Estate Planning/Probate | Severe Injury | Wrongful Death | Bankruptcy

What is Malpractice?

The word malpractice means bad practice.  In a professional setting (such as medical malpractice or legal malpractice) it means that a person with a professional license has been negligent and such negligence was a cause of a personal injury or damages to you.

Malpractice or bad practice is not to be confused with bad outcome.  If, for instance, you hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit for you and you lose the lawsuit that is obviously a bad outcome.  If your lawyer handled your lawsuit in a professional, non-negligent manner, then the lawyer did not commit malpractice.  On the other hand, if you lost your lawsuit because your lawyer failed to gather evidence, subpoena witnesses, or otherwise failed to properly present your case, you may have a claim against your lawyer for malpractice.  The same is true for physicians.  As patients, we see physicians to receive treatment for a health problem; the treatment may be taking prescribed medications or undergoing surgery.  Our physician may do everything possible to address our health problems yet we may remain uncured or we may even be made worse.  In such a case, the physician who does what is required will not be held liable even if there is a bad outcome.

Doing what is required is called meeting the standard of care.  The standard of care is not a vague, esoteric legal concept; it applies to every one of us in everything we do.  As we approach a school zone, for instance, the standard of care applicable to every one driving a vehicle on the road is to slow down so that we are traveling no more than 15 mph as we enter the school zone.  If we are stopped in an intersection, waiting to make a left turn, the standard of care requires us to wait for all oncoming traffic to clear and to make the turn only when it is safe to do so.  For all of us, generally, the standard of care can be defined as that which a reasonably prudent person would do under the same or similar circumstances.  By substituting the word professional for the word person makes the foregoing definition fit (i.e. the standard of care is that which a reasonably prudent professional would do under the same or similar circumstances).

While we all know what the standard of care is when we’re driving a vehicle or doing most of life’s activities, we do not know what the standard of care is regarding the duties owed by a professional whether a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, or any other professional.  We must then look to members of the same profession to establish the standard of care.  To know what a reasonably prudent professional would do under the same or similar circumstances, we would have to ask a professional to assume those circumstances and render an opinion as to whether or not the professional in question met the standard of care.  To maintain a lawsuit against a professional, an injured person must prove not only what the standard of care is but that the professional fell below or breached the standard of care and the person’s injuries or damages were a result of that breach.  This is not a simple task and if you believe you may have been the victim of professional malpractice, I encourage you to discuss your potential case with an experienced malpractice lawyer.

Just as it is true that not every bad outcome results from a bad practice it is true that malpractice does occur and clients or patients are injured by the malpractice.  At Clarke Law Offices, I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your potential malpractice claim.

Overview of a Personal Injury Claim in Arizona

Once you have been injured, whether in a car crash, from a fall at the grocery store, or any other unfortunate mishap, you are entitled to recover for your personal injuries from whomever or whatever caused your injuries.  Most lawyers handle these cases on a contingency-fee basis.  This is important because many lawyers advertise a so-called “no fee guarantee”.  The fact is a contingency-fee is just that; it means the injury lawyer gets paid only if you recover for your injuries.  The so-called “no fee guarantee” is just another way of saying “I will not get paid unless I recover for you.”  The contingency fee still assures you of access to the courthouse and is the most common attorney-client agreement in personal injury matters.


Although your personal injury lawyer only gets paid if there is a recovery, you will still be giving up a share of the recovery to compensate the lawyer.  You will also be paying any costs the lawyer incurred to, for instance, obtain a police report or medical records on your behalf.  Your lawyer may have to hire an investigator or expert witness to help prove your case.  Those items are costs and are in addition to the contingency fee.


If your injuries are minor, you may feel you cannot justify giving part of your recovery to a lawyer and may believe you can handle the matter on your own.  That may be true in cases of clear liability (such as-you are rear-ended while at a stop light with both your brake lights and the stop light working correctly) and you want to recover only a medical bill.  If your case is any more involved than that, you likely will benefit from a personal injury lawyer’s services and your ultimate recovery may more than justify the contingency fee your lawyer will earn.


Your case goes through many steps from the time of your injury until your potential monetary recovery.  In fact, you may have to present your case to a jury before the insurance company for the person or entity that caused your injuries will compensate you for your losses.  Each step along the way lays the groundwork for the next step and a misstep could be costly.


