Choosing the Right Lawyer (Video)

More than anything, the Ellis County Bar Association is asked by the public to assist in finding a lawyer. Choosing a lawyer is a major decision and you need to ensure you select the right lawyer for your needs. The Ellis County Bar Association created the following video to assist the citizens of Ellis County in choosing a lawyer:

When selecting a lawyer, you’ll want to:

1. Seek personal recommendations from people you trust. Good lawyers usually have an established reputation in the community.

2. Check the Ellis County Bar Association website for lawyers.

3. Look for ratings and reviews of lawyers in your area.

4. Look at the lawyer’s website or check the profile.

5. At this point, you should have a short list of lawyers. Call the lawyers and schedule a consultation.

6. Use your best judgment after meeting with the lawyer. Your relationship can last many years depending on the circumstances of your case and you want to have a good working relationship.

Uninsured (UM) Underinsured (UIM) Motorist Coverage in Texas

If you are involved in an accident with another driver who does not have insurance or does not have sufficient insurance to cover your damages, you should determine whether you have uninsured motorist coverage (UM) or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). In Texas, if you purchase UM/UIM, your insurance company will assist with payment for your damages – up to the policy limits — if the other driver does not have insurance or sufficient insurance to compensate you for all damages.

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage may apply in the following situations:

(1) UM/UIM coverage may apply if you are in a vehicle and the other vehicle does not have insurance or sufficient insurance;

(2) UM/UIM coverage may apply in a hit and run accident;

(3) UM/UIM coverage may apply if you are hit by a motor vehicle as a pedestrian;

(4) UM/UIM coverage may apply if you are hit by a car while traveling on a bicycle;

(5) UM/UIM coverage may be applicable if you are a passenger in another vehicle and the driver does not have sufficient insurance.

Although it is the law in Texas to maintain insurance for a motor vehicle, many drivers do not have insurance. You should check with your own insurance company after an accident to determine whether you have UM/UIM coverage.

Author Information: Stephen Daniel is an attorney practicing personal injury law in Ellis County, Texas and works for Jenkins & Jenkins, P.C.

If you are an attorney practicing in Ellis County and you would like to publish an article on elliscountybar.org that would benefit the citizens of Ellis County in understanding the law or the legal process, please contact the Ellis County Bar Association by clicking here.

“No Contest”

“No Contest”

People often ask me, what is the difference between pleading no contest and guilty in a criminal case?

First, if you are facing a criminal charge, no matter what level of offense it may be, you should always retain the professional assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A competent criminal defense attorney should be able to easily answer any question that you may have regarding all aspects of the criminal justice system.

The legal term “no contest” is the English version of the Latin phrase Nolo contendere which translates to “I do not wish to contend.”

For some citizens, it is far easier to say that they do not want to fight the criminal allegation against them than it is for them to openly admit that they were, in fact, guilty of the crime. A no contest plea, allows them to save face (or, depending on the facts, to actually speak the truth), by never formally admitting guilt. However, as a practical matter, the judge will still use their no contest plea to the same effect as if they had entered a plea of guilty. And without entering either a plea of guilty or no contest, the case would necessarily have to proceed to a formal trial. 

Many citizens accused of a crime incorrectly believe that if they plead no contest instead of  guilty, then that means that somehow they will not be convicted of the crime. This is 100% false. A plea of no contest will have the exact same consequence as if you had entered a plea of guilty.

The only relevant difference between a no contest plea and a guilty plea comes not within the criminal justice system, but with the consequences that it may have outside of the criminal justice system, specifically within the civil justice system.

In a civil proceeding, a prior no contest plea from a criminal case typically may not be used as evidence against you. As an example; let’s say that you were arrested for a driving while intoxicated offense in which an accident occurred as a result. It’s possible that beyond the criminal charge prosecuted by the State, you could also face a civil lawsuit for monetary damages filed by the victim of the car accident. If you were to plead guilty to the D.W.I. case, then that plea could be used against you in a future civil proceeding. In other words, you could not contest the fact that you were driving while intoxicated in the civil lawsuit if you have already plead guilty in a court of law to that very fact. If you had entered a plea of no-contest to the D.W.I., then that fact could not be used against you in the subsequent civil proceeding.

