Attorneys are an integral and necessary part of many people’s lives. It would be great if nothing bad ever happened and people always got along, but that is not realistic. Car accidents happen, medical injuries occur, people die, people steal things, sales goes wrong, the list goes on and on.
Laws and statutes and regulations exist to try to ensure that individuals are treated fairly and that everyone is treated equally. Attorneys are licensed professionals who have studied the law, and handle disputes that arise within the law. Like in any profession, most attorneys are good and honest. Attorneys, and personal injury attorneys in particular, more than many other professionals, often get a bad reputation.
Reasons Why Personal Injury Attorneys Tend to Get a Bad Reputation
Most people do not understand how long it can take to resolve a personal injury case, or any case. While some cases will settle quickly, many can take months or even years to settle or resolve in court. Delays are inevitable. That is a result of a number of factors that have nothing to do with an attorney or his/her law firm. They include:
- Insurance company. If there is an insurance company on the other side of a personal injury claim, its goal will be to pay little or no money. This could lead to the insurance company dragging out a claim. Even when an insurance company is willing to pay a claim, there will be a negotiation. The chances of the two parties agreeing on the damages quickly is slim. In addition, insurers have their own internal processes that must be followed. Often the person handling the claim is authorized to settle up to a certain amount. Settlement beyond that will need to go up the chain of command. This takes time. Time in which the plaintiff might feel his/her attorney isn’t doing anything. The reality is, the attorney’s hands are tied and while they can push for a decision or a conversation, they can’t force the other side to respond timely.
- Medical Records. In a personal injury case where the plaintiff has been injured, medical records will be a necessary part of the claim. Medical providers require forms be filled out before they will release medical records. The records will then need to be gathered and sent to the attorney. While an attorney can request that the records be sent timely, the reality is, the attorney must wait just like anyone else requesting a medical record for any reason.
The Nature of Personal Injury Cases
In personal injury cases the client, or plaintiff, is a person who has been injured or the family of someone who has died. Emotions are high, as is physical suffering. In addition to dealing with pain, clients are often dealing with monetary concerns including medical bills, lost time from work and maybe property damage if, for example, they were injured in a car accident and their car was damaged or totaled.
Clients want to be compensated quickly and fairly for their injuries. While it is easy to quantify certain losses - medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages and property damage, it is much harder to put a number on pain and suffering. No two people are the same and they will experience pain and suffering differently.
Attorneys do not make the law or set damages, however they are tasked with coming up with a reasonable number that makes it in the interest of both parties to settle. Attorneys must advise their clients as to what they can reasonably expect to recover based on the facts and the attorney’s experience. Oftentimes that number is significantly lower than what a client is expecting.
In addition, the laws themselves can limit damages. A client who is injured in a medical malpractice case might expect that they can recover unlimited damages. However, in North Carolina, and a number of other states, there is a cap on the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff can recover. Therefore if a client comes to an attorney expecting to sue a doctor for millions of dollars, in most cases, that will be an unrealistic expectation unless the compensatory damages are extremely high.
Personal injury attorneys are often called “ambulance chasers” and thought to profit off of others' poor fortune and suffering. The reality is, that personal injury lawyers are extremely invested in their clients' cases and truly want to get the best possible outcome for their injured client.
Attorneys are often criticized for only caring about getting their clients money. However, the only remedy that the law provides for those in a personal injury case is monetary damages.
Most personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingent fee, which is an arrangement that is unique to the law and one which many people do not understand. Under a contingent fee arrangement, the client does not pay the attorney's hourly fees, and will pay little or no money out of pocket during the course of the case. If the case does settle or resolve in court, then the attorney gets a portion of the settlement monies.
This is another reason that attorneys get a bad reputation. If a plaintiff is successful in a case, then he or she would like to recover the greatest amount possible. Plaintiff’s are often resentful of attorneys taking a portion of that recovery. However they fail to realize that the attorney has not been paid for the duration of the case. The attorney has agreed to risk not being paid at all if a case does not resolve favorably.
Our Charlotte Attorneys Can Review Your Case
The Charlotte, North Carolina based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced personal attorneys. They know how to examine the facts of a case and apply the law and can advise you as to whether or not you should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.