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Steven D. Pattee

Steve is an attorney, mediator, and arbitrator in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region. Prior to starting his solo practice in 2005, he worked as an insurance defense attorney defending individuals and businesses that were being sued. Now he focuses his practice on litigation of personal injury, insurance, and agriculture related cases as well as estate planning and probate.

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Mixing Legal Specialties

How did you settle on the fields you work with? How do they interact? Part of it was based upon my interests as I began practicing, and part was based upon the types of clients that found me when I opened my own office. When I graduated from law school, I wanted to be a trial attorney, so I looked for jobs that focused on litigation and worked for nine years as an insurance defense attorney. Then I opened my own firm in the suburb where I live. After tracking referrals that I sent out for a year or two, I decided that I would re-educate myself on estate planning and the drafting of wills and trusts because that seemed to be an area of need in my community. At this point I focus my practice on litigation matters for businesses and individuals and estate planning. What specialties typically go together in the legal world? I generally would expect transactional types of work to group together and litigation/courtroom work to group together. Not everyone wants to work in a courtroom, and those that do enjoy it tend to focus on it. Beyond that, I think lawyers tend to focus their practice on areas that interest them due to their background or education. There are some overlapping areas such as estate planning and probate; however, I do not see any two areas of law that are truly mutually exclusive. What are the most disparate specialties you’ve ever seen a single attorney work in? I cannot say I've seen an attorney practicing in two areas that simply did not seem to reconcile. All legal work falls back on an attorney's ability to recognize and analyze a given legal issue and properly advise a client when broken down to it's simplest form. Are there any specialty combinations that work against one another? I would not expect an attorney that prosecutes for a municipality to defend someone being prosecuted by another municipality. The attorney's knowledge may make them very good at doing so, but clients often prefer you to not represent clients that require you to take positions against contrary to those taken when you represent them.
insurance1

Insurance and the court system

This is a complicated question that cannot be fully covered in the limited space offered here. Law schools offer semester long courses on this topic. If you have any questions, by all means consult with an attorney knowledgeable in the area of insurance. I am writing a general answer, and not considering no-fault insurance on automobiles or medical payments coverage under premises liability policies. What do most insurance plans cover? What gets left out? Generally, liability insurance covers the cost of defending a lawsuit as well as any damages that you are obligated to pay up to your policy limits. States generally set minimum limits, and those limits do vary from state to state. You policy's declarations page will tell you what limits you have. There are exclusions in every policy as well. If one of the exclusions apply to your fact pattern, then you may not have coverage. How often do you see clients blindsided by their insurance coverage, or lack thereof? Once in a while, I have seen clients surprised by an exclusion that they did not anticipate or lower amounts of coverage than they expected. I have heard clients say they purchased "full coverage" believing that it would cover anything without limits. Be certain to ask your insurance agent about your limits and any exclusions found in your policy. Spend the time to understand the coverage you are getting when you purchase it so that you are not surprised later on. What one thing should everybody look for in an insurance plan that they may not think about until it’s too late? Adequate limits to protect themselves. Many people simply compare prices on the policies and select the least expensive coverage. This may result in low limits for liability or underinsured/uninsured motorist coverages. Your liability policy is what stands between an injured person and your assets. Make certain you have enough coverage to protect the assets that you are accumulating through your hard work. Does a client’s insurance situation affect how you handle a case? If I am handling a case for an injured party, it is the other party's insurance that plays the largest factor. If they have limits lower than the expected recovery, then I would expect to spend some time researching what other assets they may have to satisfy any judgment. It is usually easier to pursue recovery from an insurance company than to levy on assets to satisfy a judgment, so lower insurance limits would likely add to the time and expense involved in a lawsuit.
common calls

Common Calls for Attorneys

I practice in two ares: personal injury and estate planning. Most of the questions I field relate to those two areas of law. Callers seeking information about injury cases typically want to know whether they have a claim and what their rights are. Estate planning clients often start with questions about whether they need a will, what the cost is and how long the process takes. Generally I will offer a free consultation to discuss any questions the callers have and to determine whether I can assist them.
property line

