By Bernard D. Nomberg , Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
I have been practicing law for more than 20 years and I am typically in a courthouse somewhere in the state of Alabama every week. I have been privileged to represent hundreds of clients who were injured on the job. While it is second nature for me to interact with attorneys, judges and court personnel, it is not that way for most all of my clients. When I am representing them it is often the most stressful time of their life. Injury leads to not working which leads to less income and then leads to increased stress at home. This can go on for weeks, even months or years.
Prior to attending depositions, trials or court hearings which involve my client, I always set a time to prepare with them before the event. Most clients have watched legal thrillers or dramas unfold on television. So naturally we address the fact that their particular case is going to be nothing like television. They are nervous nonetheless. Since my cases involve civil actions (typically for money) as opposed to criminal matters, there is very rarely an “aha” moment of their case in court. Even though we significantly prepare for court or testifying, clients usually remain nervous throughout the process. I never take for granted the way they feel about having to go through this ordeal. The more comfortable they become about this matter the more natural they feel and the easier it is for them to tell their story under oath. Even with all this preparation, some clients also feel better if they go by the courthouse a day or two before their big day. They want to get a feel for the environment or check out the courtroom.
For most clients their day in court is one of the biggest events of their lives. Most have suffered a debilitating injury while at work and this injury has altered their life significantly, and for many, permanently. Usually the first time they enter the courtroom is the day we ask the court to approve a proposed settlement of their claim. Attendance at court is mandatory, as the client will have to affirm under oath to the court their intention to settle and understanding of the terms. Although we are typically at the courthouse for less than an hour, it can be a harrowing experience even for the most prepared clients.
One such recent example involved a woman in south Alabama who injured her back while working in a warehouse moving large containers of clothes. She injured her low back when attempting to move one such box. She immediately felt pain and reported it to her supervisor. After several months of conservative and diagnostic care, it was determined by her physicians that her back injury was just a temporary aggravation of an injury she suffered several years prior in a car accident. This was not a new injury. The employer denied the claim. A compromised settlement was reached after several months of negotiations. As we approached the court hearing date, the client, who was naturally a very nervous person, met with me in person and on the phone several times to prepare. The day of the hearing the client was so nervous that she threw up in the bathroom! After she settled down we conducted the hearing without further incident. The judge was quite cordial and accommodating. He set her at ease and we finished the hearing. After the hearing, not surprisingly, the client shared with me that she was more nervous than her wedding day.
While I have never been injured on the job, except for getting pelted by my brother during a racquetball game, I can appreciate what my clients are going through. My job is not just to advise them on the law, but also to guide them through a very difficult time of their life. It is a task I look forward to doing every day.
Bernard D. Nomberg has been a member of the Alabama State Bar since 1995. Bernard has represented injured workers for over twenty (20) years. Bernard is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell. He has been recognized as a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers magazine and Top Attorney by B-Metro and Birmingham magazines.