Articles Tagged with settlement mill

Published on: the years, we have handled many Alabama personal injury claims where the client initially hired another lawyer. Many of the lawyers smiling from billboards and television will NOT work on their cases. Many of these advertising lawyers will NOT go to trial. So, it’s not unusual for people to hire a billboard lawyer and later need another attorney. Many of the dedicated trial lawyers I know will tell you the same thing — They frequently review cases mishandled by billboard lawyers.

We recently reviewed a workers’ compensation case in Athens where the injured person started with one of these advertising lawyers. She hired the lawyers. When they realized her case might require some actual courtroom work, they let her go. I guess I should more accurately say they tried to talk her into settling for peanuts then let her go when she refused. We reviewed her file. When we looked at her contingent fee contract with these billboard lawyers, we saw that it contained a $500 administrative fee. What? That’s outrageous.

Why were these billboard lawyers charging an administrative fee? The contract did not say. The truth — It was simply another way to gouge their client without giving good service. Do you really think the firm was going to incur $500 of telephone and postage costs in a local work comp case? Maybe they were trying to recoup the costs of their billboards? Regardless, they were already charging the customary contingency fee for handling these cases.

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Last month, I published a post about a local DUI law firm that suddenly started advertising for personal injury and wrongful death cases. Suddenly, billboards for that firm appeared along major Huntsville area roads. I’ve written many times that I would never hire a billboard lawyer for a serious case. I’ve seen many skilled courtroom lawyers and legal scholars during the two decades I’ve practiced personal injury work. None of them advertise on billboards.

Attorney ads are everywhere. It’s simple – You pay a marketer. You pose for a photograph. You claim expertise. You can even purchase some fake awards to bolster your credentials. Most lawyers receive daily junk mail offers to sell them plaques. The opportunities to buy vanity awards are endless.

In my last post, I asked “What about websites?” I believe websites should provide good educational material for legal consumers. I think the purposes should be (1) to provide educational information; and, (2) to convey the authenticity of your business. That’s why I wrote the legal articles on my website. I’m sure my articles contain a few grammatical errors. Maybe a professional content writer would write them differently. When you hire a lawyer (or any other professional) it’s personal. We want consumers to know the real firm (the person they are actually hiring), not what a ghostwriter says. We also want to provide skilled information for people who need help. I write about areas of the law I’ve studied and practiced for years. I don’t write about other areas of the law where I lack expertise. Nor do I try to market for clients in those other specialties. I don’t think it’s right to do so. People with legal issues deserve better.

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Untitled-design-3-1-300x300Billboards. Television. Radio. Lawyer ads are everywhere. Anyone can smile and claim expertise! It’s much more difficult to perform the study and hard work necessary to win a complicated case. I’ve written previously that I would never hire a billboard lawyer for a serious case.

What about websites? I believe websites should contain good information for consumers. That’s why I wrote all the articles on my firm website. Unfortunately, too many lawyers purchase websites without writing or reviewing them for accuracy. Those sites contain canned content and marketing hype. Are you getting correct legal information? Are you getting the lawyer you thought you hired? These are big problems for people who need legal help.

For example, a local Huntsville DUI firm suddenly decided it wanted to advertise for personal injury and elder law cases. That firm created new billboards and a new website for their new specialties. Yet, one look at their website raises serious concerns. Their website has a Personal Injury page. Click on it. It looks nice. But, read to the bottom. That’s where you see the Disclaimer. What? Why do they need a disclaimer?

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We-Prepare-300x300What is the most common lie in workers’ compensation claims? A lawyer in another state recently discussed this question on his blog. His conclusion:

I thought long and hard about that one.  Unfortunately there are many to choose from.  But I think the biggest is from lawyers who will do anything to sign a case up.

That lawyer was certainly correct in his conclusion – “there are many to choose from.” In my practice, I frequently deal with employers and insurance carriers who are less than honest on many issues. These include return to work issues, medical care, termination of employment, and disability benefits owed. In fact, the list of issues is too great for one blog post. So, I’ll focus on the topic of promises to sign up the case.

