Practice Areas

Crisis Management

We are leaders in identifying the implicit, potential implications and consequences of planned conduct so as to prevent crises from occurring as a result of contemplated action or critical decision making. Working with corporate governance officials or boards, we assist in the development of crisis prevention and response plans so that if a crisis does arise, there is no question about the response protocol. And whether we are involved in pre-crisis planning or not, we are adept at developing comprehensive, strategic response and mitigation plans, and causing their implementation. We quickly ascertain the scope of a crisis, anticipate short term and long term risks, and promptly stabilize situations to avoid further exposure. We do so while carefully acting to protect personal and brand reputations while engaging in the delicate balance of making appropriate accountability commitments. With the benefit of the attorney-client privilege, we help to create and publish strategic communications, often working side-by-side with public relations consultants. We interface with media, and frequently act as spokespersons for our clients, when appropriate. We recommend and retain interdisciplinary specialists when called for, always with an eye toward maintaining privileges and confidences. This may include investigators, threat assessment teams, technology and information consultants—and routinely, other lawyers who may situationally be more specialized than we are, and whose services we manage on behalf of our client.


Business, Commercial and Consumer Litigation

In the broad context of business, commercial and consumer activities, a variety of disputes can and do arise. Our first priority for clients is to avoid litigation when possible, by seeking alternative dispute resolutions. But when there is a need to filing file litigation, or defend, we have almost three decades of experience representing large and small companies, and individual entrepreneurs in those litigation matters, whether in courts or in arbitration or administrative venues. We have achieved scores of successful defense and plaintiff outcomes for clients involved in anti-trust and intellectual property issues, partnership disagreements, business divorces, financial services and lending disputes, trade secret thefts and other improper competitor activities, securities law violations, real estate, land use and eminent domain matters, owner-contractor construction disputes, business fraud, employment related problems, professional (attorney, architect and engineer) malpractice, and insurance coverage and bad faith concerns. Alone or in the form of class actions, we are experienced in handling cases involving consumer fraud and other deceptive trade and business practices.


Serious Personal Injury, Wrongful Death and Product Liability

When someone suffers death or a serious, life altering personal injury as a result of the negligence of another, their family is facing a crisis that requires the help of lawyers who are experienced both in understanding all the family and injured individual are going through, and how to best address the negligence which caused the crisis. It is impossible to fully compensate for the loss of a family member, or when a person’s physical health is irreparably damaged. Yet personal injury and wrongful death cases do provide significant compensation, to make life better for the person who is injured, and his or her family. And personal injury cases also send a powerful message that corporations and individuals must take responsibility for their actions.

We have earned a national reputation representing individuals and families in complex personal injury and wrongful death cases. We have a proven ability to hold responsible parties, whether they are multinational corporations, banks, insurance companies, hospitals or other large defendants, or individuals who make negligent mistakes, accountable. We achieve settlements in most cases, but when the need arises, we provide trial counsel that is second to none. Whether a case involving injuries or death caused by a vehicle accident, unsafe workplace conditions or negligence, medical malpractice, or a defective or dangerous drug, medical device, or other product, we apply our extensive resources to obtain the most favorable settlements and jury verdicts for our clients.

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Auto Defects

Automobile recalls often happen too late to prevent unnecessary accidents, injuries and deaths. Our firm handles claims regarding:

  • Seatbelt failures
  • Airbag defects
  • Tire defects
  • Seatback collapses
  • Vehicle fires
  • Rollovers
  • Child car seat defects

Birth Injuries

When a birth injury is not the result of a birth defect, but rather the result of medical negligence, we hold the doctors or other medical professionals accountable. We litigate for medical negligence claims that may involve:

  • Negligent fetal monitoring
  • Inadequate follow-up care
  • Inadequate monitoring of the pregnancy
  • Failure to recognize abnormal positioning of the fetus (such as a breach birth)
  • Failure to recognize an umbilical cord around the infant’s neck
  • Failure to perform a timely C-section
  • Impulsive vacuum extraction

Brain Injuries

Brain damage is often the result of either blunt trauma or oxygen deprivation (cerebral hypoxia). We litigate claims for our clients involving both causes of brain injuries:

