How Do I Pick a Lawyer?

Attorney Lien Attorney Liens Part 2: What are the Requirements and Limitations of an Attorney Lien? posted on Friday, November 6th, 2015 and is filed under Legal Malpractice, Working with your attorney In Part 1, we discussed what attorney liens are and when they might be used. This post will talk about the requirements and limitations of attorney liens. Prerequisites There are several things that must exist before your old attorney can file... Continue Reading Attorney Liens Attorney Liens Part 1: What are Attorney Liens? posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2015 and is filed under Legal Malpractice, Working with your attorney Work with skilled Tampa attorney lien defense attorneys! When you hire an attorney, you will normally sign a contract laying out the work you expect the attorney to accomplish and the method by which the attorney expects to be paid... Continue Reading Access to Civil Justice posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015 and is filed under Court System, Legislation Work with qualified Tampa civil justice lawyers! When someone is accused of a crime but cannot afford an attorney, the State is required to provide them with an attorney. This attorney then represents that person though all stages of their... Continue Reading Who is George Edgecomb? posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015 and is filed under Working with your attorney Honoring the first African-American county judge in Hillsborough County, Florida! The Hillsborough County Courthouse bears the name of George Edgecomb, the first African-American county judge in Hillsborough County, Florida. Though he died too young – at the early age of... Continue Reading When Should I Consider a Florida Claim Bill? posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2015 and is filed under Court System, Legislation, Litigation Tactics, Personal Injury The Florida Legislature has provided a system whereby injured parties – from drivers struck by reckless police cars to wrongfully convicted prisoners – can sue the government in a circumstance where a private person would be liable , piercing the... Continue Reading How Do I Pick a Lawyer

How to Pick a LawyerWork with the Tampa law firm with over 40 years of experience!

For any given area of law, there are scores of lawyers vying for your business, and it can be extremely difficult to choose the best one. If you’re looking for a personal injury attorney in Tampa, Florida, for example, you might need several days of dedicated time to wade through the list of 100 attorneys offered by a single lawyer referral site.

So, how do you pick the lawyer who’s right for your case? Consider the following criteria:

Are they board-certified?

Attorneys in Florida are not required to be board-certified in order to practice in their chosen area of law – and, in fact, board certification is only granted to approximately seven percent of all Florida attorneys. To become board certified, an attorney must demonstrate expertise in the certification area, pass a peer review and an examination, and take a battery of continuing legal education classes specific to that certification area. Then they must recertify every five years to maintain certification.

Board certification in the area of law most vital to your case is a strong indicator that you can rely on the strength of your attorney’s advice.

Do they have years of experience in that area of practice?

An attorney who started practicing in personal injury last week is unlikely to know as much as an attorney who has been practicing personal injury law for decades. Though all attorneys are trained to interpret the law, there is a world of difference between a seasoned PI attorney and a recent law school graduate. If you want someone to bake a magnificent wedding cake, you’re likely to hire an experienced pastry chef – not your cousin who likes to read dessert cookbooks but who has never actually entered a kitchen.

The more experience an attorney has, the less likely it is that he or she will make rookie mistakes on your case.

Are they leaders in the profession?

The most experienced attorneys are generally sought after by prestigious legal organizations such as the American College of Trial Lawyers, which consistently strives to improve the practice of civil and criminal trial law. ACTL is a by-invitation-only organization whose members are among the top 1% of the local attorney population in any given area. In making your choice among different lawyers, keep in mind that a member of ACTL is likely to be ethical, experienced, and respected by the courts.

Are they respected by their peers?

Within the legal profession, attorneys are regularly paid to argue with one another. We fight against our peers over and over again on factual questions, legal issues, and sometimes even moral grounds. It is especially telling, then, when an attorney has been nominated for an award by the members of his or her local bar association and has been recognized for excellence within the legal profession by those who are often opposed to his or her legal positions. Such a lawyer is often able to more effectively advocate for his or her clients because even other attorneys will be inclined to respect his or her arguments and case-related requests..