Although your claim will be against a person or entity, you will be seeking compensation from the insurance carrier for that person or entity.  Your dealings will likely be with a claims adjuster who has no interest in your case and is employed by an insurance company with virtually unlimited resources.  While the claims adjuster owes a duty to the insured person or entity, the adjuster’s goal is to pay as little as possible and to move your claim file off his or her desk as quickly as possible.  As your lawyer, I will have an interest in you and your case and will be committed to obtaining as large a recovery as possible and will go the entire distance (to a jury trial) if necessary to get you your fair recovery.


From start (telling the insurance company you have a claim to bring) to finish (getting your recovery), there is much to be done.  First and foremost, you must get the treatment you need.  If treatment is not readily available, I will help you secure competent and appropriate treatment.  If you missed work, you will need to gather the evidence necessary to support that lost time.  That can be problematic if you are self-employed or work on a commission basis.  Once you have completed treating for your injuries, you will have to collect all your medical records and your medical bills.  If you have other losses (such as loss of value to your vehicle-even after it is been repaired) you will need to provide evidence of such losses.  Not everyone completely heals from personal injuries.  You may need a report from your treating physician to outline any lingering problems, including an estimate for future cost of care.  The above necessary actions are all things that your personal injury lawyer does so you can focus on healing and getting back to your regular life.


Once all the above information is obtained, you are probably ready to make a demand for settlement.  This is more involved than simply handing the adjuster your records, bills, and other documented losses.  The adjuster needs to know why the insured should have to pay for your losses and why you should be paid anything in excess of your actual expenses.  The demand letter I send on behalf of my clients analyzes the liability part of the case and sets forth the specific details justifying your demand.  The adjuster may then make an offer to settle and from that point, you will negotiate with the adjuster until you reach a resolution or file suit.  No matter what you demand, the adjuster will likely offer a small percentage of that demand unless there is an issue with limits of insurance coverage.  For instance, you may have a catastrophic loss but the person who caused your loss may have a modest insurance policy.  Keep in mind that the minimum required automobile liability insurance coverage in Arizona is $15,000.  The adjuster will want you to settle your claims against the insured in exchange for that modest insurance payment.  If the adjuster is unwilling to pay the minimum amount you will accept, and the insurance policy has a higher limit than the settlement offered, your next option is to file a lawsuit and go to trial if necessary.  As your personal injury lawyer, my team and I will handle all those matters.


While no one is obligated to retain a personal injury lawyer, the issues that must be considered (from securing appropriate medical care to confirming adequate insurance limits to reaching a resolution) strongly suggest that you will benefit from our services.


I have been a Phoenix personal injury lawyer for over 35 years and my firm, Clarke Law Offices, handles many types of personal injury cases.   For cases of clear liability and minor injuries, including third-party liability (where you make a claim against the insurance company for the person or entity causing your injuries) and uninsured motorist claims (where you must use the coverage available through your own insurance company because the other driver was not insured), I charge a flat 25% fee up to the filing of a lawsuit.  If we must file suit, the fees in such cases will never exceed 30%.  Remember, there may be costs in addition to the fees.


We hope 2013 is prosperous and rewarding and we truly hope your life is not interrupted by personal injuries.  If you are not so fortunate, just remember, we are here if you need us.

The School Shooting in Newtown

One mass killing is one too many. We have seen far too many in any one of our lifetimes. The Aurora, Colorado tragedy is still fresh in our minds and it could have been surpassed by the Oregon mall shootings were it not for the perpetrator’s weapon jamming.

Today, Monday, December 17, 2012 we are all still trying to come to grips with yet another mass killing; this one took the lives of twenty of our nation’s most valuable treasures, our young children. The youngest was five and the oldest was seven. Losing any one of these beautiful young people would have been tragic regardless of the reason; to have lost so many in such a senseless and incomprehensible way is grotesque. Add to the loss of these young people the adults who had committed their lives to the education, well-being, and moral compass of all young people and this catastrophe takes on even greater significance. We may yet find an accurate connection between the perpetrator and the school, one of the families, or one of the faculty members but as it stands, the senselessness of this brutality is compounded by the lack of any apparent motive or connection.

