Legal System

We hope that the following articles are helpful in answering some of your legal questions.

Legal System

Justice Courts Can Be Effective in Resolving Disputes, Including Car Accident Damage

James R. Harrison
March 12, 2012 

Most disputes between individuals involve a comparatively small dollar amount. These disputes can be handled easily in Justice Court or its Small Claims Division. Although the process can be time-consuming, it is not complex and court personnel are generally very helpful. You can file a complaint, have a hearing and obtain a judgment, all without the aid of a lawyer.

Lawyer Fees Unreasonable? Arbitrate Them.

James R. Harrison
March 12, 2012

Even reasonable people can disagree about the reasonableness of fees charged for professional services. Purchasing professional services, such as medical and legal services, is not like buying a bar of soap. We know where to find soap, what type we want and, generally, the price we should expect to pay for it. Furthermore, we alone decide how much soap we need, and we buy only the quantity we want.

Some Juries Award Far Too Little for Injuries, Death

Van O'Steen

Recent news reports have described notable instances of juries awarding large sums of money in seemingly irrational ways.  These accounts are distressing to many of us, especially when we are told that runaway jury verdicts are responsible for the rapidly rising insurance rates that affect us all.

96% of Juries' Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Awards Are Reasonable

Van O'Steen

There seems to be a widely held belief that American juries are too charitable toward people injured by accidents, product defects and medical malpractice.  This attitude is fueled by occasional news reports of apparently excessive verdicts in some personal injury cases.

Statistics Offer Yardstick for 'Unreasonable' Jury Awards

Van O'Steen

William Sawyer was 25 years old, unmarried and living with his father in rural Idaho. He often visited his mother, who lived nearby, and frequently spent time with his father in outdoor activities.

While William was driving to visit his mother, his pickup truck was hit by a logging truck.  William died as a result of the accident.

Judges Alter 1 in 4 Jury Awards

Van O'Steen

“Tort reform" continues to be the most actively debated issue affecting our legal system.

Arguably, some juries award too much to injured accident victims, and certainly others award too little. Placing a monetary value on physical or emotional injury is an imprecise task.  Mistakes are made in both directions.  Inadequate awards, however, seem to be less newsworthy than excessive ones.

Juries Work Well in Personal Injury Cases

Van O'Steen

Publicity about occasional large and seemingly irrational jury verdicts results in an unrealistic view of jurors.

The prevailing view seems to be that jurors share the blame with lawyers for rapidly rising insurance rates and increases in product and service costs. Some products and services, we are told, have disappeared from the marketplace because insurance is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Law Limits Liability for Pranks by Youth

Van O'Steen

With Halloween approaching, this may be a good time to advise parents about their legal responsibility for their children's intentional acts that harm others. Most Halloween pranks are relatively harmless. Some children, however, carry the trick-or-treat tradition too far. The result is usually minor property damage, but more serious consequences occasionally occur, including personal injuries.

Death, Injury Cases Not Won by Plaintiffs Seldom Get Reported

Van O'Steen

This is another story of a jury reaching an apparently irrational verdict in a death and injury case. Stories suggesting aberrant jury behavior are reported regularly in the national press.

Parents Should Treat Halloween's Tricks with Genuine COncern

Van O'Steen

Most Halloween pranks are harmless enough. The worst thing I have seen in my neighborhood is tissue paper draped over trees.  Some children, however, carry the trick-or-treat tradition too far. Occasionally, a child will damage someone's property.

Refusal to Answer Accident Queries Is Within Legal Rights

Van O'Steen

Recently, I learned of a police officer who exceeded his authority. He threatened to arrest a young woman for not answering his questions about an automobile accident he was investigating.

Documents Insure Medical Care for Children in Parents' Absence

Van O'Steen

I spoke recently with a doctor who graduated from a highly respected medical school in the upper Midwest. The discussion involved the procedure used at the university's hospital for treating ill and injured children when their parents were not available to consent to treatment.