  • Trauma from impact: Severe impact in a car accident, from a falling hook on a crane, or other accident may cause skull fractures, subdural hematoma (brain bleed), or other brain injury. In addition, the forceful impact of an auto accident often causes the individual’s head to jerk forward and backward which is commonly known as whiplash. What many people do not realize is that this jerking motion may cause the brain to impact the front and back of the skull and damage cells (axonal brain shearing injury).
  • Trauma from hypoxia: Insufficient oxygen to the brain – often resulting from a near drowning, chemical exposure, or negligence during birth – can cause brain cells to die or sustain damage. Depending on the level of damage caused by oxygen deprivation, the individual may have serious cognitive problems, developmental effects, or other impairments.

Burn Injuries

Burn injuries are classified in three different severities:

  • First degree burns — Involving the outer layer of skin, first degree burns cause minimal tissue damage.
  • Second degree burns — Involving two layers of skin: the outer layer (epidermis) and the next layer (dermis).
  • Third degree burns — Involving three layers of the skin: The epidermis (outer layer), dermis (second layer) and hypodermis (third layer). Because so much skin and tissue is damaged, third degree burns are very slow to heal.

Chaiken & Chaiken litigates for our clients who have sustained first, second, and third degree burns as a result of:

  • Fires and explosions
  • Chemical plant fires
  • Refinery fires and explosions
  • Electrocutions
  • Chemical burns
  • Electrical burns
  • Serious car accidents causing fires and explosions

Car Accidents

In a car accident claim, we protect your rights and ensure that you are not taken advantage of by insurance companies. We also work to ensure you have the support and resources to obtain the proper medical treatment so that you may recover and move forward following a serious injury. We aggressively litigate:

  • Auto insurance claims: Does the at-fault driver have sufficient liability insurance coverage? Does the claim merit uninsured or underinsured motorist claims?
  • Drunk driving accidents: Should the bar, restaurant, or other establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver be held accountable for illegally serving alcohol to a minor or an obviously intoxicated customer?
  • Auto defects: How did the vehicle rate in crashworthiness tests? Did defective designs cause the roof to crush on impact or did vehicle instability result in a vehicle rollover? Did a defective airbag fail to deploy upon impact – including side impact?
  • Pedestrian accidents: Is there an uninsured motorist claim when a pedestrian, jogger, or bicyclist is involved in a hit and run accident?
  • Motorcycle accidents: Did defective tires cause the tires to blowout? Did defective or hazardous road conditions cause the motorcyclist to spinout?

Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries can happen as a result of electrocution, explosion, or workplace accidents. Chaiken & Chaiken pursues cases that occur from:

  • Workplace injuries: Workplace injuries often include eye injuries, loss of limbs, third degree burns, broken bones and other serious injuries. We pursue compensation on behalf of individuals injured at work in welding rod accidents, punch press accidents, and other workplace accidents.
  • Construction site injuries: Construction site accidents often result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries (causing paralysis), and other head, neck, or back injuries. Our injury lawyers advocate for individuals injured in forklift rollover accidents, dump truck rollovers, scaffolding collapses, and other accidents occurring on construction sites.
  • Petrochemical and oil refinery injuries: Petrochemical explosions at oil and gas refineries can be life threatening. However, when a worker survives the explosion, the resulting injury is almost always catastrophic, such as third degree burns requiring skin grafts, plastic surgery, and years of rehabilitation. In addition, the smoke inhalation caused by the explosion can cause respiratory injury and can limit oxygen to the brain causing a severe brain injury.

Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving accidents are among the most unnecessary accidents that occur on our highways. We seek resolutions for our clients to help recuperate costs for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damage to vehicle
  • Loss of income
  • Long-term medical and/or rehabilitative costs
  • Funeral costs, if a wrongful death occurred

Product or Pharmaceutical Liability

In a product or pharmaceutical liability case, you must prove that there was a design or manufacturing defect in the product or that the manufacturer did not adequately warn you about the possible dangers of the product. We aggressively litigate claims involving:

  • Baby furniture
  • Toys
  • Electrical products
  • Industrial equipment
  • Medical equipment
  • Drugs
  • Vehicles

Spinal Cord and Paralysis Injuries

Chaiken & Chaiken handles spinal cord and paralysis injuries that occur from car accidents, truck accidents, drunk driving accidents, dangerous property conditions, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice. Injuries sustained may include:

  • Neck injuries
  • Quadriplegia
  • Paraplegia
  • Broken backs
  • Back trauma
  • Paralysis
  • Other spinal cord injuries

Truck Accidents

In order to meet the stringent expectations of their employers, truck drivers often implement negligent driving techniques to maximize their mileage and increase profits, which can lead to serious trucking accidents which cause personal injury or death. We aggressively litigate the following claims:

  • Truck driver negligence: Was the accident caused as a result of driver fatigue? Was the driver speeding or utilizing stay-awake drugs? Was the driver weaving in and out of traffic or cutting off other cars? Did the driver misjudge clearance? Did the truck driver incorrectly submit driving logs and truck maintenance logs?
  • Trucking company negligence: Did the trucking company habitually utilize negligent hiring practices in hiring unqualified drivers or drivers with a criminal record or drug history? Did the company maintain the vehicles to avoid placing unsafe trucks on the road?
  • Defective or dangerous parts: Was the vehicle properly maintained? Did the truck have sufficient reflective tape to enhance truck visibility and avoid nighttime accidents? Did defective brakes, tires, or other truck parts cause the accident?

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit may be warranted any time an individual dies due to the negligence of another individual or company. We frequently handle wrongful death cases caused by the following accidents:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Dangerous products
  • Dangerous property conditions
  • Medical malpractice

Campus Misconduct, Title IX and Disciplinary Matters

All colleges and universities publish complaint, investigation and disciplinary proceeding guidelines, policies and procedures. They usually are found in printed or on-line student handbooks. Most are difficult to understand. While most schools require absolute student compliance with them, many schools routinely fail to adhere to their own policies and procedures. And many schools also fail to meet their related legal obligations to fairly and appropriate investigate and take action in response to these types of allegations.

When schools mismanage the complaint process and violate the legal rights of students who complain about, or who are accused of sexually oriented misconduct on campus it is the students who suffer damaging consequences-often life altering--including the loss of valuable rights and benefits.

On a rapidly increasing basis, schools across the country are finding themselves having to defend their failures to meet their legal obligations to students when receiving, investigating and responding to complaints of misconduct, in civil court actions. Courts across the country are uniformly recognizing these actions as valid, allowing them to proceed to a conclusion thereby allowing students to pursue and receive appropriate remedies when they have been wronged and damaged by the schools they trust not to do them harm.

Our firm assists students in making complaints, defending complaints and when necessary, protecting their rights in court.

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What’s Going On?

In 2011, the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to all federally funded colleges and universities. The Department demanded that they implement swift and strict response procedures when they receive allegations of sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment and other acts of misconduct that may be sexual or gender-based in orientation. The Department implied that failure to comply with this demand could lead to the loss of federal funding.

Since then, higher education institutions have found it difficult to balance this need to respond aggressively to valid complaints of misconduct with the legal and procedural rights of those who complain about sexual misconduct and those accused of misconduct.

All schools publish complaint, investigation and disciplinary proceeding guidelines, policies and procedures. They usually are found in printed or on-line student handbooks. Most are difficult to understand. While most schools require absolute student compliance with them, many schools routinely fail to adhere to their own policies and procedures. And many schools also fail to meet their related legal obligations to fairly and appropriate investigate and take action in response to these types of allegations.

When schools mismanage the complaint process and violate the legal rights of students who complain about, or who are accused of sexually oriented misconduct on campus it is the students who suffer damaging consequences-often life altering--including the loss of valuable rights and benefits.

On a rapidly increasing basis, schools across the country are finding themselves having to defend their failures to meet their legal obligations to students when receiving, investigating and responding to complaints of misconduct, in civil court actions. Courts across the country are uniformly recognizing these actions as valid, allowing them to proceed to a conclusion thereby allowing students to pursue and receive appropriate remedies when they have been wronged and damaged by the schools they trust not to do them harm.