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Untitled-design-3-300x169Client service. I’ve spent lots of time lately thinking about client service. Perhaps it’s the recent news Walgreens received an $80 Million fine after allegations the chain allowed huge numbers of dangerous narcotic painkillers on the black market. Maybe you are asking – What does this fine have to do with my thoughts on client service? After all, the pharmacy business and legal business are very different. While different in many ways, both are professional businesses. Both businesses should help people in need. For both, patients (or clients) seek professionals who will provide guidance and expertise.

Does anyone really think flooding the market with narcotic pain pills serves patients and communities? Absolutely not. It only serves the need for fast profit. But, I did not write this to pick on Walgreens. And, let’s be clear — the fine related to the chain’s misconduct outside Alabama. Yet, issues with thousands upon thousands of unaccounted narcotic pills give me pause.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the pleasure of representing several independent pharmacies in the Huntsville area. So, I’ve learned a little about this business. Standing in one of these independent pharmacy stores, I see a pharmacist who knows each customer by name. Each customer matters to him. The pharmacist greets each customer. His pharmacy is a personal business helping patients. It’s NO assembly line of pill dispensing. Can you say the same for some large chains?

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In a past article, I discussed a study that revealed work related illnesses and injuries cost at least $250 billion a year. My prior post raises the question — Why does our system not focus on safety? A small investment in safety would pay huge returns.

Our current system fails to invest in safety. While workers are penalized for some unsafe conduct, the system does nothing to the few reckless employers who cause most of the injuries. The most reckless and dangerous employers suffer no penalties under Alabama workers’ compensation laws. They suffer no penalties causing them to lose lucrative government contracts. They suffer almost no penalties from OSHA which is overstressed, understaffed and rarely inspects unsafe worksites. Unless we focus on real safety by penalizing reckless employers, we will continue to see far too many work related injuries.

What is the cost of occupational accidents and injuries to reckless and unsafe employers? At worst, the injury may result in some type of premium increase for work comp coverage? A recent UC Davis study showed that the majority of workplace injury and illness costs are not even paid through workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, these costs are simply shifted to the government. Think taxpayers like us! When it comes right down to it, reckless and unsafe employers dispose of their workers by shifting the costs of accidents and disabilities to the taxpayer.

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Injured-300x300After spending the last few days in trial, I found the recent entry of Philip Thomas on his blog concerning settlement mills very timely and interesting. Philip provides a detailed discussion of a research article on this issue by Stanford Law Professor Nora Engstrom. Before I add my comments, I should first compliment attorney Jennifer McKown on a job well done in a car accident trial this week. We approach trials as teams of lawyers. Jennifer served as lead on this one. As usual, she appeared at trial fully prepared and ready. I had a fun time helping!

I would encourage anyone interested in law practices to read Philip’s blog post as well as the research upon which it is based. What is a settlement mill law firm? Generally, these are law firms that advertise on television, take a high volume of cases, do very little to develop or prepare their cases, and then settle as quickly as possible. These “settlement mill” law firms are NOT serving the best interest of individual clients. Instead, they are focused on quick settlements that enrich the billboard lawyer (and sometimes his chiropractor) at the expense of injured clients. That’s wrong.

When I travel to larger cities, I am confronted with more settlement mill firms. But, they are present practically everywhere. In Alabama, you see their commercials on television. You see their billboards along our highways. These settlement mill lawyers sometimes employ well known actors to make claims of great success. Most of them use a catchy jingle that sticks in your mind. In one local advertisement, a well-known celebrity implies “the firm” will get you maximum results. However, with a little background work, you can discover that “the firm” is really one attorney working from an office many hours away. Many of these mass-advertising law firms employ lawyers in far away states. They don’t tell you that their lawyer cannot and will not appear in an Alabama courtroom. Their goal is to gather any medical records and make a quick deal (usually far too low) with the insurance adjuster.

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