Personal injury lawyers in Florida have become very competitive about getting new cases. While every law firms needs new cases to survive, as a consumer you should be aware of some of the advertising tricks that personal injury lawyers in your area are using.
“The Insurance Company Is Already Working On Your Case…”
The most common myth that I see in personal injury advertising is the idea that you need to hire a lawyer as soon as possible or else you will give the advantage to the insurance company for your car accident case.
The truth about this is that insurance companies do not have some special sixth sense to know when an accident has occurred. Instead, insurance companies rely on people to report claims. If no on ever reports a claim, then no claim is ever opened.
It might then be very surprising that the first person to report an accident is often the person who did not cause it (that’s right-this is often the personal injury plaintiff or their attorney). As personal injury lawyers, we are frequently the first to open an insurance claim with the insurance company for the party who caused the accident. I can’t say whether this is a result of pure embarrassment on the part of the person who caused the accident or just a lack of responsibility, but it happens a lot.
So, if you want to be the first person to work on your personal injury case, then you should be the one to take pictures at the accident scene (or have someone do it for you). Remember, the insurance company doesn’t know that an accident has happened until someone reports it. The best evidence of an accident is often the pictures taken at the actual scene of the accident. When the insurance company actually gets around to taking their own photos, it is usually in a tow yard or in a person’s driveway. It just isn’t the same so don’t think that you’re at a disadvantage.
With that being said, if there’s anywhere in a personal injury case where you have the disadvantage, then it is in the amount of money that you can afford to risk on it. Insurance companies are all billion dollar companies and they will let you know it.
“Justice Never Sleeps…”
Contrary to what these commercials say, justice is not a 24/7 operation. The reality is that personal injury attorneys at any law firm are real people with real lives. They are not taking turns at their law firms manning the phones at night as these ads might imply. This is just another advertising ploy to get you to hire an attorney before they have truly had a chance to earn your business.
With most products and services, today’s consumers usually do a lot of research before buying. When you find the right person for the job, you often get a sense for it. You don’t get that same feeling if you call attorneys in the middle of the night because you have fallen prey to the idea that the insurance company is working at night. While we are on this topic, people who work at insurance companies typically work normal hours except for certain people. Only call center and similar types of employees are working shifts throughout the night. Insurance claim adjusters are real people with real lives too. They have children to take to school just like the rest of us.
Many personal injury ads talk about less than 1% of all Florida lawyers being “board certified” and telling people that they need to ask if their lawyer is board certified. What they don’t tell you is what it takes to become board certified and what that really means.
In medicine, “board certified” is essentially a pre-requisite to your specialty. Doctors are often required to become “board certified” before they are allowed to practice on their own or perform certain procedures on their own. This means that before becoming “board certified,” the doctor learned from someone else, most notably an recognized “board” of doctors who approve of that doctor’s experience and competency before they are given the credentials to practice that specialty.
On the other hand in the practice of law, things are much different. The overwhelming majority of lawyers are not “board certified.” Could you imagine if the practice of medicine only had less than 1% of doctors being “board certified?” The reason for the difference is that “board certification” means something completely different for law than it does for medicine.
In the practice of law, relatively few lawyers are “board certified” because of the financial costs of becoming board certified and it has little, if anything, to do with the lawyer’s actual competency and ability. For example, to become board certified in Civil Trial Law in Florida, an attorney must have a total of 15 cases taken to trial with 5 of those trials within the last 5 years.
At first blush, this sounds great-why do you want to hire a lawyer who hasn’t been to trial at least 15 times? The answer to this question is that a trial is often not in the client’s best interests and no one ever tells you that.
For a trial to be in your best interests as a client, your case needs to be undervalued by the insurance company. This can be done by either denying liability (aka offering zero or close to it) or by underestimating the value of your damages.
As a personal injury attorney with over 10 years experience, I do not know the exact number of cases that I have resolved for people, however, the number is at least in the hundreds, if not, over a thousand. Out of those cases, less than 10 of those cases went to a trial for one simple reason. That reason is because the person received an offer to settle their case from the insurance company and they weren’t willing to risk it by taking it to trial.
Tough talk is just that until faced with an offer of real money and the potential to lose that. Taking a case to trial also involves a risk that the injured person may be on the hook to pay the insurance company’s attorney fees and costs in a situation where the injured person won the battle (got a verdict in their favor) but still lost the war (it wasn’t enough to beat what the insurance company previously offered).
Therefore, if a personal injury attorney is acting ethically and responsibility, it is very hard to get the number of trials in to become board certified. Many of the attorneys who are already “board certified” obtained their certification when the requirements were less onerous.
If it were such an important thing for attorneys to be “board certified” like doctors are, then there would be much more of a push to certify attorneys. However, as it stands, “board certification” is really just for advertising and they want to keep it that way.
“Lawyers Who Take Cases To Trial”
Other attorney ads feature attorneys who say that the insurance companies know the last time that your lawyer took a case to trial. This ties in very closely with the discussion above.
While it is true that insurance companies take into account an attorney’s experience, it is not simply a matter of how many cases your lawyer has taken to trial. Instead, the rubric is much more involved because some attorneys mistakenly believe that unreasonably taking cases to trial gives them extra credibility.
Instead of the number of cases your lawyer has taken to trial, a better measure of “success” for an attorney in the eyes of an insurance company is whether your attorney is likely to get a certain result. Therefore, taking a bunch of bad cases to trial, only to lose them, just to prove the point that you will take a case to trial is generally not persuasive. Anyone who does that is just looking for “statistics” to advertise with as no attorney can reliably have one, two, three, or more cases per year that definitively need to be resolved by a trial.
“Don’t Give A Statement To The Insurance Company Without Talking To A Lawyer”
Whether or not to give a statement to an insurance company is another area of mass confusion caused by attorney advertising.
As mentioned above, someone has to open every insurance claim. This applies to both your insurance company and the other person’s insurance company. When you do this, you are giving a statement to the insurance company and there is no avoiding it.
Where people go wrong in giving a statement to an insurance company, particularly the one insuring the person who caused the accident, is by saying things that raise doubt over whether they have an injury. For example, whenever you make a statement to an insurance company for a car accident, you will be asked whether you are injured. If the answer is anything but a definitive “yes” at the time that you are reporting a claim, then you have a problem.
You don’t necessarily need to hire a lawyer before you talk to a lawyer, but you do need to unequivocally know that you have an injury before you make an injury claim. If you are unsure or say that you were not injured, it is very hard to turn that around later. If you have any doubts about whether you are injured, you should seek medical treatment before calling the other person’s insurance company as there probably isn’t a real hurry to do so anyway as discussed above.
Call Someone Who Actually Wants To Help
Despite the myths advanced by some, many attorneys got into the practice of law to help others and have not forgotten that. You should do your research to find someone who has the time to talk to you and will be honest and straightforward with you. If you would like your case reviewed, including an explanation of why it either is or is not a case, call us. We are located on Lakeland Hills Boulevard across from Lakeland Regional Medical Center.