Delay, Delay, Delay, Delay………..

NeuwirthLawCase Matters, Courts, For Lawyers, Insurance, Law Practice Management

Delay of Game

Delay is pernicious. For many lawyers, it is a bit of a sign of success. You are too busy to get to even your most important cases because there are fires to be fought on other cases. My clients don’t care that I am successful or that I am over busy or that I am working on someone else’s case. Clients just are not used to waiting for the time periods that are routine in litigation.

My clients are respectful of my time. Most conversations start off with “I am sorry to bother you.” To me, that is the sign of a good client. They respect my time but understand that delay does not help them. Delay also does not help me or my business.

Who does delay help? Really, delay helps two participants. It generally helps the Defense in any individual case. It also helps the Court system and lawyers as a group.

Why does it help the Defense? Well, generally, personal injury cases do not get better with time. Clients generally get better or reach their baseline. Or clients will adjust to their injuries or heal and look better three years down the road than they did when they were still healing at a year from the accident. Plus, clients get sick and tired of having to deal with the Court system’s delays and uncertainty. Plus, they get sick of having to keep their lawyer involved in their everyday life. So, delay encourages settlement just for the resolution they bring.

Delay also helps the insurance carriers. If you know that you have a bad injury case, would you rather pay now or three years from now? Probably three years from now. Yes, you may have to pay legal fees of $40,000 or less in a routine personal injury case, but interest on the million dollars would cover that easily. Is there any reason to settle a case early if you are an insurer? Absolutely not.

Delay also allows the system to function, though the average client will not understand that. Most clients are blissfully unaware of routine written discovery like interrogatories and requests for production. Most clients are unaware that both sides in litigation in personal injury cases routinely fail to comply with what the rules of civil procedure require. This means that delay is just accepted and routine. Even if the City of Philadelphia owes me answers to interrogatories, I know that they will not comply with the requirement to answer them in 30 days. I also know that I will have to go to court to compel their production. So, to actually get answers to interrogatories is usually a 90-day process or more. It’s just a delay that is baked into the system.

Delay also allows for lawyers and judges to go on vacation or see their families. For example, very little gets done between Memorial Day and Labor Day no matter how much we try and push things. So, that is a delay. It may seem like a small one to those of us lawyers, judges, etc. but to a client it just seems interminable.

Can we fix this? Usually, the only fix is to talk with the client and explain that the system has built in time frames or schedules. This is fairly easy to do in Philadelphia where we have pretty ironclad court ordered schedules for routine personal injury cases. Clients, lawyers, and all involved know roughly how things should proceed. Most clients will accept what is court ordered.  In other counties, there is no such thing as a court ordered schedule. We are not dealing with the endless litigation of Bleak House or the Dickens novel, but it still is delay. And, in a world where everything is done more efficiently, faster, etc. the legal system still takes a long time. Ask Donald Trump what his defense strategy is? Delay.