Judge Wapner, Perry Mason, And When You Should File Your Own Lawsuit

One of the most respected judges of our day, Joseph A. Wapner, died yesterday at the age of 97.

Haven’t heard of him? From 1981 – 1993 he was the TV judge who issued King Solomon-like decisions on the widely watched show The People’s Court. Judge Wapner lived a rich and productive life. With a nod to last night’s Academy Awards, in high school in Hollywood, he dated Lana Turner who went on to become a famous actress. He served in World War II and received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, practiced law in Los Angeles for 10 years, and served as a judge on the California municipal and superior courts for 20 years. He even got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. How many lawyers can say that?

His show was the first of a long line of courtroom reality programs that continue today. OK, beginning in 1957 there was the Perry Mason show about a brilliant criminal defense lawyer who somehow always won his cases.

A poll showed that almost no Americans could name even one justice on our exalted Supreme Court, but more than half could name Judge Wapner, who heard small disputes about evictions and dog bites.

These two TV lawyers/judges revolutionized the court system. Wapner showed viewers they didn’t need lawyers. Mason inspired many of us young people to become attorneys and upped everyone’s game.

What is Small Claims Court?

Many disputes are relatively small and can be successfully handled by individuals in these “people’s courts.” The advantage is they can lead to a judgment without the delays and expenses that lawyers inevitably bring. These small claims courts can hear disputes involving damages up to $10,000.00. Case filing is easy, costs are inexpensive, legal evidence and pre-trial maneuvering are minimal, trial dates are quick, and a decision is rendered on the spot. What’s not to like? The only down side is that a favorable ruling can be easily appealed.

In personal injury cases, a small fender bender that did not cause bodily injuries is a perfect example of a claim that should be filed here. If a person is not able to negotiate a fair settlement of the value of his or her vehicle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, he can file his own lawsuit.

Here is more information on how to handle a case in Tarrant County and Dallas County.

When Is a Personal Injury Lawyer Necessary?

However many cases do require the services of an injury lawyer. I recommend that you consider hiring one in these cases when

  • liability is being contested,
  • a person is injured,
  • medical bills are incurred,
  • payment for bills, lost wages, and other damages is not timely made by the other driver’s insurance company, or
  • the injured person does have the time or desire to handle the many complicated details himself.

In these situations, you should call a lawyer and discuss the best strategy to pursue.

I’m pleased that the State Bar of Texas selected this blog as the second best from an attorney this week. First place was written by the writing director of the University of Texas Law School about when to use the dash in documents. I enjoy blogging about personal injury topics to help educate the driving public.


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