Time Necessary to Resolve a Workplace Injury Claim
Interviewer: How long do these cases take to resolve, on average?
Stephen Boutros: I try to file the suit early in these cases so that I can secure the evidence before it disappears and witnesses disappear. A lot of times, employers also will spoil evidence. They’ll try to destroy evidence. The sooner I can get a lawsuit on file and get into that Discovery phase, the more likely I am to preserve the evidence in the case.
You want to settle a case when it’s ripe. This is when the client has reached Maximum Medical Improvement and you can accurately forecast with experts, if the client is continuing to have medical problems. You can estimate what the cost of the future medical care is going to be and the long term consequences.
I hire experts called, Life Care Planners. They can determine what the long term consequences of injuries will be. You may have a very severe knee injury and after you have surgery, you feel better. You may feel better at this point in time but because you had the injury, late in life, you may develop a post-traumatic arthritis or you may need a knee replacement. U need experts to testify on those matters, so that you can recover that money, so later in your life, when you start to have these problems, you have the means necessary to treat them.
Settling a Workplace Injury Case or Going to Trial
Interviewer: Do most of these cases come to a settlement or do they go to trial?
Stephen Boutros: The best way to get a case settled is to prepare the case as if it is going to be tried. A famous lawyer that I worked under many years ago once told me, if you prepare a case to settle, you’re going to end up in trial; if you prepare a case to trial, you’re going to end up settling.
The vast majority of my cases settle. I would say that 95% of my cases are ultimately settled, either before litigation or after litigation. Before trial, the vast majority of cases settle but you can’t prepare the case in a lackadaisical way and hope that happens.
Interviewer: What is your response to people that say, ”Oh, the case is ongoing, I can’t take it anymore, I just want to get rid of this” and give up?
Stephen Boutros: That occasionally happens. It’s not just attorneys-at-law, we’re counselors-at-law and that’s where the counseling comes into play. I help counsel our clients as to what’s in their best interest. It’s ultimately their decision but I encourage clients to make the decisions that are in their best interests. Sometimes that’s settling early, sometimes it’s holding out. It’s on a case-by-case basis.
Level of Injury Required in Pursuing a Successful Workplace Injury Claim
Interviewer: How much injury is required for a case to be a real case? At what level does a case truly have merit? Does it have to be only physical injury or can it be mental injury too?
Stephen Boutros: A mental injury, in and of itself, is not a case that I am looking to pursue. Mental injuries can often accompany physical injuries. In the case I spoke of earlier, Mr. Kelvin Graves had a severe onset of post traumatic stress disorder after his leg was amputated. When you see severe, catastrophic injures, there is an emotional and mental component that follows that. That’s why there is a separate claim for damages called, Mental Anguish. I look for injuries that are significant, that affect clients’ lives in a detrimental way.
There is no scale. If it’s a very minor injury that kept you out of work for a couple of days, I am not interested in that. Sometimes people think they suffer a minor injury but then it lingers and they realize there was something much more severe going on and they didn’t realize it at first. That’s why I take a strong look at every case and I make a judgment on a case-by-case basis.