Carl N. Lauer
Dulaney Lauer & Thomas LLP
BA, Hamilton College
JD, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Best known for:
My practice is 50% plaintiff’s personal injury and 50% claimant’s workers’ compensation.
Early in my career, I had a general practice which included criminal law defense. I won a reversal for a speedy trial claim in Funk v. Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 694,432 SE2d 193 (Va. Ct. App.1993). In that case, the court held the defendant should have been brought to trial within five months of his detention following his indictment even though he was originally detained in a different jurisdiction in Virginia from that in which his charge was pending.
The defendant had escaped from the Fauquier County jail in December 1988 when he had been a jail trustee. In January 1991, he was arrested in Hanover County on charges unrelated to his escape. The next day he was served a teletype arrest warrant under the detainer statute. The court found that this process constituted an arrest and the commonwealth needed to try him within five months as he remained in custody during that time. Since the commonwealth’s ttorney in Fauquier County did not try him within five months, the court reversed his conviction and dismissed the escape charge.
Frankly, by the time the court made this finding, Mr. Funk had already served his time on the escape charge and the dismissal had very little impact on his substantial felony record. Thus, one may ask why this case was so important? I certainly did not think it was at the time.
However, when the DC sniper John Muhammad was captured and then indicted in various jurisdictions in Virginia, all of the Virginia jurisdictions served Muhammad in the same fashion as Funk had been. Muhammed was subsequently convicted in a timely basis on his Prince William County charges, but all of his other Virginia charges were subsequently dismissed based upon the speedy trial ruling in Funk . Given that Mihammed could only be put to death once, the Commonwealth certainly saved millions of dollars in expense that the various additional trials would have cost, but the outcome could have been different if the Prince William convictions had been overturned.
In any case, what I initially thought was a garden-variety case, ultimately proved to have a huge impact on the prosecution of one of Virginia’s worst perpetrators ever. Since that time, I have remembered that any case or claim can have a major impact on our legal system.
The ability to help injured people overcome their injuries by getting them the best available medical care and obtaining the financial recovery to allow them to return to the most normal life possible.
Working with clients:
I try to give my clients the best advice possible. To accomplish this task, I do not have a high-volume practice. I try to spend sufficient time with each perspective client to get to know their issues, learn their priorities, and determine if we will be a good fit to work with each other. Thus, I will typically take a couple of hours in my initial intake to thoroughly review the facts and circumstances of their individual claim.
In workers’ compensation claims, if I am not going to take the claim, I will try to give the claimants sufficient information to know how best to proceed with their claim, whether I think another attorney will or will not be interested in their claim, and how to proceed on their own if I do not believe another attorney will be interested in handling their claim.
For the claims I do take, many of the claimants are angry and upset as well as being in pain and uncertain about their futures. I try to calm their emotions by giving them an overview of their claims in the step-by-step approach that I will take to handle their immediate and long-term concerns. I emphasize that the workers’ compensation system takes time to work and that it requires a great deal of patience when you least want to be patient. Finally, I tell my clients you want to choose your battles carefully, just because you have a legal right to something does not always mean you should attempt to pursue it. The goal is not to win or lose, but to take whatever steps are necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for his or her claim.
Sometimes you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar and other times you need to aggressively pursue the claim. Your job is to guide the claimant in choosing the best path to try to accomplish his or her goals and obtain the best possible outcome.
Best career advice:
First, do not be afraid to turn cases down. If you do not have sufficient time, resources or expertise to handle a matter, refer the potential client to someone who does. Second, if you are going to practice workers’ compensation on the claimant’s behalf, you should join the workers’ compensation section of VTLA. There is no more valuable resource for claimant’s attorneys than the VTLA workers’ compensation listserv! It deserves a “Go to Award” as well!
The members of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation American Inn of Court, which includes the senior members of both the claimants’ and defense bar, have recently submitted to the full commission recommendations to revise the Rules of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. I anticipate that these recommendations will result in substantial and positive changes to the Rules.