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How to Make Better Decisions When Accident Claims are in Your Hands

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

It’s important that you are aware of the importance of decision making while planning your legal career, especially when it comes to dealing with clients. As an attorney, part of the process of working with a client, and helping them gain control over their situation, is guiding them in making decisions on how to proceed with their case. Remember, every client has a different approach to their problem and you must accommodate this approach.

By applying the principles of cognitive psychology to the decision-making process, each attorney can help the client understand their unique role in the case, and enable them to frame their needs with accuracy. Armed with the clarity of thought, the client is better able to assist the lawyer in stating their goals for their case. Being aware of these tools will help you excel in your career even further.

Let’s look at the process of empowered decision making, and examine how it benefits both counsel and client.

Breaking Down the Process of Empowered Decisions

Below is a breakdown of the process of how to make empowered decisions.

Step #1: Define the Situation

Making an empowered decision means that you have been given all the information that pertains to your situation and that you are trusted to make the best choice.

Step #2: Explain the Components

When the attorney makes it a goal to share their understanding of, and experience with all the data and information with their client, it empowers both parties to make the best decisions.

Step #3: Ask for Input

Ask the client for their opinions after they have been presented with all the information. This allows us to add it to our data pool.

Step #4: Acknowledge the Contribution

Believe that the client has unique and valid contributions to add to the case. The result is a mutual relationship that yields better decisions.

How Clients Benefit from Empowered Decision-Making

If a client comes in for an initial meeting, they are likely to have minimal knowledge about what their legal rights are. They are seeking our knowledge and experience, and often they hope to be told what their next steps should be.

As an attorney, this is your privilege - to help and guide. However, this takes the client’s knowledge and experience out of the equation.

Let’s say that a client has suffered an injury in a car accident in a local shopping mall parking lot. She ran into an unmarked construction area that wasn’t properly marked, suffering neck injuries. Her daughter has brought her in because a friend told her it was a good idea. It’s clear that the client has a potential case, but she is also still very distressed by the collision, and her details and recall are not good.

The initial impulse might be to take down some information, give the client a list of items that might be helpful in their case -- such as store incident reports or photographs -- and hope that they can comply with the request.

Or, you can take the time to explain what makes a solid case, and how each piece of the information fits in. You can explain what would prove negligence on the part of the shop owner. You can give the power back over to the client, and allow them to use this knowledge to help their own case.

In our hypothetical situation, you would see a client who becomes calmer and who feels more in control of what is happening. With a more global understanding of her case, she is able to remember specific details of how the accident happened, and that there was an incident report filled out at the time. She decides that she will discuss the possibilities of lasting damage with her doctor on her follow-up visit.

The client now feels that she has ownership of her case.

How Attorneys Benefit from Empowered Decision-Making

Empowered decision making renders benefits for both sides of the table. Especially in your law career.

It’s important that you are aware of the fact that lawyers lead other professions in several dark categories, including job burnout, substance abuse, and depression. The adversarial relationships that are inherent in the field - with clients included - are one of the key factors in career burnout. Enabling an environment that encourages empowered decisions is a critical step in reducing conflict and stress.

Analyzing our own interactions with clients can help us engage in more effective strategies, and to let go of some of the internal prejudices that prevent us from assisting in their empowerment. It demands some self-analysis, but you are rewarded by being allowed to step back and work from a position of guidance and wisdom.

Rather than being put in a situation where you feel rushed and doubtful about the possible case, you are assisted by the client.

How to Begin Using the Process

You can use the empowerment approach to help you gain more information. One aspect of this is to use a strengths perspective while interacting with them. Simply put, this assumes that all clients have strengths that can be utilized to improve their situation. Your job is to help identify them and to use them for our mutual benefit.

In the case of our needy client, you will help them set goals for their case, and give them the opportunity to state what they want as an outcome. You allow them to bring their self-identified strengths into the possible resolution of their claim. They have now aided in making the decision.

Again, the process of doing this can relieve both parties of a degree of stress that is involved in any legal counseling relationship.

Conclusion

Understanding the principles and the formula of empowered decision making can help you become more effective in solving client problems, reduce stress for both yourself and your clients, and often produce more positive outcomes and wins, as you allow the client to provide assistance, input, and information for the litigation process. It may require a personal paradigm shift to begin to implement the aspects of this style of client interaction during the transition of your career, but the rewards are both personal and professional.

 


Author Bio:

Scott Distasio is a auto accident lawyer in Tampa and founder of Distasio Law Firm. His career focus is on all types of personal injury cases. His work reflects his belief that legal professionals should take responsibility for outstanding service seriously. Follow @scottdistasio on Twitter to see what legal wisdom he shares next.