If an attorney has been given a peer-based award such as Best Lawyers or Super Lawyers, chances are they will be more able to leverage their legal expertise and reputation to help get you the settlement you deserve.

At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we have been practicing personal injury law since 1967, and our firm’s partners are found on the rolls of board-certified attorneys, ACTL, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers, among many other legal honor organizations. If you have been injured in an accident or through the negligence of a doctor or lawyer, we would be pleased if your search for a lawyer led you to us. We would fight hard and tirelessly on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial IntelligenceWork with experienced Tampa lawyers who embrace new technologies!

Our country is founded on laws. Thousands of laws help citizens get along with one another, resolve their conflicts, and promote a national system of justice. These thousands of laws – written and passed by state and federal legislators – are then interpreted in yet even more thousands of opinions by judges. Judicial opinions comprise what is known as case law. While legislators craft basic laws intended to reach everyone, judges help us understand how to apply a certain law to a specific set of facts, particularly when disputes arise.

For example, we are all guaranteed “due process” of law, but the U.S. Constitution doesn’t spell out exactly what due process entails. To understand due process completely, one must read through hundreds of opinions on individual cases to see how that constitutional protection has been interpreted and applied. To predict how a judge might decide questions of due process in a current case, one must understand, among many other issues,the difference between precedent that is controlling and precedent that is merely persuasive.

If that all sounds confusing, you might start to understand what lawyers do for three years in law school and beyond. Even after law school, most lawyers spend years strengthening their legal research muscles by pouring through constitutional provisions, statutes, and case law and learning how to apply that body of precedent to the individual cases they face in their chosen practice area.

Now, several companies are trying to make that legal research easier.

A recent report in The Globe and Mail – a Canadian newspaper – describes a computer program named Ross that was built on the IBM Watson platform. (Watson is famous for winning Jeopardy in 2011.) Ross started as a class project at the University of Toronto as part of an IBM-sponsored contest among ten different schools, all using the Watson program. Ross’s main function is to respond to legal questions by researching through the thousands of laws and court decisions and producing a possible answer that would apply that knowledge to a current case. Though it is focused largely on federal bankruptcy law at present, Ross has already been hired at Dentons – the largest law firm in the world – and at some U.S. law firms, where it is currently going through pilot program testing.

If Ross or one of his competitorsproves successful, it could revolutionize legal research – which can be one of the most time-consuming parts of a law practice – and speed up every part of a lawyer’s workload that relies on research. Legal writing, counseling with clients, and negotiations could take less time, opening up more time for each attorney to take on new clients.

While such advanced computer programs will neverreplace attorneys, at the Tampa, Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we celebrate any technology that helps us work smarter for our clients. Along with legal research – whether computer-assisted or not –we will always draw from our own vast knowledge of personal injury, malpractice, and whistleblower case law to serve our clients. Contact us today to see how our knowledge can help you.

helping hands of the Hillsborough County Bar Association

Bar AssociationThere are dozens of statewide and local bar associations in Florida — meaning organizations of lawyers grouped by geography, demography, or court practice – but what they do is often a mystery to clients and others who happen not to be lawyers. Based in Tampa, Florida, the Hillsborough County Bar Association (HCBA) serves the members of the association and public by providing training, referrals, and opportunities to serve the less advantaged. Its mission statement emphasizes its dedication to community service: “…to inspire and promote respect for the law and the justice system through service to the legal profession and to the community.” Below are just some of the functions the HCBA serves:

Standards of Professionalism

Though The Florida Bar is responsible for establishing and enforcing Florida’s Rules of Professional Conduct, the HCBA took the commitment to professionalism one step further by proposing its own list of Standards of Professionalism. These standards promote cooperation and civility among attorneys as well as fairness and efficiency within the court system.

Lawyer Referral Service

The HCBA provides a lawyer referral service to any member of the public who is seeking a quality attorney. Clients using this service enjoy a reduced or even waived consultation fee, along with a free referral to an alternate lawyer if needed.

