Articles Tagged with settlement

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Huntsville Personal Injury AttorneysWe’ve all seen and heard the ads. If an advertising company put a billboard in the middle of the ocean, a settlement mill attorney would buy it! Usually, it’s a smiling face, phone number and short catch-phrase like:

Call Me [Insert City or State]!

In Huntsville, one local group of DUI lawyers decided to raise billboards and sign all manner of clients. Those same DUI lawyers sign the cases simply to refer the serious ones for a fee. That’s wrong.

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Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersThe first time this happened, I was shocked. Although I have now heard the same story many times, I am still a little shocked (and a lot disgusted) each time. What is the story? It goes something like this —

The office phone rings. The caller wants to discuss his car accident and see if we can help. However, he already has a lawyer. It’s a billboard law firm! He’s really unhappy with that law firm. When I hear that someone is unhappy with a local lawyer who works hard for his or her clients, I counsel the caller to sit down and talk with the lawyer. Often, it’s just an issue of communication. But, this is different. Sitting down with the billboard lawyer may be difficult or impossible. Why?

Many times, the caller has never even spoken with his lawyer. This is the part that shocks me! (Think on that for just a minute. The person has a lawyer he has never even met.). After his car accident, investigators simply came to his hospital room or home. In some cases, the “investigators” were simply “case runners” who showed up without invitation. In other cases, the process started when the person called the number from a billboard or television commercial. Regardless, the “investigators” promise a lawyer will take care of him, present papers, and get his signature. Yet, when he calls the lawyer’s office some weeks or months later asking about his case, he gets no answers. Maybe he talks with a legal assistant. Maybe. Usually, he only speaks with a receptionist who knows nothing about his specific case. I doubt the settlement mill lawyer (or even the paralegal) will call him back until the case is settled. What’s clear is that:

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Huntsville Accident & Injury LawyersWhen I write a legal article, I never know whether it will gain reader interest. Some of the legal topics I find most fascinating, gain little or no reader interest. I’m often surprised at the articles generating the most readership and commentary.

One topic that always generates questions and commentary — Medical bills in accident and injury cases! I understand why. Medical bills are confusing and difficult to read. Every medical provider uses a different billing format. The charges vary widely. Who would think different hospitals could charge hugely different amounts for the same over-the-counter pain pill? Yet, they do.

On top of the medical charges, add the issue of health insurance and payment. Who pays? Blue Cross. Medicare. Tricare. Medicaid. Some other health plan. How much do they pay? Face it, each health plan pays differently. Most patients are confused by their medical bills when there is NO issue of any accident claim or lawsuit. I get it.

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meeting-room-10270_1920-300x225I started to title this post Four Reasons Why Personal Injury Mediations Fail (And One Reason Why They Should Fail). That title is too long. So, I’ll primarily address four reasons why personal injury mediations do NOT succeed. Then, I’ll end with some commentary about an occasion when mediations should fail.

Our law firm philosophy is clear. We prepare all cases for trial. We believe preparation leads to better long-term results both at trial and settlement. When we survey all the lawyers mass-advertising on billboards, television and radio, it is clear many attorneys view matters differently. Those mass-advertising lawyers are usually about quantity rather than quality. That’s a sad commentary on our profession.

Let me return to my discussion of personal injury mediations. What are some reasons why a personal injury mediation may fail? Here are four:

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497364007_b28f03366a_z-300x225The lawyer appears and asks for your case. His ads are simple — Smile. Act Confident. Tell Viewers To Call. In his advertisements, one local Huntsville lawyer claims, “we have the lawyer to fix your problem.” Does he? Can he fix all your problems?

The advertising lawyer wants your case. That much is true. Yet, his law firm website (in the fine print) discloses a little more truth he hopes you won’t notice. While his firm takes personal injury clients, they refer the serious ones to outside lawyers for work. That begs the question — Why advertise for cases you don’t really handle through trial and appeal? The answer is simple. For firms who simply sign up cases, it’s not about the client or the case. If the lawyer cared about the client or the case, he or she would not be asking for cases they really did not handle. He would not claim expertise in every legal area possible. No, the answer comes down to fee (money). The smiling advertising lawyer wants the case to get a quick settlement or referral fee. Often, that is NOT in your best interest. And, he hopes you don’t know that.

If you are the injury victim who needs a lawyer, this can be a bad deal for you. Here are four ways it can be a bad deal for you:

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal InjuryDo Alabama hospitals treat accident victims differently? The short answer is, YES. If you are an accident victim, you can pay the price for the hospital’s actions. An article published earlier this year in another state tells the story. That story is titled “Man says hospital went after car crash settlement instead of insurance.” That story leads with the following:

You can’t tell the difference in the emergency room. It happens when the hospital is ready to collect its money.

