Attorney at Law Magazine - February 8, 2019
Within the complex realm of the legal profession, a solid partnership is as critical as a healthy marriage. Ideally, each partner brings his or her own unique skills bolstering and complementing those of the other. Goals and methodologies must mesh seamlessly and certainly, everything is bound together with unqualified trust. While applicable to any area of the law, this seems particularly crucial in personal injury cases.
Strengthened by mutual respect and a shared vision, the attorneys of McCutcheon & Hamner P.C. have been championing the rights of injured people since 1988. Likewise, for more than a dozen years, partners Thomas W. McCutcheon and Joel R. Hamner have stood at the helm leading this specialized and highly-trained team in their unstinting efforts to ensure the rights of their clients.
“Plaintiffs in a personal injury case are particularly vulnerable,” notes Hamner. “I have been doing this for more than 24 years and I can tell you that 95 percent of the people who walk through my door have never, ever filed a law suit, never been sued, never experienced this process. And, they don’t necessarily want to go through it now, but they’ve had circumstances in their lives that have left them injured. They don’t know if they’re going to be able to continue working, they’ve got bills piling up, mouths to feed and they’re worried sick. Though they don’t want to file a lawsuit they don’t know what else to do.
“When they come to us,” he continues, “we give them a sense of hope. Usually, it’s the first time since the incident that they’ve been able to take a deep breath.”
Emotionally charged, personal injury cases run the gamut from auto accidents to medical malpractice to workman’s comp with myriad variations in between. Plaintiffs seem to be affected in virtually every possible way: physically, psychologically and in most instances, also endure the added stress of the loss of income.
“A lot of times they just need you to listen,” says Hamner. “My clients truly do come first. I’ve cancelled outings, vacations and other commitments when it’s apparent my client needs me. I have a rule that I return every phone call within 24 hours. If you’re going to be a plaintiff trial lawyer, you’re either in or your out. You can’t do a little bit or half-way.”
“With every case we look at the jury charges and we begin to write closing arguments. What are my factual arguments going to be in the final minutes of the trial? We develop those facts that show a permanent injury, how that directly affects our client in their daily life with their work and relationships,” notes McCutcheon. “Perhaps most importantly, we get to know our clients. We also talk to the people around them who can offer solid testimony as to how our client was before. How has this injury has impacted their life? We talk about who they were and who they are now in terms of physical abilities and endurance.”
READY FOR BATTLE
One of the most notable aspects of how the attorneys of McCutcheon & Hamner approach every case, is with the presumption that they will be in trial. “Joel and I have really worked hard to do a good job in preparing people to go to trial,” says McCutcheon. “What we’ve observed is that a lot of big advertising attorneys out there are not getting the most value for their cases because they don’t take this approach. You have to be able to go to trial. Nobody in their right mind wants to, but you’ve got to be prepared. We are a litigation firm and can be ready to try a case with three-days’ notice.”
Not surprisingly, with this aggressive and highly-organized approach McCutcheon & Hamner have won some large personal injury verdicts. In point of fact, according to court records they have championed and received impressive results in numerous counties throughout North Alabama having obtained the largest car accident verdicts in both Colbert and Lauderdale Counties.
“Let’s be honest,” says Hamner, “most cases do not go to trial, but you have to work them as though they are in order to maximize recovery for your clients. The problem here is, with the advent of the internet people believe that everything should have been done yesterday. But that’s not the way it works if you’re going to maximize recovery. It takes time and painstaking preparation.”
“I assure you that insurance companies keep lists of those firms that actually try cases and those who typically don’t,” he adds. “You have to be willing and ready to go to trial otherwise you’ve virtually already lost. In fact, I was recently told by an experienced insurance adjustor that she routinely pays in settlement about $1500 above medical costs because she knows this certain firm will not go to trial. It’s all got to be about the clients and what’s best for them.”
There are no shortcuts if you want the best results for your client. “If there’s anything to learn after practicing law for a long time,” notes McCutcheon, “it’s that you’ve got to put the time and effort into the cases. You must prepare.”
A crucial aspect of this preparation process includes intense and thorough efforts to truly get to know their clients. “I won’t try a case without first meeting with them in their home,” says McCutcheon. “I go to every client’s home before trial. I meet with them there in order to get a better sense of who they are and what their life looks like. For instance, I’ll see photos on the wall-their son is a boy scout and they’ve been a troop leader. I see they have a hundred fishing trophies, that they’ve taken their children to fishing tournaments. Later at trial I can ask my client, ‘Are you still able to do these things?’ Sometimes this can be demonstrative of losses that the people have suffered.”
As any trial attorney knows, this preparation can be both lengthy and highly detailed. Not only must all the facts be gathered, analyzed and determined to be admissible or not, but the client and their witnesses must also be fully prepared.
If you don’t practice law with an eye toward ‘how does this come into evidence and what affect will it have on the outcome of this case,’ then you’re just stumbling in the dark.
“If you don’t practice law with an eye toward ‘how does this come into evidence and what affect will it have on the outcome of this case,’ then you’re just stumbling in the dark,” McCutcheon adds. “For instance, if you’re looking at who’s at fault in a workman’s comp case then you’re just wasting time. It doesn’t matter. It’s a non-liability issue case so why spend time on that? You must separate facts from evidence and focus on only those aspects that will move the case forward.”
Natives of Alabama, McCutcheon and Hamner learned the value of hard work and dedication from an early age. They also share a strong sense of pride and loyalty to their community.
Each man in his own way has actively supported the people and institutions of their community but have found that as a firm they are able to leave an even greater imprint, reaching many more people.
One of the most popular and highly-anticipated events of the year is the Margarita Ball, which is fully funded by McCutcheon and Hamner. “It’s a black tie affair,” Hamner explains, “and guests are asked to bring a toy. Once collected the toys are distributed amongst the various charitable organizations so that they might be given out at Christmas.
“It’s a very nice evening with multiple bands, great food and cocktails.”
Wills for Warriors is another ambitious initiative originated by McCutcheon and Hamner. “We provide free wills, durable power of attorney and living wills to veterans, active military and first responders,” says McCutcheon. “It’s just our way of saying thank-you and offering our support to these amazing individuals.”
It’s obvious that McCutchen and Hamner share not only the same drive to seek justice for victims of accidents and/or negligence, but genuinely care about the community and people where they live. Bringing hope to their clients and support to their community it’s easy to see why this is one of the most respected firms in the state.