Hillsborough County Bar Foundation

This charitable arm of the HCBA gives member attorneys the opportunity to serve the poor, disabled, and disadvantaged who need legal assistance. Selected in 2009 to manage the statewide Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program, the foundation continued to run the program locally even after the statewide program ended. Each year, the foundation hosts a Law and Liberty Dinner to help fund local legal-related charities. WM has been pleased to be a sponsor of the Law and Liberty Dinner for many years.

Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

HCBA attorneys have access to CLE classes on a wide variety of topics, and even open these classes up to interested members of the public.

At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we’re proud that our attorneys have long been leaders in the community and in the Hillsborough County Bar Association. Currently, WM Partner Kevin McLaughlin is serving as President-Elect, and WM Partner Jason Whittemore serves on its Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors. Involvement in our local bar association is one more way we become educated on important legal issues, network with other attorneys and experts, and to give back to our great Tampa Bay community. If you are in need of a Tampa, Florida personal injury attorney, contact us today for a free consultation.

dramatic movie lawyer

Why Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore Attorneys are Like Paul Newman & Tom Cruise

The ABA Journal recently published an issue covering “100 Years of Law at the Movies,” exploring Why Hollywood Loves Lawyers. It concluded that “[t]he literature of law values tMovie Lawyershe object lesson over the cheap thrill. Audiences crave universal truths, and by the time the closing credits roll, movies about the law have left behind wisdom to live by.” We agree with that sentiment. Whether it’s Henry Fonda corralling his fellow jurors in 12 Angry Men, or Tom Cruise cornering “you want me on that wall” Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, lawyer movies can and usually do pack a mighty moral wallop. It’s no surprise that Atticus Finch found himself at the top of an American Film Institute list of famous heroes of the last 100 years. As the Institute rightly notes, “Heroism that acquits the falsely accused will hold its own against any nonstop action flick.”

We don’t practice criminal law at Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, but we feel that our quest for justice is no less rigorous and duty bound than that of Mr. Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird or of Matthew McConaughey in the gripping tale A Time to Kill. We, too, strive daily to see that wrongs are righted. Fortunately, Hollywood agrees that civil practice can be just as compelling – and just as filled with white-hat lawyers making society better and more just, one client at a time.

Below is a short list of some of the great lawyer movies dealing with civil lawyers and our fight to improve the lives of our clients.  We not only love these movies; we are proud of these civil justice-fighters, real and fictional.

Erin Brokovitch: “Not personal? That is my work! My sweat! My time away from my kids! If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is.”

Who doesn’t know of Erin’s true-life story fighting against a massive power company to get justice for hundreds of residents injured by contaminated water? What began as a personal quest for employment culminated in a life-changing verdict for the townspeople poisoned by Pacific Gas & Electric’s dangerous disposal practices. Though she wasn’t a lawyer herself, she and attorney Ed Masry certainly earned their badges as civil law heroes.

A Civil Action: “Now the single greatest liability a lawyer can have is pride. Pride… Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses and a hanging judge all put together. There is absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.”

Like Erin Brokovitch, A Civil Action is based on a true story of a lawyer who took on a large company responsible for damaging the health of the nearby townsfolk, this time causing terminal leukemia in several children. The story is a wonderful portrayal of a team of attorneys who quite literally risk everything to win justice against all odds.

The Insider: “You are important to a lot of people, Jeffrey. You think about that, and you think about them. I’m all out of heroes, man. Guys like you are in short supply.”

Big Tobacco went to war when a single courageous whistleblower, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (played by Russell Crowe), agreed to a 60 Minutes interview to expose the dangers of smoking. The Insider tells the tale of the legal battle that followed as Big Tobacco pulled out all the stops to suppress the interview.

Rainmaker: “Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross… it just happens… And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you’re nothin’ but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water.”

A fictional story steeped in legal ethics, Rainmaker tells the tale of a medical malpractice case against an unscrupulous insurance giant. Not every medical malpractice case we take rises to the level of a Hollywood blockbuster – but we never forget that every single case we accept is of enormous importance to the health and life of that individual client.

