Personal Injury Lawyer Dallas
Sign up for a free session with Ward Maedgen now.
Or Call Ward Now at
What Sets Ward Apart as The Dallas Accident Attorney of Choice?
We know you have quite a few choices in accident law firms in Dallas and Fort Worth. But this is not the time to blindly choose the first lawyer you find. Just as you wouldn't go to just any doctor for a serious condition, consider the importance of advice from a seasoned specialist in Texas accidents.
The “Personal Lawyer”
Experience why Ward Maedgen was named one of Dallas' best lawyers. Through the Law Office of B. Ward Maedgen, P.C., Ward takes personal pride in fighting your case as though it were for his own family. He'll help you through your accident case one-on-one rather than hiding behind call screeners. Talk to Ward today. There's no cost, and Ward will help you face your case with confidence.
Small Law Firm with Big Law Firm Power
Ward's courtroom skills, earned while serving as an assistant District Attorney and representing people seeking a fair shake, give Ward the power to take on big companies in court while fighting for you. Our firm's reputation for Integrity, Trust, and Skill form the foundation of the firm and sets us apart. Many personal injury firms may take the fastest path to settlement and avoiding the courtroom, possibly compromising a claim's value. Ward’s firm will work with you to fight and resolve your problems. It's a good feeling having the guy with hard earned experience in the trenches fighting on your side. Call Ward and tell him about your injury or accident today.
THE WARD MAEDGEN WAY
About Personal Injury
A personal injury lawyer is an attorney who focuses on representing individuals who have suffered a loss due to another party’s negligence or fault.
The American legal system has a distinction between criminal law and civil law. In the criminal justice system, the state prosecutes people who have been accused of specifically forbidden crimes. By “state,” we mean “government,” whether it’s local, state, or federal. The purpose of the criminal law is to punish certain conduct in order to prevent it from occurring in the future. The punishment is a fine or imprisonment or both, and of course, in some states, death. Civil law, on the other hand, is that part of our legal system where the purpose is not to punish, but to resolve our disputes with one another, and to compensate the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit). Generally, the state has no interest in the dispute other than to make sure that we have our day in court, unless of course our private dispute also happens to involve a violation of a written law. For example, many state and federal civil rights laws can result in a fine, but also specifically give the person wronged the right to bring a lawsuit.
A Plaintiff is the one who has been wronged, and brings a lawsuit against a Defendant, who is the one that (according to the plaintiff) did the wrong.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a “tort” as a wrongful act resulting in an injury, loss, or damage. The bottom line is that when someone commits a tort against you, you have been damaged, either by a physical or emotional injury. Most torts can be broken down into one of two types: Intentional torts andnegligent torts. Let’s look at an example. If you punch me in the nose, you have committed the intentional tort of battery (for which, by the way, you may have also violated a criminal law and may be prosecuted). If, on the other hand, you are trying to swat at a fly, and accidentally hit me in the nose, you have committed a tort of negligence (which a prosecutor may not care about, but I sure do!). Either way, I’m left with a busted nose. Our system of justice allows me to right this wrong in a very civilized way: a lawsuit. Imagine if we did not have such a system! People who suffer a wrong would have no way to seek compensation for their injuries, and would be left with only feelings of anger, resentment, and at worst, a desire for revenge. Our system, awkward as it may be at times, provides you with the right to collect money to put you back together again — to make you whole.
Compensatory Damages — Payment for Your Loss
This is a fancy way of asking: what exactly did you lose? If you’re injured, it is likely that you have quite a bit of “out-of-pocket” expenses and future expenses as well.
Economic damages typically include medical expenses and lost wages, if any. Your spouse or loved ones may also incur direct economic losses. Family members, besides providing love and affection, actually perform services for one another, including such simple things as shopping, cleaning, and taking out the garbage. A disabling injury to the spouse who performed such tasks may require the other to hire help. Suppose you own a business, and, as a result of your injury, you have to hire a full-time replacement for yourself? What if your loved one is hurt and is confined for six months to a medical facility that’s 50 miles away? That’s 180 days at 100 miles per day, or 18,000 additional miles on your car in just six months, on top of medical bills perhaps in the tens of thousands of dollars. It’s not cheap being injured (and it wasn’t even your fault).