Unfortunately, in Ellis County, Texas, the reality is that the difference between a guilty plea and a no contest plea is often just an academic debate. This is because the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office will not allow for a citizen to enter a plea of no-contest in return for a negotiated plea agreement. Of course, you have the right to enter a plea of no contest on any allegation against you, but you don’t have the right to receive a negotiated plea agreement. And since more than 95% of cases are resolved through a negotiated plea agreement, the use of a no contest plea is virtually non-existent in the Ellis County District and County Courts at Law.

There is still one arena that a no-contest plea is common and normally allowed in Ellis County. That is in various City/Municipal and Justice of the Peace Courts. These Courts are charged with processing Class C (Fine Only) misdemeanor criminal cases. In these Courts, most judges will allow for a no contest plea. But remember a plea of no contest will still have the exact same consequence as a plea of guilty in that court.

I hope you found this basic explanation to be helpful. If you should have any other questions about the criminal justice system, please feel free to call my office to set up an appointment.

JOSEPH R. GALLO

www.citizenaccused.com

Criminal Defense Attorney

114 East Main Street

Waxahachie, Texas 75165

Phone: (972)-938-1450

 

The Typical Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Your particular situation may be different but I have outlined the typical steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit.

1. Choosing an Attorney

First, unless you plan on acting as your own attorney, you must find an attorney.  In choosing an attorney to handle your case, keep in mind the following: (a) Look for biographical information of your lawyers on the internet; (b) search the internet using key words such as “waxahachie injury lawyer;” (c) check to see if the attorney belongs to personal injury associations such as TTLA or DTLA; (d) if you have a relationship with an attorney who practices in another area, ask him or her for a recommendation of a personal injury attorney; (e) if you have a friend or relative that was involved in a personal injury lawsuit, you might ask him or her for their thoughts or recommendations; (f) contact the local or texas bar association; and/or (g) check out the yellow pages or your local telephone directory.

2. The Initial Investigation

In any lawsuit, it is crucial to obtain evidence by performing an investigation of the incident. Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, the investigation process may include interviewing witnesses, gathering physical evidence, consulting with expert witnesses and any other evidence gathering that may assist your case.  After the initial investigation, your lawyer will compile the evidence and make a determination whether to proceed with the case.

3. Settlement Negotiations Prior to Filing a Lawsuit

Generally, after the initial investigation, your lawyer will engage in settlement negotiations with the responsible party prior to filing a lawsuit.  The lawyer will compile the evidence obtained from the initial investigation and prepare a “demand” that will be sent to the responsible party. The “demand” is a letter that sets forth the facts of your case, explains the legal justification for holding the wrongdoer responsible for the incident and provides evidence pertaining to the injuries.  After receiving the “demand” from your lawyer, the insurance company may provide an offer to settle.  If the offer from the insurance company is not acceptable,  negotiations may  continue back and forth until either your case settles or an impasse is reached.

4. Litigation

If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawsuit may be filed by your lawyer.  A lawsuit involves your lawyer filing a petition with the state or federal court and serving the responsible party.  Both sides are usually entitled to written discovery and your lawyer may choose to take the deposition of the responsible party along with any witnesses or experts.  The counsel for the responsible party may also choose to take depositions.  The Court or the parties may schedule a mediation at any time during litigation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which consists of a meeting between the parties. The role of the mediator during a mediation is to act as an intermediary between the parties.  Offers and demands are exchanged until either a settlement is reached or until the parties reach an impasse.

5. Trial

Generally, after the above process, the parties will decide to go to trial if they cannot agree to settle.  The trial can be decided by the Judge or a jury.  Typically, your case will be decided by a jury.  Although your case may not have settled prior to the trial, it is still possible for the parties to settle during the course of the trial.

Author Information: Stephen Daniel is an attorney practicing personal injury law in Ellis County, Texas and works for Jenkins & Jenkins, P.C.

If you are an attorney practicing in Ellis County and you would like to publish an article on elliscountybar.org that would benefit the citizens of Ellis County in understanding the law or the legal process, please contact the Ellis County Bar Association by clicking here.

© Copyright Official Ellis County Bar Association Website -StephenDaniel