The Verdict: “I came here to take your money. I brought snapshots to show you so I could get your money. I can’t do it; I can’t take it. ‘Cause if I take the money I’m lost. I’ll just be a… rich ambulance chaser. I can’t do it. I can’t take it.”

Another medical malpractice story starring the fabulous Paul Newman, The Verdict features a once-ostracized lawyer who resists enormous personal and industry pressure to accept a large settlement for his client – because he believes, when no one else does, that his client deserves even more than that. This great movie dramatically illustrates why real-life potential clients should not be unduly “wowed” when lawyers advertise their “big-dollar” settlements – because you never know if that settlement, though large, was really as fair for the client as it was for the lawyer.

At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we work hard every day to emulate the commitment and heroism of the lawyers – real life and fictional – who stand up for the rights of their clients despite the strength of the opposition and against the pressure to settle too early, when doing so is not in our clients’ best interests. If you live near Tampa, Florida, and need a personal injury, medical malpractice, whistleblower, or wrongful termination attorney, contact us today for a free consultation. We may not have Paul Newman’s blue eyes or Tom Cruise’s boyish good looks – but we guarantee that our attorneys will work on your case with the same passion for justice that you see in their movies.


(Movie quotes from IMDb)

Florida Bill HR 1927

HR 1927Work with Tampa’s Experienced Class Action Litigation Attorneys!

Imagine that you purchase a wonderful new product – an energy drink or a new kitchen tool, for example. You consume or use the product but all does not go well. The energy drink causes you severe stomach distress or perhaps even exacerbates an existing condition, requiring a doctor’s care. The kitchen tool malfunctions, requiring stitches or destroying your countertop. All in all, your damages don’t amount to much: a few hundred or a few thousand dollars or even less, but you’d like to be able to encourage the company that manufactured the product to either improve it or stop making it. You don’t want anyone else to suffer like you did.

Now you face a dilemma: Do you spend thousands of dollars in court costs and attorney’s fees to prove a point and recover a few hundred dollars?

Fortunately, there is sometimes another option: a class action lawsuit. If others used the same product and were similarly injured by it, you can all get together and sue for the total amount of your damages, rather than each of you trying to bring the suit individually. Class action suits are designed to promote recovery in cases where the cost of litigation is likely to outweigh the damages of a single plaintiff. It allows big corporations to be found liable for harm they’ve caused on a small or large scale (think Erin Brockovich) to large groups of plaintiffs.

Now, however, a handful of senators are trying to severely limit this protection.

On April 22, 2015, U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) – the head of the House Judiciary Committee – introduced H.R. 1927, a bill purportedly seeking “to improve fairness in class action litigation.” Representative Goodlatte’s bill, if successful, would limit classes of plaintiffs in federal cases to those who suffered an injury (i.e., damage to body or property) “of the same type and extent as the injury of the named class representative or representatives.”

The key limitation, here, is the phrase “same type and extent.” Contrary to the bill’s purported purpose, that limitation would have a profound effect on the ability of plaintiffs to form classes large enough to create and maintain effective class action lawsuits.

To illustrate, imagine that, in the kitchen tool example above, the small appliance damaged your expensive granite countertop, while your neighbor used the same appliance and damaged her pressboard and plastic countertop. Even though you both used the same appliance and both damaged your countertops, because the extent of your damages is vastly different in value, the limitation proposed by H.R. 1927 would require you each to be in a different “class” of plaintiffs.

Again, to use the energy drink example, if your use of the drink only resulted in severe abdominal cramps and a few days of lost work, but your brother was bedridden because the drink caused a flare-up of his existing medical condition, you would be separated into two different classes because your injuries were not the same “type.”

This bill, of course, is fair only for corporations who dislike being sued. The more that corporations can limit the size of plaintiff classes, the less likely it becomes that any class will be large enough to challenge them in court. The smaller the classes, the smaller the potential settlement, and the smaller the odds that the settlement will cover the legal fees required to bring suit. Soon, defective products will go unchallenged because no group is large enough to force change.

