as much time or more building your damages case as you do your liability case.
- Get to know how the injuries and limitations affect your client both physically and emotionally. The case is not about medical bills.
- When considering the value of a case, ask yourself what the case would be worth if the injuries/damages happened to the person you most love in the world, as opposed to someone you barely know. Make it personal and feel it personally.
- Even with delays and limitation, prepare the case for trial – not settlement
- When it’s appropriate, consider bringing in co-counsel. We work with great lawyers all the time. Some need us for our knowledge and resources, while others don’t need anything from us but still feel that having a focused team will be best for the case.
- If you have not done so, consider joining the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys. The resources and community are exceptional, and the cost is minimal.
I wish you and your clients the very best in 2021. Maybe we could work on a case together? Get in touch with us at (877) 591-1801 if you have any questions about a case or are looking for partnership opportunities. Since 2008, our attorneys have litigated hundreds of truck accident lawsuits both in federal and state courts.