Litigation Ensures that a Client is Properly Represented in the Courtroom, Explains Ralph C. Chapa
Legal issues arise all the time. How people deal with them can lead to better results. Ralph C. Chapa, an attorney licensed to practice law in both Florida and Michigan explains the need to work with a lawyer experienced in litigation.
Often, people choose arbitration as it allows for settling a legal dispute outside of a courtroom. As such, people choose a lawyer based on cost and the area of law they specialize in. Ralph Chapa explains that this can be a mistake as arbitration does not always settle the problems. Meanwhile, the lawyer chosen to deal with arbitration may not have sufficient experience in litigation, leading to problems in the courtroom.
A litigator can be more expensive, but it can also lead to a variety of benefits. The disadvantages of arbitration are the advantages of litigation. Arbitration does not allow for appeals. Additionally, there can be a lack of consistency and no cross-examination. Additionally, it is not evidence-based, which means that legal issues are not always resolved in the fairest way possible.
Ralph C. Chapa identifies that there are a number of situations where litigation simply makes the most sense. This includes everything from real estate disputes to personal injury to construction and contractor liability. Particularly in areas of liability, evidence, and cross-examination matter.
Ralph Chapa, who has served in the capacity of President for the Association of Defense Trial Counsel, identifies himself as an aggressive and experienced litigator. He believes that people choosing a lawyer to represent them need to locate a lawyer with significant experience in litigation to ensure that they are able to build a case and provide proper representation inside the courtroom. When a case appears before a trial, fairness is one of the most important things. This involves being able to look at the evidence and cross-examining what the other party is providing. This is where litigation becomes the better option over the arbitration.
As Ralph C. Chapa explains, too many lawyers don’t have sufficient courtroom experience. They are not capable of providing proper representation of a case, which can lead to losing a liability lawsuit. Ralph Chapa identifies that most legal offices provide a complimentary initial consultation. He recommends that anyone seeking a lawyer take advantage of this in order to ask questions, including learning more about their litigation experience.
Ralph C. Chapa graduated from Michigan State University and attended law school at Wayne State University. He has been practicing law for over 30 years and understands the aggressiveness necessary to perform well in litigation cases. When people with legal issues require a lawyer, he believes it is critical to perform sufficient research to ensure that an experienced lawyer is hired.
Restaurant Owners Need to Understand Liquor Liability, Explains Attorney Ralph Charles Chapa
Many restaurants serve liquor to diners, whether at the bar or at a dining room table. Liquor liability insurance is needed in order to address the liability issues that arise. Attorney Ralph C. Chapa out of Farmington Hills, Michigan discusses the need for understanding liquor liability.
Ralph Chapa explains how any restaurant serving liquor needs to have liquor liability insurance. It offers financial protection in the event that someone drinks too much and gets into an accident. In some instances, liability lawsuits can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
It’s not just about having insurance, however. There are a lot of things that restaurants can do in order to reduce the likelihood of anyone getting into an accident after consuming alcohol. Ralph Charles Chapa discusses various alcohol training courses that restaurant employees can take. This includes ServSafe, a program that was developed by the National Restaurant Association. It allows servers and bartenders to identify when a person has had too much to drink.
Ralph C. Chapa discusses how many restaurants have to do their due diligence to cut people off from ordering another drink if they are visibly intoxicated. If a restaurant continues to serve someone, they are responsible for all that a person does once they leave the restaurant. This is what is known as liquor liability.
Should a person get hurt or hurt someone else, such as in a drunk-driving accident, after leaving the restaurant, they can sue the restaurant. Ralph Chapa has represented a number of restaurants throughout the years in liquor liability lawsuits. The insurance that a restaurant has covered most if not all of the legal costs as well as the settlement that is provided to the individual. However, a case needs to be built in order to defend the restaurant for what happened.
Ralph Charles Chapa identifies that even the most responsible restaurants can experience risks when serving people who have had too many drinks. Those risks can turn into accidents. With many people not wanting to accept responsibility for their own actions, they will choose to sue the restaurant.
Ralph C. Chapa does identify that there are plenty of ways that a restaurant can protect itself, and it involves more than just getting an insurance policy. He explains that anyone responsible for serving guests alcohol should go through some level of alcohol training. It can also be advantageous to re-certify employees on an annual basis so that certain details are not forgotten.