How Property Lines are Established

Property lines are established based upon surveys of land. The surveyors will leave permanent markers to begin from. Then they can determine and mark off the actual boundaries to your property. Boundary disputes arise a number of ways, but are commonly the result of people using a landmark such as a tree or boulder to estimate boundaries. Over time these have a way of shifting in people's minds. The dispute arises when one neighbor encroaches on another in some form, perhaps by planting a tree or erecting a fence or building that extends over the property line. When is a lawyer needed for boundary disagreements? This likely depends on your relationship with your neighbor. If you are able to agree to split the cost of a survey and to work out an amicable resolution based upon the survey results, you may not need an attorney. If you and your neighbor cannot work together in a friendly manner, you may want to utilize an attorney. Also, you should consult an attorney if you have any questions regarding your legal rights and obligations. What is considered a trespass? A trespass is an unauthorized intrusion or invasion upon another's property. A trespass can result both in criminal actions and civil (non-criminal) liability for damages. How can neighbors best respect each other’s property lines? Make certain that you know the location of the property line before erecting any permanent structure. Talk to your neighbors before placing anything near the lot line. If you agree that the location of the boundary is correct, great! If not, obtain a survey to be certain before you start a project. Also, you should check your municipality's ordinances. Many have a lot line setback requirement that would prevent you from placing a permanent structure right against the boundary in any event. Finally, if you have any questions regarding your rights and obligations, consult with a local attorney.
distracted driving

Distracted Driving Laws

Penalties for distracted driving will vary from state to state but will typically involve fines of some level when there is no accident. When there is an accident, the distracted driver will face both criminal penalties (fines) as well as civil penalties (liability to any person injured by the driver's negligence). A driver owes a duty of care to operate his or her vehicle in a non-negligent manner. A distraction, from eating or drinking to texting or checking email, will take away from attention to the road. A plaintiff's personal injury attorney should be able to use that distraction to the advantage of his or her client. Someone injured in an accident would be well advised to consult with an attorney to ensure they are being fully protected.
House of the Day #7: 409 W. 120th Street

Renter’s Rights 101

Landlord-Tenant laws vary by state and state statutes generally control the minimum rights and obligations of the parties. These minimum obligations and rights can then be increased by the lease agreement but generally not decreased. An internet search for your state's landlord-tenant statutes usually will direct you to the governing law. If you have any questions about your rights or obligations, you should consult a landlord-tenant lawyer. Many locations also have advocacy groups that will work with residential tenants to explain legal rights and obligations. In Minnesota, county housing courts also have information for tenants. A renter should view the property before taking possession and note any defects or items that need to be repaired. This serves to protect your deposit so you can show that you did not cause the damage as well as making the premises habitable if the property fails to meet the minimum living standards required.
medical malpractice

Filing for Medical Malpractice

A medical malpractice case can be intricate and difficult. In order to succeed, you must establish that there was a deviation from the standard of care in the community and that the deviation was a direct cause of any injury to you. In most cases, this is proven through the use of an expert witness hired to testify about the standard of care applicable, the deviation from that standard of care, and the harm the deviation caused. A medical malpractice case can be expensive due to the cost of the expert witness(es) needed. You will want to consider whether the attorney you are considering has sufficient funding available to to take your case through trial if necessary. An underfunded attorney or law firm will not be able to see your case through. In order to find a malpractice attorney, you should ask for word of mouth referrals. If you know any attorneys you can ask them who you should talk to. If you cannot find an attorney that way, try to search the internet for medical malpractice attorneys. When you are calling or meeting the attorney ask them about their experience with malpractice cases and their ability to fund them. Not all personal injury attorneys have the experience and background to handle a malpractice case.

Awards

Insurance – Legal Awards

This is a complicated question that cannot be fully covered in the limited space offered here. Law schools offer semester long courses on this topic. If you have any questions, by all means consult with an attorney knowledgeable in the area of insurance. I am writing a general answer, and not considering no-fault insurance on automobiles or medical payments coverage under premises liability policies. What do most insurance plans cover? What gets left out? Generally, liability insurance covers the cost of defending a lawsuit as well as any damages that you are obligated to pay up to your policy limits