At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to limit the rights of our clients. If you have been injured, contact us today for a free consultation.

medical malpractice

Medical MalpracticeMost of us agree that qualified doctors fill an important place in our society. They take care of us when we’re sick, they may save our lives when we are at death’s door, and they help minor and major injuries heal so that we can resume our normal lives.

Because doctors are so essential to our modern society, they have been given a sort of hero status, and many patients who have been injured by a doctor’s negligence are reluctant to pursue litigation. This mindset is compounded by several myths and exaggerations, put forth by the medical profession itself, that lead patients to believe that medical malpractice suits can tear down the medical profession and should be avoided.

Fortunately for all of us, the medical profession is largely stable. Here are several important truths that combat the prevalent myths about medical malpractice suits:

Medical Malpractice Awards Do Not Bankrupt Doctors

It is a commonly-expressed fear among medical professionals that a single medical malpractice suit could wipe out their personal savings. The truth is that most medical malpractice suits are resolved for an amount that is lower than the policy limits on the doctor’s malpractice insurance. Even the cases that end up going to a jury trial rarely result in awards greater than the policy limits.

Medical Malpractice Litigation Does Not Unduly Increase the Cost of Malpractice Insurance

News reporters are after an exciting story, and unusually high jury verdicts in medical malpractice claims are tantalizing fodder. The truth is that these huge verdicts are rare enough to attract attention as a unique news story precisely because they are not the norm. Many cases are settled out of court and, even when an above-average verdict is handed down, many of them are reduced by the courts. There has been little to no actual evidence to support the claim that doctors cannot afford malpractice insurance because of malpractice litigation.

Doctors Don’t Flock to States with Damage Caps

Some people fear that, if their state doesn’t cap recovery amounts for medical malpractice claims, then doctors will become scarce in their state. The truth is that states with damage caps have, on average, merely three to seven percent more doctors per capita than states without damage caps, and those states without damage caps have seen no significant shortage in doctor availability.

Medical Malpractice Results are Not Decided by Chance

Again, the most interesting news stories involve either the mildly injured patient who received millions or the severely injured patient who received nothing. While these results might seem to suggest that claims are decided by a roll of the dice, that is not true. Across the board, the severity of injury does have a strong effect on the ultimate amount of the award. Claimants with permanent injuries receive, on average, a greater award than those with temporary injuries.

Tort Reform Won’t Significantly Lower Health Spending

Proponents of tort reform measures such as damage caps argue that lowering doctors’ liability risks will translate into doctors spending less not only on liability insurance but on the superfluous tests they now feel they have to order in an excess of caution. Studies have shown that capping medical malpractice liability has no significant effect on medical spending — leading to the conclusion that doctors are ordering the tests they think are needed, and they won’t change that practice even if their liability is reduced.

The medical malpractice system is not perfect. As with most systems, there are problems that deserve attention. But improving the system can come only when the discussion is based on truths, not premised on fear or myth.

The Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore has the experience you need to guide you through your medical malpractice claim – and we have decades of experience not only settling but aggressively litigating medical malpractice cases as well . Email us today for a free consultation.

Suing a cruise line for cruise ship injuries

The cruise ship industry presents itself as the ultimate in vacations. Your “hotel” is a floating party, with mountains of food and endless entertainment, and in case that isn’t enough, you have Cruise Ship Injuries lawsuitregular opportunities to disembark and see different parts of the world. As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games… until someone gets hurt.

Just like amusement parks, cruise ships are liable for your injuries if they were caused by the negligence of the cruise ship or its crew. If a loose banister on a back staircase leads to a nasty fall, the cruise line should reimburse you for your injuries. If a leaky pipe makes a floor slippery, the cruise line should be held responsible for your medical expenses if you slip. If a crew member bumps into you with a cart, lacerating your leg, you shouldn’t have to pay for your own stitches and after care.

If you’re injured on a cruise ship, however, there could be worse things in store for you than a ruined vacation. Cruise lines are adept at limiting their liability and at protecting themselves from passenger injury lawsuits, so you must work immediately to protect your rights if you are injured.

