Some of the largest cases we have handled involve damage purely to property and the catastrophic financial results that follow. These cases are distinct from other types of general liability claims because the merits are far less based on credibility and expert testimony and far more on the conduct of the parties before, during, and after the loss occurs.
Here at Muehlbauer Law Office, we'll take the time to get deep into the details of your case and evaluate where the strengths and weaknesses lie as early on as we can. Property damage cases usually look black and white at the outset based on the contracts and policies in place during the loss, so it is tempting to judge the case very early on. Underneath the surface, though, we usually find that the sides see things very differently and had very different expectations of who carried the risk of loss, what agreements were in effect, and what the actual measure of damages will be.
The ideology for the Muehlbauer Law Office is summed up in the following 5 points:
- Know your case like the back of your hand. Call us anytime with questions and we'll answer them and not just say "we'll get back to you" while we walk down the hall to ask someone else. Unlike larger firms, we don't have junior associates running everything and whispering in our ear - we know our cases inside and out. That's our job.
- Evaluate the business relationships involved. Property damage cases are primarily between businesses. These businesses may have ongoing relationships and may even still be working together. It's important to talk to the client very early on and discuss the ramifications that our legal strategy can have on their business relationship. The carrier's rights also need to be considered in this same analysis. If there's an ongoing relationship, the discussion between the client and carrier can be a little bit challenging at times, but these are the types of conversations that need to be held very early on so everyone can get on the same page.
- Evaluate your case early. Identify the strengths and weaknesses early on and let the client know. This is particularly true in property damage cases because the damages are usually relatively quantifiable at the outset of the case and we have to work backwards to unravel the claim. A lawyer shouldn't be afraid to take a position on an issue and explain why; lawyers don't get hired to write "To Be Determined" in every line of a case evaluation. Use experience and knowledge of the law to give recommendations on a course of action, even if the facts are imperfectly known. If early analysis ends up being inaccurate later on, explain to the client why that is and how it changes the strategy as soon as you know.
- Make a substantive offer to opposing counsel as early as possible. Property damage claims are somewhat unique in the field of general liability because the parties involved are usually sophisticated and not emotionally involved in their case. Even if an offer doesn't resolve the case, it can still tell you where your opponent is at and help you craft your litigation strategy.
- Manage costs by litigating the case in phases. This means we don't front-load costs or work - we handle each task as necessary, but keep a constant line of communication open with opposing counsel on settlement. This allows you to make sure you are only spending on defense what needs to be spent to get the best result and not just spending for the sake of spending.
- Limit motion practice to only those motions that make sense for the case. Don't use a shotgun approach hoping that the judge will like one of your many scattered arguments; focus on only the best arguments and give the judge the best quality brief you can on those issues.
- Keep the client and/or carrier informed in a way that they want. This means understanding that spending 4 hours writing a status report the client doesn't want or need is unacceptable. We tailor communication to the client's desires. Most of our clients tell us they want short e-mails when anything important happens and status reports periodically summing up the key developments over a 120-day period.
This ideology has developed over the years and served us well. Property claims require early attention and analysis perhaps more than any other type of claim; otherwise your costs can spiral out of control and you may regret not trying to find a path towards resolution sooner.