How The Judge-Attorney Relationship Matters In A Personal Injury Case

Posted on: November 8, 2017

A majority of personal injury cases are settled before they go to trial, but if your case does go to trial, your attorney’s relationship with the judge can come to bear on the outcome. How well your attorney knows and understands the judge and his or her inclinations, preferences and approaches can have an impact on everything from how successful the trial is to whether or not you’re heard properly in the first place.

Before we discuss how this relationship matters, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between knowing a judge and playing golf with one. If your attorney says or even implies that he or she can gain favor in your case because of a personal relationship with a judge, that’s a giant red flag.

It’s helpful for your attorney to know the judge, but an attorney should never strike a back room deal with one. It would be unethical and it’s unlikely that either an attorney or judge would risk the consequences to career and reputation.

With that said, there’s another kind of “knowing” that does matter, and it has everything to do with being a reputable, diligent and capable attorney who is suited to helping you get the optimal outcome for your personal injury case.

Familiarity And Trust

Everyone has a first time in court. But there is something to be said for having experience under the belt when it comes not only to trying cases but to working with the different attorneys, judges and other people in the judicial system.

With experience comes reputation, and an attorney who has a good reputation, who is known and trusted by colleagues, is more likely to help your case than one who is either unestablished or mistrusted. It’s human nature. If you know someone who has been honest and respectful in the past, you’re more likely to listen to and trust that person the next time around.

An attorney who has tried cases before a judge and who is respected by that judge is more likely to reach a better outcome in your case than one who isn’t.

Philosophy And Personality

In any area of life, people have different perspectives and viewpoints on different issues. Justice may be blind, but human beings are imperfect, and we all have our own belief systems that affect our perceptions and behavior.

While a judge will do his or her best to apply the law in a fair and impartial manner, there’s no doubt that some are either stricter or more flexible in their interpretation of that law. Other biases can come into play, such as personal history, political leanings, previous job roles, and myriad factors.

This is where your attorney’s relationship with the judge becomes important. Knowing the judge and any related decisions can help your attorney craft a more effective argument, take a more appropriate approach, or simply “speak the language” of the judge.

If there is any question subject to judicial discretion, a judge’s personal philosophy and biases can make a tremendous difference. If your attorney understands these preferences, he or she can better set expectations and adapt.

Sometimes it’s even simpler than that. Sometimes simply knowing how a judge prefers to conduct a trial and his or her pet peeves can give your attorney an edge. For example, if the judge assigned to your case is a stickler for being prompt, your attorney will use that knowledge to ensure timely arrivals. Ultimately that builds trust and demonstrates credibility, which can affect how a judge perceives your case.

Process And Scheduling

A personal injury case proceeds through phases, including initiating the case, discovery and motions, right through settlement and trial. And each phase has its own process and schedule.

There are specific dates by which certain things must be done, like obtaining medical records and reports, depositions, written answers and more. A failure to produce the appropriate supporting documentation on the appropriate schedule can mean a failure to obtain a settlement or a trial.

To compound the challenge, there are extenuating circumstances that can affect your attorney’s ability to produce documentation, which can dramatically affect the outcome of your case.

Let’s suppose, for example, that you’ve been involved in a slip-and-fall and you are required by the court to produce medical records and supporting documentation by a certain date. However, you have an injury-related surgery scheduled two weeks before that date. Chances are, you’ll need more than the allotted time to see the outcome of the surgery. Did it resolve your injury? Have no effect? Make it worse?

You won’t know the answer to that immediately, until you’re given a reasonable time to recover. The result of the surgery can affect the value of your case enormously. Such extenuating circumstances can be accommodated if your attorney can either show Good Cause or Exceptional Circumstances that the information required wasn’t reasonably available on the designated schedule.

There are different circumstances that trigger one or the other, and while there is case law to use as guidance, the interpretation of exceptional varies from judge to judge. That means the better your attorney knows the judge, the better chance he or she will be able to trigger the appropriate amendment and effectively define the circumstances.

Ultimately, the better your attorney knows and understands the judge, the better he or she will be able to effectively conduct your case with the judge’s preferences, idiosyncrasies and expectations in mind. If you’ve been injured and want an experienced trial attorney who can represent your best interests, contact us for a free consultation.