Campus Disciplinary Actions Present Complex Legal Issues, Requiring Sound Legal Advice

Students are able to report misconduct without fear of reprisal.

The law encourages students affected by sexually oriented misconduct, to report it. The law requires schools to respond to those reports in a particular manner, most often using specially designated personnel who are trained to address these types of complaints in a legally compliant manner. In fact, Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 requires that educational institutions receiving federal funding operate in a nondiscriminatory manner when investigating, counseling and implementing discipline in cases involving complaints of sex-based harassment and other forms of on campus sexual misconduct. Often times relying on Title IX’s anti-retaliation requirements, some schools actually require students to report the misconduct, under threat of being disciplined if they fail to do so.

So why are so many students failing to report allegations of sexually oriented misconduct? There are many reasons, but here are a few important ones:

  • Fear of retaliation or push back from school officials, particularly if a complaint involves high profile students, such as star athletes.
  • Peer pressure and fear of becoming a social outcast.
  • Fear that the facts may not be crystal clear enough or that the schools otherwise will not take the report seriously.
  • A reputation among some schools that they are motivated not to tell students about what their complaint and privacy rights are, or that they encourage students to actually leave the school, rather than report incidents in turn suffering negative consequences the schools describe to the student as inevitable, if a complaint is processed.
  • Concern about whether alcohol, drugs or other behaviors by the victim will be considered contributing factors to the alleged sexual misconduct, resulting in disciplinary action against the accuser.

Title IX and other laws protect students who have valid complaints. They provide rights of privacy and protections against harassment, retaliation, and discrimination. They also provide remedies to students whose complaints are not responded to in a legally compliant manner. Knowing how to activate these legal rights and protections is what ensures that legitimate complaints are properly investigated, responded to and remedied. Students who have experienced sexual misconduct do not have to suffer in silence from fear, stress, anxiety, declining academic performance, or even a perceived need to leave school, because of a fear about reporting the misconduct. The guidance of sound legal counsel to navigate through these confusing complaint processes can prevent damage and injury from occurring, and ensure that complaints are properly reported, and responded to and remedied. And when complaints are not handled properly, legal counsel also can provide invaluable guidance about pursuing a remedy for the resulting harm.

What about accused students -- how bad can a school’s mismanagement of a disciplinary allegation be for an accused student?

Accused students immediately find themselves in the midst of a true legal crisis, in which the investigation and disciplinary processes are flawed and unfair. The pressure upon school officials to swiftly and harshly discipline accused students often outweighs the rights of the accused students to have a full investigation and fair hearing. Disciplinary decisions are often pre-judged and made abruptly, based upon stereotypes and assumptions, and often without evidence of wrongdoing. Disciplinary charges will be assessed, more often than not--whether the allegations are legitimate or not-- and they will be pursued to a conclusion -- whether the accused knows and protects his or her rights, or not.

Without knowing how to navigate the intricacies of campus disciplinary procedures and without knowing their actual rights, accused students may have if confronted with an allegation of misconduct, disciplinary action will be brought. Accused students can and most often do find themselves facing immediate interim, and eventually permanent, life-altering consequences. A few of them include the following:

  • Immediate, interim loss of rights, benefits or privileges, including suspension of: a) academic privileges, b) class attendance rights, c) access to on-campus housing; and d) participation in campus-wide activities, while the matter is under investigation or while disciplinary proceedings are pending, whether there is evidence to support a finding of guilt, or not.
  • Denial of hearings or an ability to see, confront or respond to evidence of alleged wrongdoing.
  • Denial of lawyer or parental involvement in a proceeding to assist accused students.
  • Permanent disciplinary sanctions that damage or destroy an otherwise impeccable student reputation and record.
  • Permanent transcript entries that impede acceptance of transfer or graduate school applications, or even job applications.
  • Expulsion in a manner that renders the student ineligible to return to the school, or to enroll in any other school.
  • Referral of cases to authorities who may pursue criminal prosecution.
 