We're Only Human: Legal SYstem's Flaws Make Justice Elusive

Van O'Steen

An interesting article appeared in a past edition of The National Law Journal, a legal newspaper.  You probably missed it.

The article noted the frustration of many injury defense lawyers over their inability to obtain recognition for their trial success.  Injury defense lawyers are those who represent insurance companies, large corporations and governmental agencies against the claims of those injured in accidents.

Dissatisfied Client Has Option of Firing Lawyer, Hiring Another

Van O'Steen

Most Americans see attorneys as a necessary evil. This view is not without some justification. I prefer to think that the evil, if any, rests with the reason for the hiring, rather, than the attorney.

Lawyers Morally, Legally Bound to Insure Profession's Integrity

Van O'Steen

Considering the thousands of lawyers in Arizona and the tens of thousands around the country, the incidents of attorney misconduct involving questions of honesty and integrity are relatively low.  However, the public's perception of lawyers as dishonest professionals preying on the public’s misfortune seems to be widespread.

Bad Apples Taint Personal Injury Lawyers' Ranks

Van O'Steen

In the recent past, Americans have been subjected to the spectacle of some of our lawyers wandering the globe in search of injured accident victims on whose behalf lawsuits can be filed.

Principal Overshadows Principle

Van O'Steen

All lawyers know the expression "for every wrong, there is a remedy." From the first day of law school, students are taught that our legal system accommodates all those with a just claim.

Don't Pass Judgment on Attorneys of Today Without All the Facts

Van O'Steen

Let's establish a point of agreement. As a group, lawyers generally can be expected to serve their own interests. This does not distinguish lawyers from any other group. The same can be said for insurance companies, government agencies, labor unions, doctors, car dealers, professional athletes and nearly everyone else.

Justice COurt Claims Are $10,000, Small Claims Division Goes to $2,500

Van O'Steen

Arizona's Justice of the Peace Courts and their Small Claims Divisions exist, in large part, to assist in the resolution of relatively modest legal disputes. These courts, with their informal procedures, are user-friendly. They resemble a kindler and gentler version of the popular television court programs.

Arbitration, Mediation Provide Alternatives

Van O'Steen

There are good reasons for avoiding courts. Courts are only one resource for resolving disputes. There are other mechanisms available that are less formal and often preferable.

Jury Nullification—Jury Has Power to Nullify Law

Van O'Steen

At the end of most jury trials, the judge gives the jury instructions regarding the law applicable to the case. The jury is then excused to begin its deliberations and reach a verdict. Jury verdict research indicates that most juries give great weight to the judge's instructions about the law. They take seriously the charge to apply the facts presented during the trial to the law as described to them by the judge.

Legal Costs Need Re-Evaluating

Van O'Steen

I agree with the proposition that our country is an overlitigated society. As a lawyer, I have seen the problem firsthand. Too many resources are wasted resolving legitimate disputes. Even a wealthy nation cannot afford the direct and indirect costs associated with unnecessarily lengthy and complex lawsuits.

'Bulldog' Lawyers Can Hurt Your Cases More Than Help

Van O'Steen

Some people are unreasonable, belligerent and unnecessarily aggressive. Some of these people are lawyers, although in my experience few lawyers are like this. Not many people in any occupational group routinely behave poorly.

Keep it Simple: Through Necessity, Legal System Thrives on its Complexity

Van O'Steen

Arizona Revised Statutes consume more than six feet of shelf space. These books are the written laws passed by the Arizona Legislature. They also contain brief summaries of appeals court decisions interpreting some of the statutes. The Arizona statutes represent only a tiny fraction of the laws intended to govern human affairs.

Enforce Legal Rights Sparingly

Van O'Steen

I have friends, Jack and Shirley, who are in the process of remodeling their kitchen. Construction has taken longer than projected, and my friends are eager to have the work completed. Life without a kitchen increases stress.

The Law Firm You Choose Makes a Difference

In the largest injury case in the history of the world, we were selected as the only arizona law firm to represent the State of Arizona against American tobacco companies for the past, present and future costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses. As a result, the State is expected to recover more than $3 billion.