A Washington Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective and Opinion on thinking about suing someone or something. What do I do?
Start by doing what any civil lawyer or law firm worth their salt does. Break the problem down into steps:
B. Get a book, binder or folder and dedicate it to the situation. This first simple step is vital to taking charge of any problem. Civil lawyers, administrative lawyers, criminal lawyers or any kind of lawyer for that matter do this all the time … they just call it a file. It doesn’t have to be neat; it just needs to be where ALL documents, receipts, photos, notes, phone records, names and evidence go. You’re going to put everything from receipts, bills, copies of emails and relevant documents to pictures, flash drives, videos, witness names in it AND you’re going to log everything that was done and any steps taken. KEEP ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS, PHOTOS, NOTES, OR EVIDENCE. If you drive to the doctor, note it. If you get a call from a witness, note it. If you have a thought about your case, note it. Remember, when you’re playing for keeps … collect yourself, collect your information so someone else can understand what happened, what you have gone through and can see the evidence that supports your story. This is foundational. Do it. We commonly recommend Mead Composition Notebooks to get people going but anything will do.
C. Write down what happened, who was involved and start collecting evidence. When bad things happen, the last thing most people think to do is document it but have you ever noticed this is the first thing any police officer, insurance investigator or good lawyer does? Why? It is the right thing to do and is the gold standard for identifying, presenting and solving a problem. This means to write down what happened and get the identification, address, phone number and email of anyone and everyone involved and put them all in one place. A glance at the United Nations’s Investigation Manual for their Investigation Division will confirm this advice is wise – it directs people to do the same thing. Document and take pictures right away. Lawyers and their paralegals do the same thing … we call it a file and we take fastidious notes in them.
D. Write down who witnessed the event or who might have recorded video images or recorded voices or sound or witnessed some relevant aspect of things. The above-linked pages give a Washington State lawyers opinion on the legality of recording others. Get their name, email, phone number, and Washington address if possible. Look around for cameras: note who might own them and where they are. Call owners and ask them how long they retain videos, recordings or emails. Ask for a copy. Note who you talked to, where you went and what you did. Use that book, binder or folder discussed earlier. Be critical and bold. As practicing lawyers, we do this so much we don’t even notice we do it. Keep in mind in Washington we have very strong public records law so filing public records requests with appropriate agencies immediately is smart. If you’re unsure, talk with someone who is knowledgeable like a lawyer.
E. If possible, take photos and document the events as soon as possible. When any form of accident happens, they tend to be cleaned up or fixed quickly. From car accidents to fraud, when something bad happens, in our experience as lawyers who handle civil cases, people rarely leave it as is. Negligent parties and wrongdoers tend to fix or cover error for right or wrong reasons. Pull out a cell phone, grab a friend or colleague and document ASAP. Send a family member if an injured party is in the hospital. Lawyers do this all the time themselves or with investigators. When doing this, don’t be shy: take too many photos or videos. Take photos from far away and close up. Take photos or videos of anything that might be relevant. Take photos that allow you to see distances. Print documents and take photos of anything relevant: the fraud, the injury, the surgery the recovery etc. Remember that judges and juries don’t go through your injury and don’t live with it: they need to see and understand what happened and the best and easiest way to do this is with documents and evidence. Photos or videos are often worth more than words. Without overstating the point, in our role of civil lawyers we too often see others immediately fix a problem or cover it up before clients get a chance to take a photo of it. Send a friend or family member to take photos right away before evidence disappears. We have personally seen this happen to a member of our own family and it affected their ability to get justice. It is hard to go back and reconstruct what happened and, it’s a fact of life that sometimes people lie. Take action immediately.
F. Write down what happened and keep writing, writing, writing … Do this as soon as possible as fresh memories are the best memories. It is easier to forget things the longer you wait to do so right away. As lawyers, we go the next step and advise clients to write a journal about what happened and keep track of the time, effort and energy are involved in fixing it. Any lawyer worth their salt will appreciate this and in our opinion, it will help your case tremendously.
G. Don’t start telling others, including investigators, your story till you’re certain you want to. In today’s world, not much respect is put on holding your tongue though ironically, this can be as effective as talking. Before you start telling strangers, investigators, insurance companies or anyone else what happened, think and consider things a bit. Who will have your best interest in mind? Although some lawyers rightfully get a bad rap, not all of them are bad. Talk to a reputable lawyer you believe you can trust. Your discussion is covered by attorney | client privilege (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/attorney-client_privilege).
H. Get together with a reputable lawyer and consider whether at the end of the day, SHOULD YOU SUE SOMEONE.
When people get hurt or damaged, they do not usually think, “I need to document what has happened”, “I need to get information and names from witnesses” or “I need to take photos of the accident and what lead up to it” or “I need to write down what happened” or “I need to print those documents” or “I need to print those Facebook posts” or “I need to ask about that video”. Ironically, the Washington State Patrol Officers Manual would say otherwise because they are trained to collect information, photos, and evidence … because they know resolving cases eventually means explaining it to others i.e. a court, a prosecutor, their sergeant a jury. Like police officers, great civil lawyers | attorneys are also trained to look at things from the perspective of proving what happened in court and therefore tend to be careful and thorough in documenting what happened. If you want to help yourself or a loved one, think like a police officer, lawyer or investigator: collect evidence to prove your case or bring it to a lawyer or law firm you feel comfortable with or believe you can trust, or, set an appointment to discuss, plan and think through your situation. Although one point of view is this is self-serving advice by lawyers, another point of view is it also happens to be good advice from good lawyers. Just because some lawyers are bad doesn’t mean all lawyers are bad or give bad advice.
In our role as Washington civil lawyers who practice and argue a variety of legal standards and cases, business owners, clients, friends and extended family regularly call or meet to ask what to do when someone is hurt or a dispute | tough situation looks to be more than they want to handle. Lawyers and their firms are helpful because (1) they are experienced in the law, litigation, statute of limitations and evidentiary rules (2) they are objective and trained to view life and complicated problems in a logical format and (3) are not emotionally connected to the case. Good lawyers should be able to quickly break down problems into their components, apply the law, look out for your best interests, and help make decisions and so progress and solutions become easier.
The civil lawyers | attorneys in our office have handled a wide variety of complicated cases in Washington and in Federal Court over the course of our lengthy legal careers. Our firm is a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, temperament, teams-manship and nature. Our lawyers know cases are rarely simple and our clients hire us because they want their lawyers | attorneys who communicate directly, serve their interests first, enjoy a good fight are goal oriented and like to win. We are a firm of staunch, uncompromising and effective counsel. As lawyers and people, we take the time to go the extra yard in a fight. Whether acting in our role as counsel, advocate, negotiator or litigator, we have years of experience working and fighting to resolve cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.
Choosing bad legal counsel can set the tone for a long and difficult road. Call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment and assess what kind of people and lawyers make up this firm.