Ralph Charles Chapa has been practicing law for over 30 years in Michigan. He has worked for a variety of defense organizations and has served in the capacity of president of the Association of Defense Trial Counsel. Further, he urges restaurant owners to receive legal counsel prior to serving alcohol within their establishments in order to better understand liquor liability.
Picture it: it’s Saturday night, and you’re in a bar. You see someone who has had a little bit too much to drink. The bartender refuses to serve them another. Their friend orders two drinks, gives one to their intoxicated friend, and no one is the wiser.
This can seem like a harmless scenario, and it may very well be – for everyone except the owner of the business. Ralph C. Chapa Jr. of Kaufman, Payton & Chapa, has the experience necessary to know that liquor liability is an important part of any restaurant and/ or bar’s insurance plan.
Many restaurant owners believe that general liability insurance is enough, but according to liability lawyer Ralph C. Chapa Jr., this isn’t the case.
Professional liability attorney Ralph C. Chapa Jr. explains it as follows:
Imagine that your restaurant serves liquor, beer, and Italian food. A family comes in and loads up on pasta and martinis, and they’re tipsy when they leave. On the way home, they get into an accident, and someone in the other car dies.
Believe it or not, the relatives of the deceased have every right to sue your restaurant for the wrongful death of their loved one. This is where liquor liability insurance comes into play. Ralph Chapa explains that proper liquor liability insurance can be the difference between an unfortunate event and a devastation for your business.
If you serve liquor, wine, or beer at your establishment, Ralph Chapa believes that it’s vital that you carry liquor liability insurance. You’re not just protecting your employees – you’re protecting the livelihood of you and your family.
Ralph C. Chapa Jr. of Kaufman, Payton & Chapa has spent years advising business owners who have found themselves in sticky situations that could have been avoided with proper liquor liability insurance. According to Ralph Chapa, liquor liability insurance is one of those things that make perfect sense in hindsight. Many of the people who have worked with Ralph Chapa mentioned that the felt liquor liability insurance wasn’t important, as they were well covered by their insurance policy.
Far too often, Ralph C. Chapa Jr. says, this situation simply isn’t true.
Professional liability attorney Ralph Chapa has seen too many businesses go belly up because of a lack of liquor liability insurance. Ralph Chapa advises business owners who sell alcohol to talk with their insurance agent to find out more about how they’re covered in the event that someone who has been drinking at their establishment causes personal or property damage after being overserved. This situation happens often, and sometimes is not the fault of the person behind the bar.
When it comes to prestigious professions, there aren’t many that can hold a candle to being a lawyer. When an attorney tells people what they do for a living or hands someone a business card, they generally make a good impression. However, there is a reason that lawyers tend to command high salaries — it’s not an easy job. And despite the television and movie stereotype of lawyers arguing passionately in a stately courtroom, the majority of attorneys do not have a particularly glamorous career.
What is it really like to be an attorney? We sat down with litigator Ralph Chapa to find out.
First: What’s the Difference Between Litigators and Trial Attorneys?
According to Ralph Chapa, litigators generally handle the preliminary and behind-the-scenes business of a civil suit. They file lawsuits, gather evidence, meet with clients, conduct legal research, draft briefs, and interview involved parties. They also file and argue motions. Some, but not all, litigators focus their efforts on mediation and out-of-court settlements rather than pushing a case to go to trial.
Trial lawyers, on the other hand, thrive when in front of a judge and jury. There, they tackle all the tasks that you see on true-crime shows or courtroom dramas: delivering opening and closing statements, present evidence, and question witnesses.
A Day in the Life of a Litigator
So what does a lawyer do, if their time is not spent making impassioned speeches, pacing the hallway while the jury deliberates, holding press conferences, or reassuring clients?
Would-be litigators can expect to spend the bulk of their days conducting research, either in a law library or at their own desk. Of course, explains Ralph Chapa, they also meet with clients, expert witnesses, and opposing counsel.
These are generalities, of course, and every attorney’s daily routine differs slightly. At smaller law firms and in independent practices, a litigator may be involved with every step of the process: investigation, pleadings, discovery, pre-trial, trial, settlement, and appeal. Litigators who work for larger firms will have to work their way up the legal-practice ladder, starting with research and writing memos. They may observe their colleagues during a trial, or they could be tapped to argue a motion in court.
