You suffered a severe personal injury and need a lawyer. How do you find the right lawyer? It’s a topic I’ve discussed in past posts. One piece of advice — Avoid the many attorneys you see smiling from billboards. Here are a few of my past posts on the topic of finding a personal injury lawyer:
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.
Last Friday, I spoke at a workers’ compensation seminar in Birmingham. If you have read this blog in the past, then you know my strong feelings that lawyers should be life-long students of their legal specialty. That’s why our firm members routinely teach at seminars on topics involving personal injury, workers’ compensation, defective products, experts and trials. I’ve also been candid in my past blog posts that lawyers who populate billboard and television advertisements diminish the legal profession and too often harm clients. We even have a law firm in Huntsville now advertising on billboards for injury clients it secretly intends to refer for profit to another firm. In my opinion, that is dishonest and unethical. But, let me get back to the topic of this post — last week’s workers’ compensation seminar.
I believe this recent workers’ compensation seminar was one of the best yet. The credit for planning the seminar goes to attorney David Nomberg of the Nomberg Law Firm in Birmingham. I’ve known David and his brother Bernard for years. They are among the best workers’ compensation attorneys in Alabama. Bernard and I began our careers (over two decades ago) at the same Birmingham trial law firm handling cases throughout Alabama. I’m thankful David invited me to speak at this seminar.
David asked me to speak on workers’ compensation trial strategies. I have tried these cases in counties throughout Alabama. I have a specific philosophy about workers’ compensation cases. My philosophy about workers’ compensation and general personal injury cases is simple — Clients deserve a lawyer who will prepare their case for trial. Many lawyers will not do that. Better preparation leads to better trials and better settlements.
Another driver crashed into you. You suffered personal injuries in the car accident. Now, you need medical care. Medical Bills. Lost Wages. Disability. Pain and Suffering. You may be worried about several issues. So, you decide to make a claim.
After making a claim, you learn more bad news. The driver who caused the crash is bankrupt. You learn the other driver has actually filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy seeking to discharge all of his or her debts. Can you still recover compensation for your personal injuries? In most cases, the answer is yes.
At our office, we have helped many injured accident victims recover compensation even when the driver who caused the crash is bankrupt. These issues can require legal guidance. An experienced personal injury attorney willing to fight for his or her clients can help. But, be careful who you hire. Many billboard and television advertising attorneys talk a big game but are unwilling (or unable due to a lack of real courtroom expertise) to do the real legal work needed.
Our highways are littered with attorney billboards. Daytime television channels are filled with lawyer commercials. Attorney advertisements are everywhere. More correctly — Advertising attorneys are everywhere except the courtroom. You rarely see these billboard and television lawyers helping real clients in real courts. Most billboard and television lawyers advertise simply for a volume of cases they can easily settle. Our profession should be better.
Now, Huntsville even has one local law firm advertising for cases it actually intends to refer rather than handle. That is, the firm wants the cases just to refer them. People with legal problems deserve better than the current (and misleading) world of attorney advertising.
Consider the Huntsville firm now advertising constantly on billboards and radio. Overnight, that firm (a DUI firm) plastered new billboards along highways in Huntsville, Decatur and Athens. Suddenly, that firm started advertising for all types of cases. The website for this new billboard law firm even had a page for wrongful death cases. Nothing is more difficult for a family than the death of a loved one. During a time of grief and loss, a family does not need the added problems caused by inexperienced legal counsel.
In a recent video advertisement a local Huntsville attorney claimed that your specific legal problem did not matter. He had the attorney for you. That attorney repeated his claim over and over, inserting very different legal needs each time. “It Doesn’t Matter (INSERT LEGAL PROBLEM), We Have Your Lawyer.” It’s a ridiculous ad. It’s an ad fishing for attorney fees.
Think about your legal need. Complicated Elder Law Issue? If you need advice in that area, you better consult an attorney with practical experience in tax issues, with knowledge of Medicare matters, and with a working background in Trusts and Estates. I would. Personally, I would never go to a lawyer that said his firm could service any and all legal problems. I’ve seen too many horror stories in my decades of practicing law where families were torn apart because their loved one had an Estate document prepared by a lawyer who did not fully understand all the issues. Serious Personal Injury? While any lawyer can try and settle a case, not all lawyers can really settle or complete a case for its maximum value. You should trust a serious personal injury case to a serious lawyer with years of experience studying injury law issues, handling damages claims at actual trials, dealing with complex experts, and preparing injury claims for trial and appeal. The level of attorney expertise can make a big difference in the final result. And, in contested cases it can make a difference between winning and losing. I have received too many phone calls over the years from people who had their personal injury claims ruined by a billboard lawyer who lacked the skill, courage or desire to prepare a serious case. Immigration Matter? The issue is too important for anyone but a specialist. Real Estate Transaction? An error preparing complicated transactional documents could cost you and your family greatly.
The local attorney who says your claim does not matter because he has an attorney for it, really does want your case. He wants all your cases badly enough to claim specialties across the board. Until recently, his firm website advertised for wrongful death claims but did not accurately or fully discuss the unique nature of Alabama law on this issue. And, his website contains an actual disclaimer for personal injury claims — a disclaimer that reveals his firm needs to associate a trial lawyer on these cases.
Maybe the better question should be — Why hire a lawyer who cannot (or does not) write his own blog posts, his own marketing materials or even his own legal briefs? Yes, I do know several lawyers who claim to be personal injury attorneys but cannot even write their own briefs or motions. Are you just hiring a marketer who wants to sign up cases for other lawyers to work? Are you just hiring a marketer who wants cases he or she can quickly negotiate for a small settlement? If you are just hiring a marketer, skip that lawyer. Go directly to an attorney who can fully advocate for you. It can make a huge difference in your ultimate settlement.
As I’ve stated in the past, any lawyer can advertise on a billboard, television or radio. In Huntsville, we have one group of lawyers who previously handled DUI cases. Suddenly, these lawyers decided to post billboards seeking personal injury cases, immigration matters and elder law issues. Wow! Their website tells the truth in the fine print disclaimer — they are signing the personal injury cases to refer them elsewhere for part of the fee. That’s shameful. I believe it is also unethical. Clients deserve better – They deserve lawyers who really know and really practice their specialty. For over two decades, I’ve heard the stories of people genuinely hurt in car accidents and work-related injuries. These injured people need a specialist.
I’m disappointed by lawyers who claim to be specialists in ALL legal fields. It’s an impossible claim. It’s a claim that diminishes the legal profession. It’s a claim that will harm clients. If you hear a lawyer advertise as a specialist in all legal matters, my advice is to call someone else.
We actually have lawyers in Huntsville with billboards and videos marketing themselves as specialists in all legal fields. They want your case. Tax issue? Sign up. Estate issue? Sign up. Family law problem? Sign up. DUI? Sign up. Personal injury claim? Sign up. That kind of advertising makes the legal profession look bad. Why? In truth, if your case is complicated, these lawyers would quickly be in way over their heads.
Would you ask a foot specialist to treat you for an infectious disease? Would you ask a foot specialist to treat you for a traumatic brain injury? Of course not. In the legal field, why hire a DUI lawyer for your personal injury claim? If anybody loses in these scenarios, it is you as the consumer.