In my opinion, the single most valuable element needed to win any kind of personal injury case, especially one involving a cruise ship accident–no matter why, where, how, and when it occurred–is the truth. Sounds simple enough, but reaching it is the most difficult task I face in trying to help people who have been hurt. To be clear, I am not saying that all claimants are liars–in fact I would never knowingly represent anyone who I believed was lying–it is just that it is incredibly hard for me to get some clients to just be… truthful.
I have been a Personal Injury Attorney in Miami for over twenty years. Since 1991, I have handled cases ranging from a slip and fall at a Walmart to highly complex defective drug cases, like low testosterone replacement medication. And in every one of my cases, the single most valuable weapon in my arsenal is a truthful client.
TELLING THE TRUTH
I have often said that I cannot lose a case as long as both my client and I tell the jury the complete truth. That being said, the word “truth,” much like the word “love,” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I also know that not only the people I try to help but also I myself have often failed to be “truthful” without actually lying.
This can occur if a witness replies a question, the real answer to which they don’t know, remember, or even understand. His or her answer, when given under oath in a deposition or interrogatories (written questions and answers), is incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain false and is later used to imply that the witness is not believable.
DRINKING ON A CRUISE SHIP BEFORE AN ACCIDENT
In a hypothetical case against a cruise line like Carnival, RCCL, or Disney, our client–a 39-year-old female passenger named Mary Jose, from San Diego–is hurt, either slipping on a wet deck, tripping over a threshold, falling down stairs, or engaging in some onboard activity. And let me point out that when someone is injured aboard a ship, that does not automatically mean the cruise line is responsible at all. For more information about cruise ship liability, please read “Legal Rights of Cruise Ship Passengers”.
From the moment Mary’s incident occurs, everything in her life becomes potential evidence that can be used to prove how, why, and where the incident occurred, as well as the extent of her injury, medical expenses, lost time from work, and pain and suffering. This means that everything that is said to the crew, the medical staff, other witnesses, her family, and the doctors and nurses back at home becomes potential evidence for use in the case. Her medical and employment records, tax returns, insurance claim history, and even previous court cases will be discovered by the cruise line’s lawyers.
Imagine that our hypothetical client, Mary, fell after having a few daiquiris at the pool on the Carnival Breeze. Frequently, passengers are hurt after having consumed alcohol during dinner, at the pool, casino, or nightclub. And there certainly is no law against that; in fact, it is encouraged on most cruises.
Yet, I struggle with the people I represent to have them simply admit “that truth.” They’re afraid they may lose the case or that they will be penalized for having been under the influence at the time of their fall. So rather than “tell the truth,” they attempt to minimize or deny the fact. If Mary were my client, I would insist that she testify truthfully about the amount she drank, rather than minimize it or deny it.
I find myself spending inordinate amounts of time and energy simply counseling the people I am trying to help to accept that a jury will reward them for their honesty, candor, and credibility, rather than punish them for partying on a vacation. And of course, if the alcohol was a factor in causing the fall, in whole or in part, then we must accept that truth as well. Those conversations with clients are difficult to have. With Mary living in San Diego, I might not have a chance to meet her in person until she has to fly to South Florida for her deposition, medical examination, mediation, and trial–a challenge we face often.
I realize my approach may be different than that of other lawyers. The lawyer I am is very much due to the influence of my teacher, Gerry L. Spence. I am a disciple of his Trial Lawyers’ College, where he and his talented faculty carved me from the rough, molded me from clay, and most importantly empowered me to be me–a seeker and purveyor of truth.