Oregon Attorneys

How to Keep Your Legal Assistant Happy, Part 2

Last week we announced that we will be incorporating more information into the Dwyer Williams Dretke PC blog to help make it a great resource for new and prospective personal injury lawyers.

Our first such blog series is about fostering great relations with your Legal Assistant, and our first post in this series suggested that you start to “keep your legal secretary happy” by providing them with:

  • All Incoming Mail
  • Concise Directions, and
  • Clear Project Parameters

Three More Ways to Keep Your Legal Assistant Happy

We polled the legal secretaries in our office and came up a list of nine top areas in which we personal injury lawyers can help empower our assistants and keep them happy in the office.  Here are the fourth through sixth agreed-upon suggestions:

  1. An Open-Door Policy
    Our legal assistants agreed that they would collectively appreciate a more open-door policy for asking questions of their attorneys.  Our support staff felt that some attorneys, who make it clear that they do not appreciate interruption, create a chilling effect on their support staff asking questions.  Legal Assistants need to be able to ask questions of their attorneys without fear of chastisement or reprisal.
  2. Attorney Lists
    If attorneys are out of the office for an extended period of time (3 or more work days), support staff suggested that it would be very helpful for attorneys to provide them with lists of what they anticipate to happen on any given case during their absence.  Statements as simple as “Smith case – waiting for Answer to Complain before sending out Request for Production” or “Black case – waiting for phone call from Dr. Joe before deciding to take the case” would provide Legal Secretaries with a status awaiting their attorneys’ return.  It was also unanimously agreed that it would be helpful for attorneys to leave lists of what they expect their Secretairs to do on any given case or matter while the attorney is out of the office.
  3. Phone Calls
    When asking Legal Assistants to make phone calls for you, our support staff suggests that you develop and utilize some sort of tracking system for streamlining what can otherwise become a time-consuming and frustrating task.  Your assistant needs to know Who to call, When to call them, and What the call is about.

Check back later this week to read our final post in this series.  Remember, also, thatwe will be sharing more advice like this in the future.  From our office to yours!

Has Your Elderly Loved One Been Abused or Neglected?

In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which was June 15th of this year, the attorneys at Dwyer Williams Dretke PC will be blogging this week about the persistent and horrific problem of elder abuse and neglect in our state – as well as about legal mechanisms in place to protect you and your elderly loved ones. We understand the devastating emotional impact of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Oregon Elder Abuse and Neglect AttorneysThe increasing use of nursing home facilities in Oregon correlates to our population’s increasingly older age, and it suggests that there will almost certainly be a growing number of abuse and neglect incidents in Oregon nursing homes. The sad but simple truth is that nursing home residents are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. This is especially true when nursing home residents require medical staff to be on call around-the-clock.

Many of our most vulnerable family members are subject to gross and dehumanizing neglect as well as physical, financial, and emotional abuse in long-term care facilities. The elderly are a particularly at-risk segment of the population because a disproportionate number of them have difficulty understanding or communicating that they are being victimized. Additionally, if nursing home residents are being physically or sexually abused by nursing home staff members, they may be afraid that disclosing the abuse will lead to retribution by the staff.

At Dwyer Williams Dretke PC, we offer compassionate and experienced representation to nursing home abuse victims and to the victims of neglect in long-term care facilities throughout Oregon. If someone you love has been victimized in any Oregon elder care facility, we are here to answer your questions and to offer you counsel built upon our attorneys’ 75 years of collective litigation experience. Call us today at 541-617-0555.

How to be Effective in Jury Selection: Be Respectful and Personable

“You will attract more bears with honey than with vinegar.” It may be a cliche, but it is nevertheless true.

During voir dire you should always be respectful of a potential juror’s opinion, no matter how much you might disagree with it. Moreover, thank potential jurors who disagree with your position for sharing their opinions. By thanking them, you signal to the other prospective jurors that it is acceptable to voice an opinion that is contrary to your own.

Once you draw out a negative juror opinion, do not argue with or chastise the opinion holder. Don’t try to influence or to teach. In an hour’s time, you will not change an opinion that it took a lifetime to form. Instead, use that negative opinion to identify other “bad” jurors (those who agree with this negative opinion). Use this opinion to get others talking. In the end, ask the “bad juror” if he or she could be fair to your client if you allow him/her to remain on the jury. This accomplishes two things: (1) it signals to other jurors that you are respectful, and (2) if you have to get rid of three worse jurors, it signals to this juror that you are a person of your word. Both of these solutions build credibility for you in the eyes of the jury pool.

