Many folks who see billboards and Television commercials for lawyers assume they are looking at “trial lawyers.” As the old saying goes: “When you assume…..” To call such lawyers “trial lawyers,” could not be any farther from the truth. A more accurate description for them would be “plaintiff mills.” That’s what all the insurance companies have historically called them. If you have had a friend foreclosed upon, you have heard of a “foreclosure mill.” A “mill” is a place that pumps out mass amounts of product: think pencil factory, toilet paper factory, millions of cheaply made products, thousands of products going out of the doors of a huge factory. A “plaintiff’s mill” like the new Billboard/T.V. Settlement Lawyers are pretty much the same: Mass produced, cheaply made services.
Make no mistake, most (but not all) those people do have licenses to practice law. However, to call them “trial lawyers” is ridiculous, despite all the courtroom scenes in their commercials. They are high-volume “settlement lawyers.” A more accurate description is “Billboard/T. V. Settlement lawyer” or “BTSL.” BTSLs have to convince their clients to accept what the insurance company offers or send the cases to real trial lawyers. Stories about them are everywhere among real trial lawyers. One Orlando-based law firm gets 300 calls a day from people who have seen their advertising. One lawyer advertises with a fake firm name that he shares with another, different law firm. He does hundreds of billboards, brings the cases with all this advertising, but if they have to go to court he gives it to a real trial lawyer. He brags on his billboard about “Experience Counts” and “See Our Results” and gives out a website for this fake name law firm. It’s pretty pathetic since he has no trial experience in twenty-five years, never goes to court and “our
results” are not trial results, those would be from the results of a different law firm, not his. Two other BTSLs have billboards everywhere but send out every single one of their trial cases to real trial lawyers if they can’t force their clients to accept the insurance company offer. Another BTSL from Miami puts out billboards and commercials all over Florida but doesn’t actually have offices in the counties where his billboards are and commercials run. Instead, he hires a company to send out secretaries or clerks who meet with injured people then turn the cases over to lawyers who work on contract for him. He says he “wants to be your lawyer,” but you will never meet him or even talk to him. One BTSL firm fines its attorneys $20,000 if they don’t take at least three cases to trial in a year. A defense lawyer once told me trying to get a continuance from them at the end of the year is impossible because of this $20,000 fine. How would you feel if you are that client who had to go to court because your lawyer might get fined $20,000 by the guy he works for? These BTSLs want your case but they can’t back up their demands to the insurance company because they have too many cases to go to trial. Why should the insurance company worry about being sued because these BTSL can’t take the case to trial. Not even if their lives depended on it. They will settle. And leave your money “on the table.”
Preparing a case for trial takes an enormous amount of time. A BTSL “plaintiff’s mill” cannot take the time to properly prepare because they have too many cases. Most of these BTSLs have entire one third of their business costs are for advertising. So, instead of hiring the best lawyers, legal assistants and staff, paying for experts and case preparation, they buy advertising. The insurance companies know that and so they lowball these settlement lawyers.
And they buy lots of advertising. Just turn on the T.V., the radio or drive down the road. They are like mold in a flooded house: everywhere.
People are seeing the decline of the use of a jury. In the article, “Exploring the Decline of the American Trial Lawyer” the writer (a Federal Judge) observes: “By 2002, only 0.6% of all civil cases in our state courts were resolved by jury trials.” “Today,  it is believed to be fewer than one out of every 200 tort cases filed in federal court ever reaches trial.”
There are many factors but one thing is clear about jury trials: A trial lawyer and a jury is the only way to hold a large powerful corporation accountable and pay. It is where a single person with a lawyer can get a verdict that makes a corporation stop bad actions, pay what it is supposed to pay and punish it when it doesn’t do what it was supposed to do.
Make no mistake: if you ever see a personal injury case in court, it is because an insurance company refuses to be fair and reasonable and protect its insured. As I wrote in a recent article, these insurance companies are not interested in protecting their insured. That is the game it plays. It tells the public that it sells protection in case an insured does something wrong, but then defends its case with an eye solely on how to make sure it, the insurance company, pays as little as possible.
That’s where these BTSLs come in. They fit perfectly into the scheme of the insurance company paying as little as possible. Unless your case is a catastrophic case where there are lots of injuries and, most importantly, lots of insurance coverage, a BTSL will tell you to go ahead and settle it. That going to trial would be “a lot of effort and not get you any more money.” Unfortunately, so many people think that the few thousand dollars that they get from the BTSL is what the case is worth. Many times, the BTSL has, according to several mediators in the last two years every one these BTSLs “left money on the table” during mediation. That means there was more money the BTSL could have been obtained for the client but the he or she didn’t.
Another problem with the BTSL is the “one third problem.” I’m not talking about the attorney’s fee which is actually 33 1/3%, (though some charge more). I’m talking about the “one-third job” you get when you hire a BTSL Outfit. I wrote an article about this which I recommend to you. The point of the article is a lawyer supposed to solve problems that you have after a crash, all of the problems. A BTSL does only the bodily injury portion. When you hire one, you, the injured person who is paying the BTSL to “represent you,” are stuck representing yourself in your property damage and your lost wage claims. Most times, you are dealing with the very same adjuster who is evaluating your bodily injury claim. That adjuster is getting information out of you for the bodily injury part of your claim when talking to you about your wrecked car and medical claims. That’s like the fox guarding the hen house. Yet every single one of these BTSL outfits lets the enemy adjuster chat with you as much as they want. Smart? Doing the full job? Making your work your own claim? No, no and yes.
How it is supposed to work? You are injured, you hire a trial lawyer, she or he does everything and you get on with your life. You should feel a sense of relief. You should have the ability to say “talk to my lawyer” to anyone having to do with your case. Your job, as I explained all of my clients, is to get well and get on with your life. My job, as I explained to all my clients, is “to do everything else.”
If you like seeing your lawyer’s name on billboards and television and listening to his voice on the TV and radio, maybe a real trial lawyer isn’t what you want. However if you want a lawyer who has the time, experience and skillset to take your case to trial and the insurance companies know that, avoid a billboard/T.V. lawyer at all costs.
If you are injured and searching the web for an attorney, stop clicking now.
I am a full-service personalized, personal injury lawyer with a statewide practice in all 67 counties. I have 31 years of experience to put to work for you. Call so I can answer your questions: 1-800 – 535 – 3002. Email: [email protected] Skype: ScienceCan Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JSteeleLaw/ Twitter: @JSteeleOlmstead or @FlaBicyleLawyr Whatsapp: J. Steele Olmstead Instagram: jsteeleolmstead.
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