Thursday, December 13, 2018

Why Did My Lawyer Drop My Case

I get a call about once a week from an person wanting a new lawyer.  I rarely pick up the case.  The reason is simple, I'm not a pro bono lawyer.  If your lawyer dropped your case there is probably a reason.

I drop cases occasionally.  I do this when 1) I don't think a lawsuit will help the client 2) the client wants more than what the case is worth 3) after further evaluation the case turns out not to be a case that is winnable in front of a jury or 4) the client does something that I think is questionable. 

When I do drop a case I call the client and tell them straight up why I'm dropping the case.  I get calls from people stating "my lawyer says he is dropping my case because he isn't doing XYZ anymore and I"m XYZ."  Let me translate that for you that lawyer doesn't want the case and came up with a reason that sounded good as to not piss you off.  Lawyers don't drop "good" cases.

All that said, I have taken two cases other lawyers have dropped.  One was where the other lawyer presumably didn't understand under-insured motorist coverage.  The other was a fire case where the other lawyer didn't follow up on a freedom of information request that would have shown him the case was a good case.

#1 and #2 (above) reasons are similar.  I often get what I consider to be top dollar pre-litigation when you consider the costs of a lawsuit.  When I file a lawsuit clients have to pay me more money and the costs of the lawsuit are taken out of the eventual recovery.  What that means is that sometimes when you do the math there is good chance that all of the money will go to lawyers, doctors fees for testimony, and the costs of a lawsuit (like deposition transcripts).  I have heard of greedy lawyers filing suit just to bump up their fee.  That is a terrible business practice.  I don't want a pissed off client two years down the line telling me that none of the money is going to them. 

If a client wants a lawsuit on "principle" or to teach them a lesson I'm not a "principle" lawyer.  My job is to get you fully and fairly compensated for your injuries.

#3 occurs when "facts" change meaning that testimony pops up that wasn't previously available or a client isn't as injured as originally thought.

#4 is a rare occasion.  One happened to me this week, I received a call from a debt collector asking me about whether or not my client had a check coming their way on a car crash case.  I told the adjuster I couldn't answer any of the questions, but it was clear that the client had tried to hold off a debt collector by relaying inaccurate information.  If I lose trust in a client I lose trust in a case.

The other issue is that the prior lawyer will have a lien for "services rendered."  Depending on who that other lawyer is they may think they are entitled to a significant fee and thus I'd be really working for that lawyer at the end of the day.

Lawyers don't share this information which is why I think its important.

Its not really Advertising Material.  but I'll write Advertising Material here :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Claiming "Board Qualification"...Not Board Certification

I had an interesting time deposing a "IME" ("Independent" Medical Examination) Doctor last week.  My client was rear ended by a jeep.   Moderate damage to my clients vehicle and no real damage to the jeep.  My client has a positive MRI finding an no prior issues with his back.  It was a trial deposition for the defense so they got to ask questions first.

After twenty something minutes of opining that my client wasn't hurt as a result of the crash I was given the chance to cross examine.   About four questions in the doctor told me that he wasn't comfortable providing opinions concerning the relatedness of the crash and the injury/medicine involved due to complications with law and ethics.  Huh?  My response was obviously "well you just spent twenty minutes discussing the exact same thing with the defense, but now all of a sudden you won't be providing any opinions?!"

He changed his tune and started answering my questions.  I thought it was good tactic on his part.  State that ethically you can't answer something the Plaintiff's lawyer is asking you, but answer all of the defense questions.

He did have some interesting things to say concerning his qualifications.  Doctors make a big deal about being "Board Certified."  Basically you practice medicine for a certain period of time and then you take a test to become Board Certified.  This doctor was asked if he was Board Certified and he stated he was "Board Qualified."  Board Qualified I asked him..."what exactly does Board Qualified mean?"  It meant that he was eligible to take the test, never did take the test,
and was not Board Certified.  I asked him if that was the same thing as going to law school, but never taking the bar examination.  He didn't like that question.  But CMON MAN! Just say you aren't Board Certified and move on.  No need to give some shady answer about being qualified. 

Side note, this doctor, for the past thirteen years, hasn't practiced medicine, but instead does these reviews for lawyers.  He does them for the defense, but doesn't keep a record.  He doesn't keep a record because he doesn't want Plaintiffs lawyers to know exactly how many he is doing.  This is a common trick "IME" doctors do.

I hope the jury sees thorough all of this guys nonsense.

Monday, November 12, 2018

"I do this all the time and nobody objects"

I went to a pre-trial conference a few weeks ago on a rear end collision case.  The judge is no nonsense and calls balls and strikes as she sees them.  The lawyer for the other side is a nice guy who talks really fast.  He is exceptionally proficient in cross examination, but his directs are basically him testifying about his position in the case and not really asking questions.  A lot of the questions are compound questions.  I had a decent amount of objections to his questioning.

The most interesting (objectionable :) questions he asked related to whether or not my treating physicians would respect the decision of the jury if the jury awarded my client zero money.  To me that is objectionable on two levels: 1) it invades the Provence of the jury and 2) its irrelevant.   Its the equivalent of me asking his doctor: so if the jury awards 14 million dollars for my client you are ok with that, right?  A jury shouldn't care what he doctor thinks about their award.  A jury should award or not award damages based on the testimony and evidence.  A jury shouldn't base their opinion on damages because some person in a white suit says they will be happy with whatever the jury does.  Happy the judge got this one right.

As I'm walking out the lawyer for the other side, who I genuinely believe is trying to help me in other cases, said I should use that line of questioning in other cases.  I'm not going to do that :)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Defense Doctor and Insurance

I was cross examining a doctor for the defense yesterday and asked her what percentage of cases she does for the Defense versus Plaintiffs.  She told me she doesn't keep track of it.  How convenient!  She did admit that she does most of her work for insurance companies.  I already knew that.

