The Insurance Journal recently reported the story of a client solicitation and kickback scheme involving several Florida attorneys. The arrested Florida attorneys were charged with paying solicitors for clients and then arranging kickbacks from medical providers. It’s an awful scheme that harms people who are genuinely hurt and need counsel. And, it’s a black eye to both the legal and medical professions.
Every day, I hear the stories of people who are genuinely hurt and need help. Injured people already face struggles — problems with medical care, sudden expenses, potential job loss, the loss of their vehicle, and sometimes, long-term pain or disability. It’s a big list of real worries. Injured people already face an uphill battle against insurance companies who sow the seeds of false doubt at every stage.
I value my clients and my profession as a trial lawyer. That’s why I regularly write about lawyers who wrongly diminish the practice. You know who those lawyers are — the ones wearing capes on television, smiling from billboards or ridiculously promising they can accomplish miracles if you just hire them. We even have a Huntsville attorney promising he has the lawyer for you no matter your problem. He doesn’t. But, he does like to refer clients to outside, real lawyers for his own profit. He has a secret deal benefitting himself over hurting people.
Lawyer misconduct in the solicitation of accident victims is not limited to Florida. We have plenty of bad practices that should be stopped in Alabama. What are a few of these bad practices or bad actors?
- Loan Sharks Preying On The Injured — You are hurt and miss work. As a result, you face difficulties paying everyday household bills. Sometimes, people need financial help. I’m not talking about normal lenders or even typical credit card companies. In the personal injury world, an entire industry of “loan sharks” now preys upon injured people. These companies loan money to personal injury victims. These companies then charge interest rates that can double or triple the amount owed by the end of the loan. Sometimes, the paperwork is purposely misleading when it comes to the huge interest payments. It’s an awful practice that preys upon people at their weakest.
- Solicitation Lawyers — At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the recently arrested Florida lawyers. But, Alabama has bad lawyers soliciting clients as well. It’s shameful. It’s the reason some lawyers are referred to as “ambulance chasers.”
- Secret Medical Deals — Several years ago, a new car accident client related a disturbing story. That client hired me to help with a severe orthopedic injury. She had first hired another Alabama lawyer — A billboard lawyer (who had mishandled her case). That lawyer took the case and sent her to a specific chiropractor (with whom he had a financial arrangement). While a chiropractor is qualified to treat certain injuries, this lady’s injury required specialized orthopedic care. She told the lawyer. She told the chiropractor. She needed and wanted to see an orthopedic surgeon. They told her just to see the chosen chiropractor. When she figured out they simply wanted to create bills for a settlement (bills for treatment that did not help her injury), this lady fired her prior lawyer. Unfortunately, we have several attorneys in Alabama involved in various arrangements geared simply toward generating medical bills. These arrangements hurt clients. They also harm both the legal and medical professions.
- Lawyers Who Refuse To Go To Trial — I recently saw a television commercial where the cape-wearing “lawyer” promised he would keep his car accident injury clients out of court. While most normal people want to stay out of court, sometimes you must be willing to plead your case. You can trust this — Insurance companies know which lawyers always refuse to go to court. And, they choose to pay those lawyers much less in individual case settlements. If you are hurt, you need a lawyer who will go to court when needed.
If you are hurt, you need a real lawyer with both the expertise and the desire to prepare fully your claim. How do you distinguish a true legal expert from the settlement mill lawyers populating billboards and television commercials? In a world of advertising hype and promises, it can be difficult. I’ve written about Huntsville’s local billboard lawyers previously. I’ve also written about car accident settlement mill law firms in general. Here are a couple good articles by other attorneys providing tips for hiring a skilled personal injury attorney:
- 7 Secrets to Finding a Great Personal Injury Lawyer (Great tips by a California firm advising consumers to focus on attorneys with a proven record in the legal specialty of personal injury)
- Top 10 tips for choosing a good personal injury attorney (Tips published on AVVO by an accomplished Seattle lawyer who recommends focusing on personal injury expertise and an authentic connection between counsel and client)
If you need help, talk to friends and family you trust. Research your options. Avoid any lawyer who spends his/her time on television or billboards rather than talking about real legal issues. Look for an attorney who specializes in personal injury (and not criminal law or a general practice area). The impact upon your claim can be tremendous.