In addition to being respectful, you should also be personable. I like to share a bit about myself, and I believe that sincerity builds credibility. For instance, I hail from Grants Pass, Oregon, where I helped my grandfather raise Hereford cattle, helped an old dairy owner down the road run his dairy, and worked in two wood mills. Needless to say, I knew numerous people whose political and world views were different from my own. I talk about my grandfather in voir dire. I also talk about my grandmother, who is very liberal. I like to ask the prospective jurors whether they are more like my grandfather or grandmother on a given topic, and why. By personalizing the opinions and showing that good people do not always agree, I am encouraging potential jurors to talk openly so that, in their candor, I can better assess them as potential jurors in my case.

Hopefully the five pointers that I have outlined in this blog post will be of some help. Voir dire is a moving target – it changes with the times, depending on current events. I am willing to bet that the approach was much different prior to “the McDonalds” case or tort reform. Even so, I believe that the pointers outlined in this and my previous four posts are timeless and that they can be helpful in your next trial. I wish you the best of luck!

Lawyer Timothy Williams | Top Attorney Personal Injury | Tim Williams Attorney Profile

How to be Effective During Jury Selection: Access the Reptilian Brain

The fourth tip that I want to blog about in this series of posts concerning the voir dire process at trial concerns what is called “the reptilian brain”. Recent research has been performed concerning the reptilian brain and David Ball spoke on the subject at the 2008 American Association of Justice (AAJ) Winter Convention. The theory goes something like this: there is a primitive part of the brain that subconsciously causes us to make decision that will protect us and our offspring. If you can frame the issues in your case such that the jury associates them with their own well being and that of their families, then they are more likely to act toward and make decisions more favorable for you.

To tap into the “reptilian brain”, I use jury selection to look for traits or life experiences that are shared with my client. I try to emphasize those shared traits during the course of trial so that clients make that connection on their own, without me having to explicitly point it out. Moreover, assuming that the case is a motor vehicle accident case, I ask whether they consider the safety of themselves and their children while driving to be important. I expand upon that question and enter into dialogue with potential jurors about the applicable laws governing other drivers. I specifically ask those in the jury pool whether they believe that someone who breaks those laws should be held personally accountable for the harm caused.

While this is an area that I am still developing, studies suggest that it may be one of the most important. If done properly, appealing to one’s reptilian brain sparks a subconscious desire in jurors to find for your client.

Lawyer Timothy Williams | Top Attorney Personal Injury | Tim Williams Attorney Profile

How to Bring a Ski Resort Accident Claim

Regardless of who is legally responsible for causing your ski or snowboard accident injury,  if you have been injured at a ski resort then you must notify the ski area operator of the injury by registered or certified mail within 180 days of discovering your injury.  Failure to notify the ski resort within a time designated by Oregon law bars a claim for injury or wrongful death.  However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • If a ski operator had knowledge of the injury or death within 180 days of its occurrence, then failure of the injured party to provide notice will not bar the claim;
  • If there is good cause for the failure to give notice, then the claim will not be barred; and
  • If the ski resort operator failed to inform the skier or snowboarder of these notice procedures, then the claim will not be barred if it is submitted after 180 days.

After proper notice has been given to the ski area operator where the injury occurred, Oregon law requires that the injured party or his/her representative either settles the claim or files a lawsuit within two years of the date of injury.  As with all personal injury claims in the state of Oregon, there is a two-year statute of limitations on these types of cases: if you snooze, then you lose your ability to recover damages for your ski or snowboard injury.

There are several exceptions to this general statute of limitations rule.  First, claims brought on behalf of minor children and mentally disabled individuals have a longer statute of limitations because these classes of individuals are protected.  Second, if someone injured in a ski resort accident dies before two years have elapsed after the time of their injury, then an action may be commenced by that injured party’s representative within one year of that person’s death.

Oregon case law provides examples of scenarios that do not fit within skiing’s “inherent risk” as defined by Oregon’s Legislature as well as other examples that fit squarely within the definition.  For example, assume you are riding a ski lift when it breaks, sending you crashing to the ground.  You are severely injured in this accident and later you learn that the ski lift had not been regularly maintained in the months preceding your accident.  The ski area operator in this scenario is negligent and you have a good claim: falling off of an unmaintained lift is not an inherent risk of skiing even if riding a lift is.

The bottom line in ski resort accident and personal injury cases is that they are fact-specific and that it is difficult to prove a third party’s fault since skiers and snowboarders assume certain risks when they decide to hit the slopes.  That said, if you or a loved one has been injured in a ski resort accident and you believe that the negligence of another skier or the ski resort itself is primarily responsible for your injuries, then contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.  The personal injury attorneys at Dwyer Williams Dretke PC can evaluate your ski resort injury case and advocate on your behalf with adverse parties and insurers.