Ralph Chapa encourages law students who are undecided about their future as an attorney to do some soul-searching and to be honest with yourself. If you enjoy the challenge of intellectual combat, don’t shy away from long hours and hard work, are tenacious and determined, and are willing to put in your time as a junior member of a law firm to earn your stripes, then a career in law as a litigator or a trial attorney might be a good choice for you.
Dishonest, immoral, money-grubbing, opportunistic, calculating, uncaring, self-centered, Machiavellian, narcissistic — these are just a few of the personality traits that so many people associate with attorneys. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny the fact that lawyers get a pretty bad rap, at least in pop cultural portrayals.
Of course, no group of people can be painted with such a broad brush. Lawyers come from all walks of life, champion many deserving causes, and do good work for their clients. Yes, there are some greedy and cold-hearted individuals, but that’s true of almost every profession.
So what personality traits does it take to tackle law school, pass the bar exam, and become a successful attorney? We spoke to experienced litigator Ralph Chapa to get his take on the topic.
1. A Way with Words
Expertly crafted prose, whether it is in the form of a movie script, novel, blog post, or closing statement, has the power to change minds and hearts. An excellent trial lawyer, in particular, needs to have a flair for writing. She should be able to craft a compelling argument, tap into jurors’ emotions, and present succinct reasons for her client’s actions. Even when dealing one-on-one with a client, or brokering a settlement in a board room, an attorney should be articulate and well-spoken. Ralph Chapa, who understands the necessity of an affinity for language in the law, says that many people discount this attribute or give it less credit than it deserves.
We sometimes hear about “aggressive attorneys”. In reality, what those folks are talking about is usually assertiveness, rather than straightforward aggression. What’s the difference? Ralph Chapa says that assertiveness is making oneself heard and communicating with conviction, but also with respect. Aggressive people, on the other hand, often attack their adversaries verbally, sling mud, or cross the line of human decency all in the name of winning. Assertiveness is people-forward and can get the job done just as effectively but without causing ill will.
Perseverance is another key quality for future attorneys to display. If they don’t have the determination to get up eight times after being knocked down seven, it’s not likely that they’ll make it through law school, let alone go on to a successful law career.
According to Ralph Chapa, perseverance also serves a practicing attorney well. Learning from failure, applying the lessons, and never calling it quits until there’s no other option — those are essential aspects of winning cases and changing clients’ lives.
Lawyers? Compassion? Absolutely, says Ralph Chapa. Lawyers have to be able to understand what their clients are experiencing, in order to argue on their behalf and advocate for their rights. A keen sense of the wide range of human emotions, and the ability to step into any of those emotions to gain clarity, will help distinguish brilliant lawyers from the mediocre.
Compassion and the willingness to look at a situation from every angle and perspective can also help an attorney formulate his approach. After all, he needs to anticipate what his adversary will feel, and how they will react, in order to craft an effective long-term strategy for winning a case.
Have you ever seen a bartender refuse to serve an already-intoxicated patron? No one who works in the hospitality industry wants to be responsible, however indirectly, for an auto accident or other incident caused by someone who is incapacitated. Nevertheless, it is fairly easy for a determined drinker to get a refill on their scotch and soda or margarita; all they have to do is ask a friend to buy a round or try their luck with a different bartender. That’s why liquor liability laws are an absolute necessity for any establishment that serves alcoholic beverages, according to Ralph Charles Chapa.
Attorney Ralph Charles Chapa, who specializes in insurance law, including professional, premises, products, liquor, and general liability, explains what liquor liability is and how to know if your business needs it.
What Is Liquor Liability Insurance?
Most states require any establishment that serves liquor – including but not limited to bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants, wineries or breweries – to carry this type of insurance. It protects the owners of those establishments from being held liable in the event that a patron causes injury or harm to other people or property after having been served alcohol there.
My Restaurant Has General Liability, Isn’t That Enough?
No. Ralph Chapa explains that liquor liability is not included in general liability coverage and must be purchased separately if you are in the business of manufacturing, selling or serving alcoholic beverages.
If your company isn’t part of the industry but serves alcohol – say, at an office Christmas party or even just a Friday happy hour event – it will be covered by a general insurance policy. This is called host liquor liability insurance and protects you from alcohol-related claims.
Why Is It Necessary? Ralph Chapa Explains:
Let’s say you own a tavern that serves beer, wine, liquor as well as burgers, chicken wings, and pizza. A patron spends his evening at the bar, drinking steadily and becoming intoxicated. As he is driving home, he T-bones another vehicle, killing the driver. It’s a terrible occurrence, but surely your tavern isn’t responsible, right? After all, you didn’t tell the patron to get behind the wheel.
