There was a genteel time in America when lawyers who were not very smart could make a decent living and not cause too much harm to their clients if they took a personal injury case from time to time. They would settle for what they could get, give about 60% or less to their unsuspecting client, and no one would know what a buffoon the lawyer really was. They would handle just about any case-your divorce, your traffic tickets, your will, and if your family was destroyed by a sleepy semi-truck driver, they would handle that case too. The lawyer would simply check out a "how to" book from the local law library and "wing" it.
When we think about this simpler time in America, you might think about the kind of world that Norman Rockwell depicted in his covers for the 1950's Saturday Evening Post. I can recall a cover portraying a country lawyer reviewing a law book with a farmer in a cluttered little office with a fishing pole in the corner. Unfortunately, for those old-style attorneys, the Norman Rockwell days have passed. In fact, these simpler days have been gone for many years. Sadly, most of these "old-style" lawyers are not even astute enough to know that they have no business doing anything other than plea-bargaining traffic tickets in municipal courts. The problem is, there are still a lot of these part-time injury lawyers practicing law today. Unquestionably, they DO take serious injury cases and they end up doing irreparable harm to their clients. Until these lawyers realize that Norman Rockwell is dead, it remains the job of lawyers who know how to properly represent injured clients, to warn unsuspecting clients of the dangers of retaining one of these "jack of all trades" lawyers.
Your job as a reasonably prudent client is to first recognize that these lawyers exist. For the benefit of your case, your family, and their financial future, you must steer clear from these so-called "professionals." If you mistakenly hire one of these attorneys, you should consider firing them and hire a vigilant lawyer who is up-to-date on the intricacies of Colorado injury law.
In Colorado, there are yearly changes in the laws related to auto accidents, insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, subrogation, med-pay, hospital liens, and workers compensation. It is extremely dangerous to hire an attorney who is not up-to-date in all of these areas. In fact, at ANDERSON, HEMMAT & McQUINN, we not only spend thousands of dollars each year making sure our attorneys are properly educated on the law, but we are also regularly hand-selected to teach other lawyers about updates in injury law.
From our many years of experience in injury law, we know full well the dangers associated with uninformed, old-style attorneys representing clients. One danger could be that you end up paying for medical treatment that should have been paid for by the at-fault party. Another danger could be that you end up with substantially less money than what is required to take care of your future medical needs. After you reach a settlement, it is even conceivable that you could be sued by your health care providers, your health insurance, your auto insurance, or even the insurance company for the at-fault party to the auto collision.
You could even end up in suit with all of the above at the same time. Can you imagine that? Your wife gets rear-ended, and at the end of the process, there is an actual money judgment against both of you from the insurance company who insured the party who caused the accident? Well guess what? I have seen it happen! When it happens, it is a classic case of poor legal representation and completely preventable if addressed early.
SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO AVOID THESE NORMAN ROCKWELL TYPES?
- Ask questions of your lawyer all the time.
- If your case involves two or more areas of the law, such as auto accident, insurance, and workers' compensation laws, be sure your attorney is well-regarded in the legal community in EACH area of the law.
- Check with your friends and family for referrals to lawyers who did good work for them. Once you hire counsel, insist on periodic letters from your lawyer making sure that in each stage of your case, she is keeping you informed as to the legal status.
- Expect telephone calls initiated from your attorney. No attorney is too busy to get on the telephone with their client.
- DO NOT accept your case being delegated to a secretary for handling. Attorneys represent clients; secretaries type. These are not the same jobs, and the line should never be blurred.
- Make sure that the lawyer who settles your case agrees to handle, for free, post-settlement issues such as negotiating with hospitals regarding liens, undertaking Jorgenson Hearings (hopefully he/she knows what one is) to resolve workers' compensation liens, resolving other claimed rights of interest from your health insurance, doctors' claims, etc.
Remember, if you ever lose confidence in your lawyer, you have an absolute right to sit down with her in a face-to-face meeting. After that meeting, if you still are not comfortable with how your case is being handled, consider sitting down with another attorney for a free initial consultation. The transfer of your case can actually be quite painless and there is no substitution for the peace of mind you will feel when you know you are well-represented.
At ANDERSON, HEMMAT & McQUINN, we provide free consultations to all injury victims, and we promise to always be straightforward and candid with you.