The law, including Title IX’s anti-discrimination requirements, protects the rights of accused students, especially those who have been damaged by a disciplinary decision arising from a flawed or arbitrary on-campus process. While a court order or judgment may be the only recourse a student has to unwind a wrongfully imposed disciplinary sanction or to remedy the damage caused by one, knowing one’s rights, and how to navigate through the intricacies of the proceedings while they are pending, can prevent the imposition of severe sanctions, or at least make a subsequent court case stronger. The guidance of sound legal counsel is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.

Schools Cannot Prevent Students from Consulting with Legal Counsel

Citing their internal rules, schools often tell students they are not entitled to the assistance of legal counsel (or even parental assistance) in responding to misconduct charges. If readers of this page learn only one thing from their visit, it should be the following:

WHEN ACCUSED OF CAMPUS MISCONDUCT AND NOTIFIED OF A DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATION AND POTENTIAL SANCTIONS, ACCUSED STUDENTS SHOULD IMMEDIATELY NOTIFY A PARENT, AND CONSULT WITH LEGAL COUNSEL.

Yes – there may be circumstances where parents and lawyers are excluded from direct participation in disciplinary proceedings. But no school can prevent a student from being counseled by parents and a lawyer about how to handle those proceedings, properly, even if the student has to participate in the proceedings alone. Of course when lawyers are not excluded from direct participation in the proceedings, an experienced lawyer can make a real difference in achieving the best possible outcome.

In either scenario, lawyers can guide students (and their parents) in understanding the following, among other things:

  • Is due process required in student disciplinary proceedings and/or to what extent?
  • Are the rights of students attending private schools and those attending public schools, different?
  • Is an impartial investigation of the complaint available or required?
  • Can the accused or his or her representative be prevented from investigating the alleged facts, even if the school tries to prevent the same?
  • Is there a right to present the case and if so, to whom—an administrator, a neutral hearing officer, or a decision tribunal?
  • Is there a right or opportunity to defensively present witnesses and other evidence?
  • Is there a burden of proof, what is it, and whose burden is it?
  • Is there a right to an appeal or a meaningful appeal, and if so, how are appeals processed and decided?
  • What happens if an accuser fails to make a factually truthful complaint, or the complaint is not handled by the proper school officials in a legally compliant manner?
  • Is it reasonable to trust that the university or college will give correct information or advice about the accused’s rights and how to protect them?
  • What recourse is available in the event an unfair, arbitrary, discriminatory or incorrect disciplinary process leads to a damaging sanction?

Why us?

We are veteran crisis managers and trial lawyers having decades of experience representing a broad array of clients in complex civil and criminal matters. We never condone bad behavior and we believe that people who engage in bad behavior should be held accountable, but fairly and appropriately. We are parents of college bound and college aged kids and we are passionate about the well-being of students on campus. This passion includes making sure that students’ rights are not violated, and that they are protected legally when necessary. We believe that students with valid complaints of misconduct deserve to be heard, and deserve to have their complaints properly responded to. We also believe that students who are accused of misconduct deserve fair investigations and disciplinary proceeding including measured, appropriate discipline, if warranted. We believe that no student deserves to suffer life altering consequences, without a fair process, regardless of whether they complain about misconduct or they are accused of misconduct.

In response to the rapidly emerging need for students to have experienced legal counsel when complaints about campus misconduct and disciplinary charges become an issue, Chaiken & Chaiken has become deeply committed to serving students and families having a need for their counsel in these trying times. We understand the needs of students and their families, whether they need to make a complaint, or respond to one. We empathetically can help students confronting either scenario. And if there is a need to seek a court remedy for an unfair or wrongful denial of a student’s rights, and the damage caused by such a denial, we stand ready and able to pursue that remedy, in court.

Our practice takes us all over the country, and our location in the Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex allows us to deploy personnel to almost any college or university, with a days’ advance notice. We also have forged strong working relationships with counsel located in almost every state. This enables us to call upon and dispatch lawyers we know and trust to most locations, when urgent circumstances exist and we cannot get there ourselves.