Legally speaking, however, your establishment can be held liable, says Ralph Charles Chapa. The family of the victim has every right to file a lawsuit against you for playing even a bit part in this tragedy.
What Does Liquor Liability Insurance Include?
Not every insurance policy is created equally. It’s important to understand what a policy includes and excludes before you sign off on it. Otherwise, there might be a gap in your coverage that can lead to financial ruin and even the demise of your business. Here are some aspects of liquor liability coverage that attorney Ralph Chapa advises you to get:
- Assault and Battery Coverage. Many claims are the result of physical altercations that arise when one or more patrons are inebriated.
- Defense Costs. Going to court to defend your business can get expensive. Be sure that your insurance policy includes defense costs outside the policy limit so that clearing your good name doesn’t bankrupt you down the line.
- Non-Physical Damages. It’s not unusual for a victim to claim stress, mental injury, or emotional anguish stemming from an alcohol-related incident.
- Employee Inclusion. Do your employees drink on the job? Even if they are forbidden to do so, chances are they flout that rule. For the purposes of potential lawsuits, make sure that employees will also be considered patrons if they do indulge.
There’s no getting away from it: a business that serves alcohol is going to shoulder some enormous risks. However, Ralph Charles Chapa emphasizes, when it comes to liquor liability, you can make provisions that will minimize that risk – so you can focus on the rewards of running a successful bar or eatery.
It’s the start of a new decade! Now that the ball has dropped, the calendar page has been flipped, and the noisemakers have become quiet, it’s time to put the partying behind you and get serious about your plans for improvement in the new year. Whether you call them resolutions or goals, it’s important to be clear about what you want to accomplish, to set benchmarks for yourself, and to keep sight of the big picture even as you focus on the smaller steps necessary to achieve those aims.
Ralph Charles Chapa, partner at Kaufman, Payton & Chapa, has some suggestions for insurance agents looking not just to grow their business but also to provide superior coverage and excellent service to their clients.
1. Addressing Agency Policy as Regards Errors and Omissions
Errors and omissions claims can deal an enormous blow to an insurance agency. The ramifications are not just financial, although the economic impact can be devastating; these claims place a great deal of stress upon the agency’s employees. The ripple effect that often plays out can impact morale, efficiency, and overall performance.
Ralph Chapa strongly advises that you hire an independent contractor to perform an audit with regards to errors and omissions. At the very least, undertake a self-audit – but be extra vigilant about the entire process. As with any type of self-evaluation, a major pitfall to steer clear of is subjectivity.
2. Big Picture Thinking Means an Investment In Training and Education
Keeping everyone up to speed with industry advances and best-practice protocols is one of the savviest moves an agency can make, explains Ralph Chapa. Sometimes agencies, particularly smaller ones, can make the mistake of being penny wise but pound foolish, and in no area of the business is this more common than in training and continuing education. Agencies might feel they cannot afford to send employees to conferences or seminars, either because of the expense of the training itself or the loss of productivity incurred by taking them away from their quotidian duties.
However, Chapa urges agencies to remember that this truly is an investment. The results might not be immediate, but empowering your agents through rigorous continuing education will result in a more robust business across the board.
3. Take Time to Re-Evaluate and Refresh Your Metrics
How do you measure the success of your agency? How do your agents measure their own performance – and perhaps most importantly, are the two approaches aligned? The dawn of a new decade is an ideal time to review metrics and benchmarks, make sure everyone’s on the same page, and make any adjustments that may be necessary to reflect the current state of business.
One crucial measure that successful agencies should be tracking, according to Ralph Chapa, is response time. Consumer expectations regarding a response from a company or agency have skyrocketed in the past decade or two, thanks in large part to the migration of customer service channels to social media.
It wasn’t that long ago that response time was measured in hours or days; now, it’s vital to respond to queries, complaints, and requests for information in minutes – and the fewer minutes, the better. Bear in mind that even if it’s impossible to fully resolve the issue at hand in such short order, an acknowledgment of the client’s communique goes a long way toward relationship building.
Ralph C. Chapa, partner, Kaufman, Payton & Chapa, is an aggressive, experienced litigator. His practice concentrates on insurance coverage and commercial litigation, as well as professional, premises, products and general liability.