So your six month hospital stay is over, your family is beginning to recover from the constant strain of visiting you every day, and you’ve sold your overused car, which is now a clunker. Suppose that all of your “economic” losses (medical bills, lost wages, car mileage, etc., etc.,) have been paid, including reasonably estimated future losses.
Feel better? A bit, perhaps, but, you didn’t ask for those expenses, and the amount that you’ve been compensated just went to paying back those you owed. At this point, can you truly say that you have been “made whole” and that now you’re as good as you were before? What about the pain, the suffering, the loss of enjoyment of life? What about that sport or exercise program that you can no longer engage in? Is your relationship with your spouse, including sex, as good as it ever was? How about the stuff that you used to do for your kids, which your spouse must now do? What about all those things that you once could do but can no longer? No, you’re not back together yet, you’re still at a loss. What’s missing? The answer is your non-economic damages, and, yes, they are due to you.
But how do you place a value on that stabbing pain, on the missed bike ride, on the look on your kid’s face when you must refuse a strenuous request? Not easy questions, and the answer may seem puzzling. The settlement value of these things is what a jury is likely to award in a lawsuit, or, if the case indeed goes all the way to trial, what a particular jury actually does award. There’s no magic formula, but jury verdict reporting services provide important information on past verdicts and settlements for particular injuries. We’ll be discussing values and statistics later in this book, but for now, the important thing to remember is this: Verdicts and settlements in personal injury lawsuits exist in a marketplace, similar to an auction hall or a stock market. This is by no means intended to make light of the misery that an injured person suffers, but simply places it in real terms. There is no magic or automatic dollar price for, say, a fractured ankle. The sellers in this marketplace (plaintiffs and their lawyers) must sell to the buyers (defendants and their lawyers, and ultimately, of course, the judge or jury).
What good is a rule if you can’t have an exception to the rule? As I said before, the purpose of civil law is not to punish, but to resolve disputes. The exception to this rule is the allowing of punitive (i.e. “punishing”) damages in some cases. Often, the defendant’s conduct is so nasty and outrageous that our legal system allows a plaintiff to collect more than what he needs to compensate him for defendant’s wrong, in order to deter such terrible stuff in the future. This is known as punitive or “exemplary” damages. The law wants to make “an example” of defendant. So what kind of action is so bad as to result in punitive damages? Take our fly swatting example from a few pages ago. If you try to swat a fly and accidentally hit me in the nose, you may be guilty of the tort of negligence and I may be awarded compensatory damages from you. Suppose, however, that we are sitting in a crowded restaurant when the fly starts to annoy you. Suppose, further, that instead of merely swatting at the fly, you take a baseball bat and start to swing it wildly about, connecting with my nose in the process. Sounds pretty reckless and outrageous doesn’t it? Well, those words are exactly the legal meaning of conduct that can result in punitive damages. To quote one case, a jury can award punitive damages when a defendant’s conduct is “…malicious, wanton, reckless, or in willful disregard of another’s rights.” Some other examples of behavior that may result in punitive damages would include speeding on a local street while drunk, tossing a firecracker into a crowd, or tossing debris off a roof without looking below. In other words, it’s dumb, stupid, reckless, outrageous, malicious, and generally nasty actions that can result in punitive damages. Who decides? The judge or jury.
Liability insurance, whether it’s your homeowner’s policy or car insurance, covers you for damages that may result if you negligently injure someone. The reward, however, is not limited to the amount of liability coverage a defendant has. For example, suppose a defendant has a $100,000 liability insurance policy and a jury awards a plaintiff $1,000,000, the plaintiff has the option of recovering from the defendant’s personal assets. This is why you should always have adequate insurance, and some consider buying an “umbrella” policy that will kick in once the basic policy amount is depleted.
