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What To Do After a Catastrophic Event

Video Transcript

My name is Chris Parks. I'm a personal injury lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. This video has to do with catastrophic injuries and explosions.

If you searched online, looking for lawyers that do these types of cases and you've now come to this video, I want to talk to you a little bit about what to expect if you or a loved one has been injured in, like I say, an explosion or some sort of a catastrophic event. That might include, say a train wreck where a train hit a car. It could include a burn of any type, maybe a chemical injury, but something that is very much out of the ordinary, and this has happened to a loved one of yours and you're not sure what to do.

Let me start with an explosion. I've been practicing for 32 years. I started in Louisiana. I practiced in Texas, and I now practice in Colorado. I have practiced before both federal and state courts in every one of those three states. In the course of my career, I've represented people that have been killed in explosions. I've represented people that have been horribly burned, and I've represented people who have lost loved ones in train wrecks and explosions. Every one of these cases is different and very unique.

One of the cases that I worked on was the BP explosion in Texas City. It was a horrible, horrible accident. I want to use that as an example to give you an idea what would happen if you have lost a loved one, or you yourself have been injured in a really large explosion that's made the news, maybe even the national news, and you're watching this video only hours after it's happened, and you're wondering what's going to happen next. Here's what's going to happen.

Everyone will hire a lawyer

Everyone that was injured in that explosion is getting a lawyer. The people whose plant it was, in the case of BP, their plant blew up. Within moments of that explosion, people at BP knew to get on the phone with their in-house counsel and their outside counsel. In other words, their litigation team. Those lawyers have action plans for something like this. They have investigators that they've worked with in the past. They have experts that they've worked with in the past, and they are calling the investigators, and the experts, and other lawyers, and they are circling the wagon just as quickly as they can. They have to, it's their job, and it's their duty to their shareholders to do that. Because of that, if you're the family member of someone who's been injured or killed, and they're in the hospital, or you yourself have been injured, don't feel too bad about calling a lawyer, and at least getting some advice on what to do, because, again, the other side's doing it, they have to do it.
And I would encourage anyone that's been involved in something like that and seriously injured to call a lawyer, and at least get some answers to some questions.

Initial moments after the explosion

Let me tell you how it went in BP. I got the call from one of my clients, already an existing client in an asbestos case, the night that the explosion happened. Within a few days, I went over and visited with the client. I signed a contract with the client, and as soon as I had a contract, I had the right to speak on their behalf. I immediately called an expert that I had worked with before on a large chemical plant explosion and called several of the lawyers that I knew that had been working on other explosions in the recent past and got the names of OSHA experts, and process experts, engineering process experts. I was on the phone with those lawyers and those experts when I was driving home from my client's house with the contract, by the time I got back to my office, I had a couple of experts already retained, and I had an investigator starting to help me on the case. I also found other lawyers that were doing the same thing who had also signed up clients. It usually takes a day or two for the clients to ask around, do a Google search, get advice from other people, basically just to vet and find somebody that you think you can trust, who you can believe to at least get answers from. After that, it takes a couple more days to make the decision on who are you going to hire. Oftentimes, people interview three or four lawyers that have had experience in catastrophic cases. After that, those lawyers start finding out who else has been hired.

Pooling resources between lawyers

Often, and this happened in BP, the lawyers already knew each other because they're experienced in doing these types of cases in the state that the accident happened in. Those lawyers start to get together. They might call a meeting of all the lawyers that they know of and talk about pooling resources. The reason you want to pool resources in a really, really large case like the BP explosion, and this happened in the BP oil spill, is the cases are all going to likely be pooled anyway. In other words, the courts don't want to handle these cases in five different settings. They would rather assign everything to one judge. That definitely happens in federal court. It's called a MDL or a multi-district litigation. It also has happened more often in state courts. And if an accident happens in Texas, it's likely that there's going to be a state MDL, multi-district litigation. One judge is going to be assigned to handle the case. When that one judge gets the case, he's going to appoint someone on both sides to be the lead counsel for that side. I know this because in 1990, there was an oil spill in Galveston Bay, and I was appointed by Judge Lee Rosenthal to be the MDL counsel, lead counsel for all the plaintiffs, all the fishermen, all the crabbers, all the shrimpers that had a claim for damage to their livelihood and to their property from the oil and the oil spill. That's the way it works in this type of case.

In the BP case, we had a plaintiff's steering committee that handled all the decisions and all the motions that were put before the judge. Also, in a lot of these cases, the plaintiff's lawyers are going to get together and pool their resources and their money. And I've been involved in cases where we all wrote checks, put it into a common fund, and hired the best experts among all the experts that all the plaintiffs had already employed, and we took the very best, and said, "Let's get these guys to go over all the documents, and give us an opinion. Let's get this group over here to do all the engineering that needs to be done, all the engineering studies, make the decisions that are going to have to be made in this case, so we know how to recreate what happened, and let's assign certain lawyers to do certain depositions." One of the things that your lawyer needs to be able to do in a case like this is not just give orders in case he's put in charge of something by a judge, but also to take orders in case he is just on a committee or has been asked to work with other lawyers. There are a lot of egos in these types of cases. There are very few trial lawyers that don't have a large ego, but you have to be able to work together because these cases are usually handled in groups.

In addition, your lawyer has to be independent enough to not go with the group if it's not in your best interest. You certainly don't want a lawyer who's just going to ride the coattails of others and settle your case for whatever amount of money he can get. You want someone that's done these types of cases before that knows the value, and that knows how to independently handle the entire case if need be but is also willing to work with others.

I want to stop here for one reason. My phone number is on the screen right now. If you or a loved one have been injured in a catastrophic explosion or if you've been involved in some very unusual type of accident such as a train wreck, or a burn, or a chemical injury, give me a call. I'd be happy to talk to you. There's no obligation. I'm not going to put you under any pressure, but I can tell you about my own experience, whether or not I've handled the type of case that you have. And if I can't help you, and if I'm not the best lawyer for your case, I will be happy to give you the names of other lawyers that I think you should call and investigate to see if maybe they can do a better job. So, again, my name is Chris Parks, and I really hope that this has been of some help to you. Give me a call if you have any further questions. Thank you.


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