Many of us have some type of health coverage. Blue Cross. Medicare. Tricare. United Health. You assume the hospital will first submit the bill to your health coverage provider. After all, you paid for the coverage. The hospital may even have a contract with your health provider requiring it to submit the bill. Yet, hospitals often treat accident victims differently.

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courtroom-898931_1920-300x226I know — Lawyer advertisements are everywhere. Billboards. Television. Youtube. Those advertising lawyers all try to project confidence while asking for your case. “We got this” says a local Huntsville lawyer with new billboards and a Youtube video. In fact, this Huntsville lawyer who tells you he has your situation handled really intends to refer the serious injury cases to outside trial lawyers. Ask him about his deal with an outside law firm. What does he really have handled? A quick settlement or a referral fee.

Why am I discussing this topic? Well, I was recently sitting in a Morgan County courtroom. My client’s injury case was set for trial. We were present and ready. As I looked around the courtroom, one thing was obvious. That was — Not a single one of the lawyers I see smiling from billboards was present. In fact, not a single one of those billboard (or Youtube or television) lawyers had any cases on the docket. I did see some really good lawyers in the room. But, those good lawyers were NOT on billboards.

We’ve all seen the commercials. In fact, some of these advertising lawyers even record their ads with a courtroom backdrop. If that’s not laughable, I don’t know what is. You don’t see those lawyers anywhere near a courthouse or deposition because they work on volume. They want your case. They intend to settle as soon as possible. Insurance companies love settlement mill lawyers because they can settle cases with them for a fraction of their value. It’s a shameful practice that diminishes my profession.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Huntsville Personal Injury LawyersA recent LinkedIn conversation about settlement terms raised an important issue. The topic — A defendant adds additional (and unacceptable) terms to a release document.

The issue is far too common. Here’s the scenario. The lawyers agree to settle an injury claim. Maybe the lawyers reached a settlement informally and confirmed it with letters or emails. Maybe the lawyers reached a settlement through mediation. Where that occurs, the mediator typically has the parties sign a short settlement memorandum with the basic terms. In both situations, the defendant paying money to a plaintiff will typically require a “general release” of the claims. And, the defense attorneys will prepare or provide this release when the settlement is paid. That’s fine. An injured plaintiff receiving compensation will certainly release or give up his/her claims upon payment.

Yet, far too many defense lawyers stick additional terms in these “release” papers. In essence, the release becomes a much more extensive contract creating potential liability. How many injury attorneys ignore additional and unacceptable terms? How often do these attorneys expose their injured clients to the potential of future liability? It happens far more often than you think. Face it, many mass advertising lawyers spend zero time protecting their injured clients from more harm. When an attorney appears on television in a cape and does not appear in court, it’s a safe bet he or she is not reading settlement paperwork to protect the client. These lawyers advertising fast checks for people in wrecks make the quickest settlement possible. They don’t advocate for maximum compensation. They don’t negotiate costly medical liens to save the client money. And, they don’t read or review settlement paperwork that can create future problems. That’s wrong.

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Years ago, an engineer friend of mine served on a jury in a personal injury case. Later, he told me that during the entire process he (and several other jurors) believed information was not being provided them. They were right. Sometimes evidence is not admitted at trial and not seen by the jury. Our evidence rules are designed to prevent evidence that is not relevant or too prejudicial from being considered. But, sometimes the same rules also prevent the jury from hearing evidence needed to tell the full story.

If you have been hurt and need a lawyer, you need one with trial experience. Procedural and evidentiary rules can be complex. Your lawyer needs to know the rules and how to apply them quickly in trial situations. Unfortunately, many of the lawyers now advertising for automobile accident cases do not go to court. Some have never been to trial. They would not know how to argue a case effectively in a courtroom. Insurance companies know which lawyers will go to trial and it impacts the settlement offered you. When hiring a lawyer, you should absolutely ask questions about real trial experience.

What is one big issue kept secret from the jury? At trial, the jury is never told that the defendant actually has insurance. The rules in Alabama, and many other jurisdictions, forbid the jury from being informed about the defendant’s insurance coverage.

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A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study places the annual cost of automobile crashes at $871 Billion. That’s a figure so large, it’s almost unimaginable. Although huge, this money is nothing compared to the suffering and loss of life from car crashes. As the U.S. Transportation Secretary said:

No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one, or stem the suffering associated with motor vehicle crashes.

The NHTSA study recorded some 32,999 highway deaths and 3.9 Million injuries in just one year. According to the study, just three driver behaviors accounted for over half of all automobile accident costs. These bad driver behaviors and my comments on each are: