Personal Injury Client Misperceptions
Published to: 000111, 000116, 000117, A Small Town Lawyer's Perspective, Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer, West Virginia Lawyer - Tips and Techniques
on December 2, 2011 9:59 pm
From my hundreds of interviews with potential clients and clients, I find there are common misperceptions among the victims of serious injury. These misperceptions are sometimes simple ignorance of the law and sometimes created by the deceptive “facts” spread by the insurance industry, big business, and the news media. I am surprised how naïve the media sometimes can be. Just ask the McDonald’s Coffee Lady. Sorry; you can’t. She is dead.
Here are a few of those misperceptions and my attempts to correct them:
1. During the first interview, potential clients want me to know they are not like those greedy people they read about who are looking to get rich from their personal injury claim.
Once I explain to them the elements of a personal injury claim, they become comfortable with that, and I have never had a client complain that I got them too large a settlement or asked me to accept only $80,000 of a $100,000 settlement offer.
2. Clients are surprised that the other guy’s insurance company will not pay their bills unless they are ready to sign a full release.
Except for rare exceptions, perhaps for small sums designed to lull the claimant into not hiring a lawyer, the tortfeasor’s carrier will demand that release, so in the meantime, the client must look out for himself or herself.
3. Clients are startled when I inform them their first step is to file a claim for medical bills against their own Med Pay insurance coverage, and if no coverage, or it runs out, their own medical insurance.
But that is exactly what Med Pay and medical insurance coverage is for, to pay the bills, regardless of fault, for them and their passengers while they are healing and waiting to settle. Since their own carrier was not at fault, the client’s policy requires that they honor the Med Pay carrier’s “subrogation claim” once a settlement is reached, but this routinely excludes the carrier’s share of the attorney’s fee that it took to collect the settlement. Subrogate means “substitute” or stand in the claimants’ shoes.
4. Some clients are upset to receive “collection notices” from their medical creditors. We are trying to do a better job of making it clear that the client is always responsible for the client’s bills.
If there are no insurance proceeds to pay a bill, the client’s lawyer will send a “letter of protection” to the medical provider, promising to pay the bill when the settlement is achieved. In cases where there is not enough money to pay all the bills, we can ask for the court’s guidance. But, the provider does not have to accept the “letter of protection” so the client must keep in touch with the providers, and even make payment on their account to protect their credit.
So far, for various reasons, I have avoided turning to the relatively new services of personal injury financing firms, but on rare occasions that may have to be considered. Recovering from a serious collision and injures is a difficult task.
5. Finally, we lawyers have to work hard to combat the stereotype that we are greedy guns for hire. The better personal injury lawyers of course care about making good money. Lawyers are drawn to personal injury practice because it can pay well, but the good ones still put their client first, and work on the nuances like boosting the client’s spirit, assuring them there is light at the end of the tunnel, and helping them to gain a fresh start. Not all reach this goal, but many do, and you should take care in finding out who we are! Not all doctors are gentle and kind, and not all lawyers are avaricious. We are people, just like you.
I will cover other misconceptions in future posts. Never hesitate to write me with a question, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This post was written by Burton Hunter