We have put off for too long the dialogue we must have as we begin trying to make certain that the survivors of those lost know that our support and love is with each and every one of them. This isn’t a time for the extremist, those who oppose all firearms on the one hand and those who believe that even the most reasonable and responsible regulations are in absolute derogation of their second amendment rights, to control the dialogue. Few could argue that the solution is to ban all firearms or to even ban most firearms. Few could argue that the second amendment, as valuable and important a part of our freedom as any other provision of our Bill of Rights, is so sweeping and sacrosanct that any regulation is an overreaching infringement on our rights. Rather, it is the time for reasonable people to identify their common objectives and to work through their differences to achieve those objectives.

It is also important to note that this is not just a second amendment or gun ownership issue. Events like this were so rare when I was growing up that it was easy to see that in one given instance there was a breakdown. It may have been at the family level, the school level, or at some other social level. Now these events occur more frequently and while family, school, and society are factors, the increase in this senseless violence must cause all of us to reevaluate our roles in our own families and our own environments. Each of us can clearly do a better job in our lives and that includes using our best efforts to be a positive influence for all those around us; it also includes facing the issues and not side-stepping reality. Time is critical and the issues are essential. Each of us will hopefully find a way to participate in searching for a solution.

I will keep the people who are living through this tragedy, the surviving parents, siblings, spouses, and other family members as well as the young children and adults who lived this tragedy firsthand, in my thoughts and prayers and ask that they be blessed with the strength and courage they will need to both accept that those they lost are serving a greater purpose and to know that as a nation we just may be able to take the destruction of this tragedy and build a better way.

Tips for Landing that Job!

Clarke Law Offices is an Arizona Bankruptcy Attorney, and we know a lot of people out there are still struggling to find work and get their head above water. While filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a helpful tool for a lot of people to get a fresh start, we know it’s important to have employment to keep the street clean once you’ve filed Bankruptcy. So, we’ve put together some tips to help job hunters get their foot in the door.

1) Have a resume. No matter what job field you are applying in, you should always have a resume. Even if you’re able to pick up applications for a position (such as retail), include your resume with it when you return the application. This looks professional and shows potential employers that you’re willing to go the extra mile to make a nice presentation of yourself.

2) Taylor your resume for the job you are applying for. Look at the job requirements and description in the job advertisement. Do you have related experience for that particular job? If so, modify your resume to bring those qualifications forward. Employers don’t have time to read every word on your resume so be strategic and make sure you are offering them information they care to hear.

3) Send a cover letter, with EVERY resume. Your cover letter should be short and sweet with 3-4 paragraphs:

i. Express your interest in the position listed

ii. Discuss your specific qualifications

iii. Address any concerning items on your resume (gaps in job history or short employment periods)

iv. Tell them how to contact you and again of your interest in working for their company

Again, this is professional and shows your employer that you’re not too lazy to send a cover letter. I know it sounds like a lot of work, and it is! The trick is to create a template cover letter and make modifications where necessary for each new application.

4) Check for correct spelling and grammar; be meticulous! This is so important. Potential employers want to know that you’re smart and detail oriented. Have at least two other people review your cover letter and resume for spelling and grammatical errors. If you are making slight changes to either, for tailoring purposes, scrutinize your changes for any mistakes. Also, be consistent with spacing and punctuation in bullet points.

5) Network! This is the number one route to finding a job these days. Talk to people you know in your field, family, friends and acquaintances and tell them you’re looking for employment. Ask them to send your resume to their friends and professional contacts. Most people are willing to help a friend or even an acquaintance get their foot in the door, and most hiring agents would rather hire a referral than a random applicant.

6) Be persistent. You know the old saying “Looking for a job is a full time job.” Well, it’s true! Make a goal for yourself to send out 3-4 applications a day until you find employment. It’s easy to get discouraged but if you don’t apply, you won’t get the job. So keep moving forward!

7) Dress to Impress. Even if you’re just picking up applications, you always want to wear your “Sunday Best.” This means no denim, no tank tops, no t-shirts, no hats, no flip flops, MAYBE a clean pair of tennis shoes. Here’s what’s best:

i. Gentleman – Slacks with a button down shirt and tie. Jackets preferred especially if you are applying for a seriously professional job. Belt and matching shoes. Freshly shaved face and cut hair. If the job you’re applying for is more casual, khakis and a collared polo shirt (tucked in with a belt) are acceptable.

ii. Ladies – Stay away from the cleavage, tight clothing, super colorful makeup and inappropriate shoes. We aren’t going to the club here. Any skirt or dress should come to the knee or below. Nothing shorter. What works: Slacks with a sweater or blouse; A suit with pants or a skirt; A professional dress. Shoes should be conservative pumps, flats or boots. Have your hair washed and well groomed. If you have long hair, consider tying it back in a smooth ponytail. Limit jewelry.

8) Research your employer online before your interview. Employers love to know that you know about their company. It may come up only in small talk, but you will score extra points for knowing that the CEO just awarded a major gift to a local charity or that the company only buys locally grown fruits and vegetables for its restaurant.

9) Be professional and polite to everyone you meet on your way to your interview, even at the coffee shop down the street. You never know if you’re interacting with someone from the company you’re about to interview with. Even if it’s just the janitor, companies respect the input of their current employees.

10) Send a thank you note no later than one day after your interview. Hand written notes are always a nice touch but it may not be feasible, especially if they are going to make their hiring decision quickly. Make sure you get business cards from everyone you interview with and send them each a unique letter by email or snail mail. If you forget a card, call and ask the receptionist for their emails!

11) If you don’t get the job, don’t get discouraged. Hiring is a tough job and it’s easy to choose the wrong candidate or to have to choose between two right candidates. Tell the employer that you are still thankful for the opportunity and if their hiring decision doesn’t work out to call you. I’ve personally done a lot of hiring in my past and many times the new hire doesn’t work out within the first few days. I always go back to my second choice to see if they are still available.

I am a Phoenix bankruptcy lawyer and I help clients file for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Arizona. We’ve mentioned in previous posts about the importance of lining up a job prior to filing for Bankruptcy because you only get the chance to wipe the slate clean every 7 years. Bankruptcy is a great tool for people who have fallen behind due to hardship and are on their way to recovering.

For more information on Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Arizona, visit our FAQs page.

If you are thinking about filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Phoenix, Arizona but have questions, call us at 602-952-3232 for a free consultation or submit an online case-review form.

Finding the Money to File Bankruptcy

As mentioned in our previous post “Making Chapter 7 Bankruptcy More Affordable,” one often faces a quandary about where to find the money to hire a bankruptcy attorney in phoenix and pay for filing fees for a Bankruptcy.  This is a common dilemma that filers face and we have some suggestions on how to come up with funding:

1)       Stop making payments on unsecured debts – if you are sure you want to file and know that you are eligible, you can stop making payments on credit cards, medical bills, and any other debts that aren’t for assets you intend to keep.  If you’ve been current on your payments to date, you’ll probably be able to save a good chunk of money to pay for your attorney.


2)       Stop making payments on secured debts if you don’t want to keep the asset – have an extra car or boat with a loan payment and you aren’t interested in keeping it?  You can stop paying on that too.  This can put the asset into danger of being repossessed prior to filing bankruptcy but if you are in financial trouble and have planned to get rid of the property anyway, you might be better to not sink any more money into it and save up for your Phoenix Bankruptcy Lawyer.


3)       Use your Tax Refund – tax refunds are fair game in Bankruptcy to help pay your creditors down.  Plus, you have to be current on filing your tax returns to get your Bankruptcy approved.  So, if you know you’re getting a refund, you can use it to help finance your Bankruptcy Attorney in Phoenix and filing fees.


4)       Ask a friend or family member for help – a lot of filers get help from loved ones in order to hire a Bankruptcy Attorney, especially if they have been helping you out with your bills anyway.  Friends and family members are often willing to help if it is going to lead to long term debt resolution.  However, any money received from another person within the 6 months prior to filing for Bankruptcy would be considered income as far as the Means Test is concerned, which determines your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.


Hopefully one, or a combination, of these options will get you the funding you need to hire a Bankruptcy Attorney in Phoenix and move forward with filing your petition.

If you have any questions about the above information or about filing Bankruptcy in general, please contact our office at 602-952-3232 for a free consultation or submit our Online Case Review form.

For more information, you can also visit our FAQ page.

Call us today for a free consultation (602) 952-3232

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