There is no law that says you must use a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim. There is also no law that says you can’t take out your own tonsils. Conducting a lawsuit on your own is known as “pro se,” from the Latin phrase meaning “for himself.” There is an old saying among lawyers that goes: “He who represents himself has a fool for an attorney.” This is especially true when the person doing the representing isn’t even an attorney to begin with. The law is a complex field full of traps for the unwary. To enter this field without the specialized knowledge required is to invite trouble for yourself. Consider a parallel example: taxes. While many prepare their own taxes, a CPA will inevitably do a better job. In personal injury, even the simplest case has more complexities than a lay person will likely understand. Like the CPA and a complex tax situation, a profession is needed. This does not mean, however, that you should run out (assuming you’re able to run) and hire the first lawyer that you see. It does mean that you should at least CONSULT AN ATTORNEY. It is typical in the personal injury field for the attorney to offer a free initial consultation. Don’t be taken in by those ads that promise “free consultation.” It’s no big deal. They all do it. Personal injury lawyers typically get paid by a contingent fee, which will be discussed in more detail later in the book. Part of the practice is consulting with people at no initial charge. Because it costs you nothing, don’t be dumb; see a lawyer and find out what your rights are. But don’t feel that you have to sign a contract (also known as a retainer agreement) immediately.
Mastery of the laws of procedure and evidence. The laws of procedure of any state are all those rules about how a lawsuit must be conducted. These laws are quite complex and must be followed to the letter. Some refer to these procedural laws as a “minefield,” and I think that’s an accurate characterization. But there’s nothing dangerous about walking across a minefield…as long as you know where the mines are. If you don’t, your case gets blown to bits. Anyone who’s watched a courtroom drama is familiar with the laws of evidence, and how critical they are to a trial. But way before trial, right from the initial consultation with a client, the personal injury lawyer must know the laws of evidence inside and out. Suppose, for example, you tell an attorney that the day after the accident, a person called you and said: “I saw the whole thing. That idiot in the red Lincoln went right through the stop sign.” The attorney will know that she must preserve that testimony as evidence, because the Hearsay Evidence Rule forbids you from testifying to what someone else said. Otherwise, if that witness cannot be available for trial, a vital piece of evidence will have been lost. The skilled personal injury lawyer will send out an investigator to interview the witness and get a signed statement. Videotaping is often used as well.
Keen negotiating skills. As Donald Trump makes clear in The Art of the Deal, negotiating is not a science but a learned skill. An enormous part of what a personal injury lawyer does involves negotiating. In a complex case with many defendants and different layers of insurance coverage, it is fascinating to watch skilled trial lawyers hammer out agreements. The ultimate negotiation, from your point of view, will be the settlement of your case, assuming it settles before trial. It’s here that your attorney’s negotiating skills have the most direct impact on the outcome of your case.
Organizational skills. Conducting a personal injury practice is like juggling twelve balls in the air at one time. The personal computer revolution has made life a lot easier for trial lawyers, and lawyers in general. Specialized software now makes it possible to handle the most complex litigation much more efficiently than in the past. If, when you first visit the lawyer, you see nothing but a bunch of old typewriters, be wary. You have every right to be concerned about a lawyer who does not keep up with the times and invest money in doing the job right for you. Laptops and tablet computers are now common in the courtroom. They enable the attorney to instantly access information spread across vast amounts of documents – right at the counsel table in the courtroom, and without the distraction of having an assistant plow through a mountain of paper during trial. There’s no excuse for not using the tools available.
Communications skills. A talent for public speaking is important for a trial lawyer, but even more critical is the ability to “think on your feet.” Anybody can memorize a speech, and, with proper coaching or innate ability, deliver it. But there is nothing static about a trial, and the most moving speech can be blown away by vigorous “objection” or a cranky judge who would rather break for lunch than listen to some lawyer who fancies himself a dynamic orator. Acting skills, yes acting skills, are critical. When making an objection, for example, a skilled trial lawyer will not say it in this same tone of voice one uses to ask for the check in a restaurant. Rather, she will jump to her feet, pound on the table and SHOUT: “OBJECTION,” letting the jury know that a grievous injustice has just been perpetrated on her client.