Read the Fine Print

The last thing you want to be doing as you prepare for your cruise is to wade through the dense language of the contract of passage booklet. You’d rather choose your excursions and decide which lounges to eat in each night. Be advised, however, that this contract is binding between you and the cruise line, and it very likely limits your rights if you are to be injured during your cruise.

Keep Your Own Records

If you are injured, report it immediately to the crew, and file a report with the medical staff. Tell them what happened and help them treat you so that your health isn’t compromised and so you might be able to return to having fun.

While you’re doing that, however, keep your own notes. Take pictures and video footage of the scene of the accident, with details of loose screws or wet floors that might have caused your injury. Write down the names and addresses of any passengers who witnessed the accident, along with a brief description of what they say they saw. Write down the names and jobs of any crew members you talk to and notes on what you told them. Keep a log of how your injury impacts you during the remainder of the cruise.

Remember that, though you’ll likely see the crew taking notes and writing a report of the accident, their report is designed to help them – not you.

Observe Time Limits and Jurisdictional Limitations

Remember that contract you didn’t want to read? It probably tells you that you have six months to inform the cruise line about your injury – and because you agreed to it (by going on the cruise), if you miss that deadline, you could lose your whole case. You also probably have a much shorter time to file suit – usually around a year instead of the normal four. Most complicated, you probably won’t be able to file at your local courthouse. In fact, regardless of the port you left from, your residence, or the location of the cruise line’s offices, you’ll likely be required to file at a specific court in Florida.

The Tampa, Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore has the experience and expertise to handle your cruise line injury. Contact us today for a free consultation.




Suing a cruise line for cruise ship injuries

Most trial lawyers representing plaintiffs in civil cases work on a contingency- fee basis – meaning they don’t get paid anything unless and until they collect an award for their clients. This can translate into heavy risks for the attorneys involved, as some of the most important lawsuits involve years of work and hundreds of thousands of pages of court filings before a settlement or court resolution is reached.Florida Trial Lawyers Building

Each year, Public Justice awards a Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to recognize those lawyers who took risks to litigate important cases and right egregious wrongs. The 2015 award winner will be announced on July 13. We at WM congratulate each of the finalists for their tireless efforts and demonstrated commitment to justice. The five finalists are as follows:

David v. Signal International

Just the first in a string of related cases stretching over seven years, this case went all the way to a complex jury trial and proved that Signal International was responsible for labor trafficking, fraud, racketeering, and discrimination. The attorneys in the case proved that Signal International lured workers from India with false promises of permanent residency and good jobs. Once the workers were here, they were packed into tiny trailers and charged over $1,000 per month. Evidence at trial showed that when the workers tried to organize to take action, Signal International locked them in trailers and fired their leaders.  At the conclusion of the four- week trial, the jury unanimously awarded the workers $14-million.

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania v. Wetzell

After negotiations with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections were unsuccessful, this case was filed and quickly forced a negotiated settlement from the DOC on behalf of mentally ill prisoners held in solitary confinement. The settlement ensured prison reforms including regular mental- health evaluations for all prisoners, no solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners (absent “exceptional circumstances”), and limitations on restraints and other disciplinary measures for prisoners with severe mental illnesses.

Elwin v. NS Home for Colored Children & Province of Nova Scotia

This case ended over 70 years of horrific physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of African-Canadian orphans placed in the Halifax Home for Colored Children. When a series of personal- injury suits failed to convince the government that this “home” was abusive, the Elwin class- action case was filed in 2011. Finally, after a 14-year battle, the Canadian government and orphanage conceded what was happening and agreed to a $34-million settlement.

In re McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise and Salaam Litigation

In 1989, five young African-American and Hispanic teenagers were arrested and convicted of rape, serving between seven and thirteen years in prison. In 2002, the “Central Park Five” were exonerated and their coerced confessions exposed. Over the next 13 years, their attorneys fought through hundreds of depositions and hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery until the city finally agreed to a settlement of $41-million.

Navajo Nation v. U.S.

Attorneys for the Navajo Nation argued that for 70 years, the U.S. government mismanaged its trust of 14- million acres of land belonging to the Navajo Nation, depriving the Nation of royalties owed to it. At the conclusion of this eight-year case, the United States agreed to pay $554-million to the Navajo Nation.