After the deposition the lawyer for the other side wanted to take out the testimony about the insurance company.  The law doesn't allow me to keep in the fact there is insurance so I agreed.  The theory behind it is that a jury knows there is insurance than a jury is inclined to award higher damages.  The reality is that insurance is the elephant in the room that nobody talks about and everyone knows is there.  From my perspective the lawyer on the other side is going to allege that this evil plaintiff's lawyer is out for gold and that his poor penniless client can't afford it.  That isn't true.  In this case the other side has $300,000.00 in coverage and won't pay my client for her injuries.  They would rather make her jump through hoops and try the case to a jury. 

The doctor also told me that she looked at photos of my clients damage to determine my client wasn't hurt.  I asked her if the lawyer for the defense send her photos of his clients damage for her assessment.  She told me no.  I asked her if taking a look at photos of the defendant's car would have made a difference in her evaluation.  She told me it wouldn't make a difference because she isn't a accident reconstructionist.  I didn't push it because I found it funny she looked at one photo and said my client wasn't hurt, but that looking at another photo (which shows more damage) wouldn't help in her evaluation.  Juries are smart.  They will figure it out.  This was also a catapult crash meaning the defendant rear ended a vehicle and slammed it into my client's vehicle.  I asked the doctor how many cars were involved in the crash.  She didn't know.  I wonder if the defense lawyer will pay her another 2K to testify in the future :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Earlier this month I met with a gentleman that was stopped waiting to take a left turn onto a main roadway.  To his left was a large bush.  In front of him was another vehicle facing the opposite direction at a stop sign.  The other vehicle "waived" him to take his left turn indicating it was safe.  It was not safe.  Coming the opposite direction was a vehicle that, according to the gentleman, had veered around a garbage bag in the middle of the street (you can't make this stuff up).  According to the police report the other driver was in his correct lane. Crash ensued.

I can't tell you how many times someone has come to my office wanting to sue the person that waive them through.  A really bad fractured ankle case comes to mind where my client was the victim of the incorrect waiving.  The first issue is that nobody ever gets the information on the person that waived them through.  They aren't listed on police reports because they leave the scene.  That, plus who is going to admit that they were wrong and waived someone into traffic?  That is the first problem.  The second problem is that you can't rely on a third party to make driving decisions for you.  As such, suing them would be a waste of time. 

The other thought this potential client had was suing the government for failing to make the bush trimmed.  The problem here is that suing people is expensive so you must be really hurt.  Suing the government is very expensive and there is the issue of sovereign immunity.  In this circumstance the damages would not have offset the costs of litigation thus making it a bad situation for the potential client.


Friday, September 21, 2018


I'm working on a case today where my client hired me eight months post crash.  In these scenarios I can't fix past damage.  For example, normally I can attempt to minimize my clients owed medical bills by putting them through health insurance if the provider takes health insurance.

Hospital bills are usually the issue here.  One visit can cost $8,000.00.  And Personal Injury Protection (PIP) usually covers the first $10,000.00.  If the hospital bill is submitted to PIP it is usually paid in full leaving $2,000.00 for future treatment. However, if you put that $8,000.00 bill through health insurance it averages out to $2,000.00 and PIP can be directed to pay that leaving you with $8,000.00 instead of $2,000.00.  If you have $8,000 for future treatment its going to make your payback on total medicals a lot lower and thus your recovery bigger (generally speaking).

The average person doesn't know any of that because they don't do this every single day so when a client comes to me eight months post crash and owes money to providers that eats into his or her recovery.

Another issue is insurance companies trying to pretend they are your friend.  My experience has been the adjusters aren't asking you questions to help you.  They are asking questions to try to create problems as far as liability and damages are concerned so when a client provides a recorded statement to a carrier it isn't the best of ideas (generally speaking).  They also want health records releases.  I worked on a case where my client had a lumbar (low back) spine injury 10 years ago, but no problems up until a crash with cervical (neck).  The adjuster wanted to make a big deal about the injury ten years ago.  Is that really acting in good faith?  From my perspective it is not, but they have a job to do in saving the insurance company money so they are going to take positions that are not substantiated.  Finally, the most offensive thing I see is pop out adjusters offering people between $1,000.00 and $1,500.00 right after a crash.  There is NO WAY a person can intelligently determine the extent of their injuries right after a crash.  I've seen an insurance company offer $1,000.00 to a guy with a torn rotator cuff.  That should be illegal.

Advertising Material.  Ranting Lawyer.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Dear Insurance Company, Pay the Deductible and Avoid the Personal Injury Lawyer

A former employee called me last week and told me her father was in a car crash and needed my help.  He had been rear ended by an uninsured driver and wasn't sure what to do.  After speaking to him I learned that he was mostly just pissed at his own insurance company for making him pay a $100.00 deductible on his property damage.  He understandably wanted to stick it to the uninsured driver as well.  Luckily, my client has uninsured coverage and can make a claim.  However, I don't think he would be making a claim if his insurance company just paid for his deductible.  I'd say at least 40% of what I do it related to insurance companies making stupid decisions.  I'm sure if some MBA evaluated this he would tell State Farm to pay the $100.00 deductible and hope this thing will go away.  Instead, I'm making an uninsured claim that won't resolve for less than several thousand dollars.  The insurance company will front that money and then attempt to collect it from the uninsured driver.  Catch is uninsured people don't have money so they will spend a lot of time chasing their tail. I'm not sad about it, but its an inefficiency in our system.

Opinion and Advertising Material for Brian Dettman