Once you’ve signed off on a retainer agreement, you’ve placed your personal injury claim or lawsuit into the hands of your attorney. Your mutual objective is to obtain financial compensation for your injuries. Since your attorney is paid with a percentage of the proceeds derived from a settlement or verdict in your case, his or her motivation is to maximize the value of the case.
Describing an established and respected personal injury lawyer as an “ambulance chaser” is derogatory and even a little insulting. One attorney put it this way:
“I am convinced that practicing law with civility and integrity is a noble endeavor and fully compatible with a forgiving heart, and I’ll have a bit more to say about this later. Indeed, before you become too critical of lawyers, listen to the words of my good friend Jim Gordon: ‘It is true that some lawyers are dishonest, arrogant, greedy, venal, amoral, ruthless buckets of toxic slime. On the other hand, it is unfair to judge the entire profession by a few hundred thousand bad apples.’”
Joking aside, the professional misnomer “ambulance chaser” implies avarice, exploitation and settlement mills. In reality, the highly-regarded accident attorney’s objective is to help people who were injured through no fault of their own. Frequently these people have limited means and a weak bargaining position relative to their insurance companies, and they need an experienced advocate to keep the settlement equitable. While it’s not unheard of for ambitious lawyers to aggressively pursue exorbitant claims, actual incidence of unethical exploitation of innocent parties is extremely rare, according to AboveTheLaw.com.
The Legal Skills
Making it through law school and passing the bar exam doesn’t make a young lawyer an accident attorney. The lawyer must be skilled in pleading, civil procedure, insurance law and the rules of evidence. According to Ables & Annes, you should only hire an attorney that will “not charge you any fee unless and until you make a financial recovery.” Issues will arise on one or more of those areas of civil practice in every case in a personal injury office. Those skills are developed through long hours, research, writing and arguing issues in motion practice in front of judges.
The People Skills
A successful personal injury lawyer maintains contact with his or her client. Never be afraid to ask a question during the course of your case. The accident attorney is a strong communicator, not only when answering your questions, but when he or she is in front of a jury too. When it comes to accident cases and other litigation, criminal law, or a divorce proceeding, you want to hire an attorney that’s aggressive in tone and style. Dave Ramsey says that ideally you want an advocate that you don’t even like very much, as this is the person who is going to fight and claw for the best deal for you.
The Settlement Skills
Most people don’t want their case to go to trial. Trials are lengthy, stressful and costly. Through his or her experience, tenacity and advocacy skills, your personal injury lawyer will have a highly consistent history of successful settlements in the past. The insurance company and defense attorneys on the other side of your case will probably know of your attorney from past cases. They know that he or she is an opponent to be respected. Your attorney tries cases.
The ambulance chaser’s revolving door turns as fast as possible. Those types of lawyers have no intention of trying cases. If a case looks like it’s going to trial, they refer it out to other lawyers more competent than them. Then they take the next person who comes through that revolving door. With an ambulance chaser, it’s likely that the seriously injured will be left with far less than they should get.
Author Information: Rachael Murphey is an entrepreneur and writer on the topics of business, economics, and politics. She has written for Host Review and HR.com. She currently lives in Denver with her dog Charlie. You can find her on Twitter.