At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we are proud to be part of a system that holds governments and corporations accountable for their wrongdoings. If you have been injured – physically, financially, or otherwise – by the actions of the government or a corporation, obtaining fair compensation can seem like a daunting, impossible task. We are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Scary lawyer, dirty legal tricks vs ethical rules

Legal Dirty Tricks vs Ethical RulesWork with the Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore attorneys who understand and implement the Florida Bar Ethics Rules.

When some litigants describe their ideal lawyer, they picture a “bulldog” attorney who will fight a no-holds-barred, guerrilla-type campaign designed to flatten the other party and leave them begging for mercy. Some litigants believe that, to be truly effective, lawyers must whip out an arsenal of tricks to bully the other side into submission.

The reality, fortunately, is that rules of the Florida Bar – together with other bar associations across the country – actively prohibit just this type of unfair legal practice.

Florida Bar Rule 4-8.4(d) directs that a lawyer shall not:

[E]ngage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic.

This rule has been used both broadly and specifically, and it serves to curb any tendency within the legal community towards harassment, bullying, or other dirty tricks. Rule 4-8.4(d) has been used, for example, to discipline a lawyer who frivolously reported the other party to the U.S. Attorney merely in an effort to intimidate her. Other attorneys have been disciplined under this rule for dishonest conduct surrounding their decisions to leave their old firms and take clients with them. Yet another attorney was disciplined because his inability to work with other attorneys delayed the administration of justice and increased the costs to his client.

Though it can be tempting to want to employ an attorney who works harder to get around the law than to obey it, most clients find that, in the end, such a lawyer is less effective at achieving the desired result. What is best is to seek an attorney who understands the laws relating to your case as well as the rules of ethics, through his or her long experience practicing to uphold them.

At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we strive to zealously and ethically represent our clients and to gain them every benefit allowed by the law. Because we understand the law and the rules that govern the legal practice, we can spend our time correctly applying the law to your case. If you have need of a personal injury, medical malpractice, or legal malpractice attorney in the Tampa, Florida area, contact us today for a free consultation.

Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore's ACTL fellows

ACTL Fellows: Alan Wagner, John McLaughlin, and Bill Wagner

The American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL), the most selective group of trial lawyers in North America, was founded in 1950 with the goal to improve the practice of civil and criminal trial law. Its mandate is “to improve and elevate the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession.” It counts as “honorary fellows” each of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, as well as the justices of the Canadian Supreme Court.

Membership in ACTL, though much sought-after, is difficult to obtain. ACTL guidelines, in fact, dictate that only 1% of the local attorney population of any given state or province may become an ACTL “fellow,” and its current membership includes a mere 5700 fellows, encompassing the United States and Canada. An attorney can become a member only by invitation after a minimum of 15 years of active trial practice experience. Only those trial attorneys who have earned the respect of the legal community, through their talent and integrity, have a shot at becoming a member.

As part of upholding its mandate, ACTL sponsors awards encouraging judicial independence, justice programs, courageous advocacy, and improvements to the litigation process. The Emil Gumpert award, for example, is an annual $100,000 award given to a program designed to improve the administration of justice.

ACTL is active in educating its own members as well as attorneys throughout Canada and the United States. It publishes codes of pretrial and trial conduct, with forwards by the Chief Justices of the United States and Canada. It has also produced trial advocacy materials for lawyers and judges, and it sponsors law student competitions in trial and appellate advocacy.

Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore is proud that three of our attorneys are ACTL fellows: Alan Wagner, John McLaughlin, and Bill Wagner.

Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore's ACTL fellows

Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore’s ACTL fellows

Together with the rest of our committed team of attorneys and staff, these three lead Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore in zealously fighting for our clients’ rights.

If you have been injured through someone else’s negligence, our attorneys have the experience, passion, and reputation to be your voice in court. Whether your case deals with personal injury, legal malpractice, or medical malpractice, contact us today for a free consultation.