Through 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.