A lot of common knowledge. This is a very intangible trait, but is quite common among skilled trial lawyers. It’s the result of nothing more than intellectual curiosity and involvement in our culture. I once heard a very humorous first-hand account from an attorney whose opponent actually blew the case because he had never heard of a particular drink. It was a “Dram Shop” case, that is, a suit against a tavern for negligently serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated customer who subsequently caused a car accident. The plaintiff’s attorney had to prove that the bartender knowingly served an alcoholic beverage to a person who appeared to be drunk. The other facts in the case, including the motorist’s blood alcohol level, clearly showed that the guy was pickled . All the plaintiff’s lawyer needed to do was get some testimony in the record that the bartender served him some more booze. He asked the bartender: “What did you serve him?” “Ice tea,” came the reply. “Ice tea???” shouted plaintiff’s attorney, “is that all you served him?” “Yes,” responded the witness. “Didn’t you serve him anything else?” pleaded plaintiff’s lawyer in honest disbelief. “Objection, asked and answered!” roared my friend. “Sustained,” said the judge. Verdict? For the defendant tavern and bartender, of course. What the hapless plaintiff’s attorney did not know was that “Ice Tea” is a nuclear powered hand grenade of a drink with an alcohol content that makes a dry martini look like a glass of orange juice. Had he known, or had the savvy to inquire: “How do you make an Ice Tea?” the result of the trial would have been much different. Now I’m not suggesting that trial lawyers attend bartending school as part of their training, but this story does illustrate how a seemingly trivial piece of cultural knowledge can have a huge impact on a case.
Personality. No, I’m not kidding, in fact I’m quite serious, and this is a very important aspect of your selection. I’m not suggesting that you should choose someone with, necessarily, a bright and cheery disposition, or to avoid such a person. I personally know hundreds of trial lawyers, and have spent years as a legal publisher talking to, interviewing, dining, and golfing with them, and as a result I can say this: I have never known an occupational group that is so difficult to pin down as to any unifying personality trait. One hates to stereotype, but I have noticed over the years that hardware clerks tend to be relaxed and friendly, news stand owners tend to be abrupt, diner waitresses talkative, and elevator starters nervous. But trial lawyers, on the other hand, are all over the lot. Some are hysterically funny, some won’t laugh at a clown. Some are hard drinkers, some tee-total. Some are tall, handsome, or pretty, others quite crummy looking. Some sound like Charlton Heston, and some like Mr. Rogers. Some of them you would like to golf with, while others you would like to beat with your club. And here’s the worst part: Nastiness or niceness doesn’t seem to have anything to do with success at trial. Believe me, some of the rottenest creeps I know do quite well in front of a jury, as do some of the nice folks you would like your kid to marry. But wait! Here’s where you come in. You may be about to embark on a arduous journey, the process of litigating a lawsuit. Some cases can take, depending on the jurisdiction, five years or more to complete. During this time you will be in contact with your lawyer and the people who work for that lawyer. Litigation is difficult enough. Do you want to subject yourself to the torture of dealing with just plain difficult people during that time? Here’s my strong suggestion: Before, during, and after the initial consultation, be an intelligent consumer. Look and listen, not only to the attorneys at the firm, but to the secretaries, paralegals and other support personnel. Observe how they interact with one another, and, if possible, observe how clients and other people are handled on the phone. Is the firm an uproarious madhouse with people in a constant flurry of activity, all the while shouting at one another? Or is it a businesslike setting where people treat one another, and you, with dignity and friendliness. Mark my words, you might get a very good settlement or verdict from the madhouse, but you will be in for a few years of hell. Again, since niceness or nastiness doesn’t seem to have too much impact on the outcome, why not give yourself a break and find a competent firm that will also treat you like the human being you are, and not just an “injury file” from which to extract a fee. Look, listen, and observe. And trust your judgment.