The Importance of Credibility in Personal Injury Cases – In legal TV shows and movies of old, judges and bailiffs would administer the oath to a witness or party, stating “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” While the oath (or affirmation) has changed as times have, the sentiment remains the same.
Regardless, credibility is critical in any case where testimony is required. Even if there’s no testimony, perhaps at a motions hearing where the attorneys are simply arguing, credibility is a major factor. Whether you can trust what someone says is key in all of our daily interactions, whether it be marriage, business or in the courtroom. Once someone tells you something false, or even something that seems false, you have a hard time believing anything else that person say from that point forward.
Now think about a court case. Even the longest cases last perhaps a month, but most cases are much briefer. And the time that a judge or jury actually hears from a particular party or witness is just a fraction of that time. So telling the truth, and being consistent with prior statements that person has made, is absolutely critical to the case. If one of the attorneys can paint the perception (just the perception) that one party or witness is playing fast and loose with the truth, their case is doomed – unless the other party or its witnesses are even worse.
So what does this mean for a personal injury victim? First, be honest with your doctors. Don’t exaggerate your injuries- but don’t downplay them either. Also, make sure you think long and hard about your medical history and disclose it with your doctor. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s relevant or not- you’re not the doctor. Tell him or her about any past medical history you have so he or she can determine what, if any, impact it has on your condition and the medical causation opinion that will be critical to your case later one.
Next, be honest with your lawyer once you’ve retained one (or more accurately, even as you’re interviewing potential attorneys). You’re not doing yourself any favors shading any part of the truth in hopes that your case will be accepted by that attorney if, a year or more later, the truth is exposed and is detrimental to your case. Let the attorney know all the facts- good, bad or otherwise, at the outset. A “bad fact” that’s known and addressed early on is almost always less damaging than one that is learned once it’s too late to plan for.
Finally, the credibility issue is not limited to clients. As a client, you should seek out an attorney who has credibility in the legal community. What does that mean? I suppose it means different things to different people, but is should start with the obvious, that is, an attorney who tells the truth and has a reputation for fair dealing. You should seek out an attorney who does things “the right way” and doesn’t take shortcuts when it comes to ethical considerations. I would offer that having credibility in litigation includes having a track record of trying cases before judges, so that those same judges, hopefully- depending on what attorney you select- know that the attorney is honest, capable, and diligent.
Beyond that, you might take into account other considerations. Do an attorney’s advertisements and marketing material add or detract from his or her credibility? This is obviously more subjective. Does the attorney seem like someone a judge or jury would be willing to take seriously? When you meet with the attorney, does the attorney seek to make a connection with you (as they should seek to do with a judge or jury), or are they too impressed with themselves and too self-important to listen to your concerns.
In short, trust your gut: is this attorney someone that a judge or jury will like and listen to? That connection is a critical key to credibility as it relates to attorneys. And if you don’t even have enough information or interaction with the attorney as you vet his or her abilities to make this decision, then the decision should be clear that that attorney is not the right choice. Don’t trust a 15 second television ad or a banner on a bus to make the decision for you. You wouldn’t select a doctor based on a TV ad, would you? Meet with and literally interview your prospective attorney. Insist on meeting with the attorney himself or herself before signing a retainer agreement. If they won’t meet with you, at least at the outset, what confidence can you have that they’ll ever pay attention to your case and know you well enough by the end to effectively advocate on your behalf. Demand to meet with the attorney who will be the actual attorney on your case from Day 1 until your case is resolved. If the firm can’t meet this simple demand, I’d urge caution in selecting that person or firm.
At Bmore Attorney, we take pride in espousing the client interaction and keys to credibility listed above. If you’d like to see for yourself and compare what we have to offer versus the other options spending all their time and money advertising versus advocating for their clients, please call or email us for a free consultation. I’m confident that, if you do, you’ll decide that our office is the right fit for you and your case. Call us at 410-793-7040 or email me at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com.