I have had occasion to speak with physicians that treat auto accident injuries as well as other types of personal injury such as slip and fall, and have noticed a common theme when it comes to hiring a lawyer. The physician may suggest to their patient that perhaps they should hire a lawyer. The patient often responds with "I don't want to sue anyone" or "I can handle it myself". This response by the patient indicates that either the patient does not understand what a personal injury lawyer can do to help them, thinks it will cost them money to have a lawyer, or mistakenly believes that the lawyer will immediately plunge them into a lawsuit. Another possibility is that they are completely turned off by the lawyer advertisements that constantly permeate television, radio, billboards, and the phone-book. Most lawyer advertisements fail to tell people why they should hire a personal injury lawyer, or what benefit a lawyer might obtain, other than the elusive promise of money from a lawsuit. These commercials are nothing more than "branding". Lawyers engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique. Lawyers advertising for injury and accident cases use branding catch phrases and slogans such as; assertive, demanding, working it, defending the little guy, fifty years of experience, we like to win, seek justice, get me the money. After seeing these commercials every day for years, lawyer branding starts to sound he same and all lawyers get lumped into the same bucket, "ambulance chasers". The term ambulance chasers takes on more meaning when a representative from the law firm is illegally handing out lawyer business cards or attempting to sign up patients in the emergency room or accident clinic. It is no surprise that many people are turned off by lawyer branding activities. People should be asking "why should I hire a lawyer", and "what will the lawyer accomplish for me?". You don't hire a lawyer simply because their branding drills it in that the lawyer is; angry, assertive, demanding, doing it for fifty years, or wants to win. You hire a lawyer because you understand the lawyers true role and what he may be able to accomplish for you.
As a result of lawyer branding on television, there is a perception that the lawyer is going to immediately file a lawsuit to try and get money from the other driver in your accident. Ultimately a lawsuit may be filed, and you may get money from the at fault driver, however this is only part of what actually happens when a lawyer takes on a new personal injury case. Usually the lawsuit is the last thing that takes place in the representation after all attempts at settlement negotiation have failed to produce a satisfactory settlement.
Here are some of the services and benefits that a personal injury lawyer should provide:
1. Assisting with property damage repairs or total loss of your vehicle
2. Negotiation for diminished value of your damaged vehicle
3. Obtaining a rental vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired
4. Obtaining compensation for your lost wages
5. Obtaining payment for your medical bills
6. Coordination of your PIP benefits
7. Making sure all medical bills are paid by the end of your case
8. Resolving all liens from medicare, medicaid, health insurance, med-pay and all other collateral sources
9. Obtaining compensation for bodily injury, pain and suffering
10. Obtaining compensation for miles driven
11. Obtaining compensation for a permanent injury
12. Obtaining compensation for your spouses loss of consortium
13. Filing a Civil Remedies notice
14. Filing a lawsuit
15. Attending a pre-suit mediation
16. Completing an accident investigation, obtain the police report, take scene photos
17. Taking photos of property damage and injuries
18. Obtaining medical bills, liens, PIP logs, medicare liens, medicaid liens, and med-pay liens
19. Providing legal advice on your options and settlement offers
20. Negotiating a satisfactory settlement for your bodily injury
No lawyer can guarantee that all of the above objectives are achieved, and not all of the above apply to every personal injury case. When clients go it alone and represent themselves, they take on responsibility for handling all of the above legal matters, often with no knowledge or legal skills in handling these maters. The lawyer in a contingency fee case only gets paid a percentage of the bodily injury settlement, and handles all the other matters listed above free of charge. It makes no sense for a person to try and handle these matters himself when they are routinely handled on a contingency fee basis, no fees of costs unless you win.
What is ironic when it comes to legal branding that we often see on television, claims that the lawyer is; assertive, determined, aggressive, angry, demanding, tough, old, or a giant law firm, is that these attributes have nothing to do with the handling of a personal injury or auto accident claim. A skilled personal injury lawyer will handle all of the above matters, put together a well written demand to the insurance company, negotiate skillfully and courteously for the best possible settlement, and if all else fails, file a lawsuit on your behalf.
The skills needed are not necessarily the attributes that are used in lawyer branding on television. In fact if a lawyer takes the approach of being assertive, angry, demanding, or dominant with the insurance company, it will be met with more resistance than if the lawyer is professional, courteous, skilled, and competent. Unfortunately you don't see lawyer branding using these adjectives, because they are selling attributes that the unskilled, uneducated public believes make for a good lawyer. They are selling the sizzle not the steak, the car radio not the car, the idea of a lawyer not what a lawyer actually does, the promise of money not the skilled and professional handling of your case. To add insult to injury (no play on words) in many instances in large firms that engage in lawyer branding on television, the angry, aggressive and demanding lawyer that you see on television does not even handle the injury case himself, rather a room full of legal assistants handle almost all aspects of the case from start to finish.