The premises liability lawyers at our law firm frequently receive questions from clients about the process of selecting an attorney. Some people assume that any lawyer licensed in Florida is qualified to handle a personal injury lawsuit. Although technically any licensed attorney might be permitted to represent an injury victim, the misconception that all attorneys are equally qualified can be a costly error. Because many injury victims have never had cause to retain legal representation until they are injured by the negligent or intentional conduct of another, the process of choosing the best lawyer to handle your lawsuit can be difficult and confusing.
Our Miami negligent security lawyers recently reviewed a case that reflects the importance of careful selection of legal representation in personal injury cases. The Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an opinion affirming a ruling dismissing a complaint filed by the patron injured in a fight at a nightclub. The complaint contained what appeared to be a clerical error in that it identified the wrong date for the incident.
The defendant sought to dismiss the complaint based on the allegation that the three year statute of limitations barred the lawsuit. Three years had not elapsed since the bar altercation, but the statute of limitations had expired since the date of the incident indicated in the complaint. Although the complaint presumably could have been amended to defeat the statute of limitations defense, the plaintiff’s attorney failed to file an objection to the motion and declined to appear at the hearing on the motion to dismiss. Since the plaintiff’s attorney failed to contest the defendant’s motion despite a meritorious position, the judge granted the motion to dismiss the complaint.
The reason for the lack of a response or appearance by the plaintiff’s attorney purportedly was the failure of the attorney to update her contact information in the court’s electronic filing system. Although the attorney attempted to appeal the dismissal based on a claim of “excusable neglect,” the court found the lawyer’s failure to keep her information current with the court did not constitute “excusable neglect.”
The impact of a dismissal based on the statute of limitations can have devastating consequences for an individual who has suffered debilitating injuries or the loss of a loved one. Although there are a few narrow exceptions where the statute of limitations might be tolled (suspended), failure to comply with this timing requirement usually will constitute a permanent bar to recovery. When you retain counsel, you should inquire about the statute of limitations and keep track of the date, as well as the date upon which your lawsuit is filed.
While failure to comply with the statute of limitations constitutes one of the most basic forms of legal malpractice, these types of errors do sometimes occur. The best way to prevent critical mistakes and to protect your legal rights is to carefully select your lawyer. Factors that should be considered when interviewing a personal injury lawyer include the following:
- Experience of the lawyer handling personal injury cases
- Length of time the law firm has existed and provided legal services in your market
- Acknowledgments, awards, and professional standing of the lawyer and firm
- Familiarity of lawyers in the firm with the types of issues in your case
- Comfort level with the attorney based on demeanor and personality
- Firm reputation for competence and responsiveness to client inquiries
Although screening a personal injury lawyer based on criteria like the factors indicated above can be challenging, you can start by reviewing information about attorneys at the firm’s website. If you notice that the attorney or firm has received special awards or professional acknowledgments, you might want to research the organization and the criteria to determine the relevance and meaning of the designation.
If you are injured by the negligence of a property owner, our Miami premises liability lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. With over 130 collective years of experience representing personal injury victims across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our exceptional Miami negligent security lawyers to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.