The “Best Lawyer” May be Embellishing, Even Using Fraud to Sign Cases
This is my final “staring into the abyss” blog – a collection of reflections on things that trouble me about the legal profession and the insurance industry today. Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of having the worst car accident law in the nation is that some Michigan personal injury lawyers have become increasingly desperate to sign new clients. They will say things – and put things on their web sites – to sign a case that would make the worst used car salesman or politician blush with shame.
For example, these lawyers say they’ve received millions of dollars in trial verdicts, even when it’s a complete lie — and even when they haven’t tried cases in years or ever received a million- dollar jury verdict. These lawyers make outrageous statements about making millions of dollars every year. I know one attorney who boasted tens of millions recovered for clients in one year and a 99 percent settlement rate! These lawyers also say they understand certain complex specialized areas of personal injury, such as traumatic brain injury or truck accidents, even if they have almost no real experience and certainly no proven results at trial with such cases.
What people don’t understand that lawyer advertising is truly comparable to the wild wild west these days, as there is very little oversight and regulation. This is especially rampant on the Internet. And these lawyers will continue to exaggerate and outright lie to sign cases until they’re caught – when some client they’ve lied to files a grievance.
How to Protect Yourself from Lawyer Fraud and False Advertising
There is one thing you can do to protect yourself. Ask your prospective lawyer to “source it” when they make a statement. You would do it if you were buying a toaster, so why wouldn’t you when making what may be one of the most important decisions in your life? There is nothing wrong or impolite with asking a lawyer to back up a statement he makes about himself. When you see something in quotes, like “best lawyer in Michigan” or “top car accident lawyer,” ask to see where that quote comes from, or if that lawyer just invented the phrases out of thin air and is now fishing to lure unsuspecting personal injury victims.
Luckily, today there are a number of independent and peer-review services that rate lawyers for legal ability and ethics. Some of the best are Martindale Hubbell, Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers. There are also helpful web sites like Avvo. See if these services have rated and reviewed the attorney you are considering hiring.
You can also look to see if that attorney has demonstrated mastery in his subject field of expertise. Does the lawyer teach at seminars and speaking engagements, and has he been elected to leadership positions in legal organizations? These aspects show the respect and admiration of peers, which means you will get the best representation.
Another important way to find top lawyers is to look for or ask for testimonials from real people who have been in the same situations as yourself. Read here for more tips on finding the most qualified auto accident attorney and truck accident lawyer.
Again, when a lawyer says something, whether it is trial results and settlements achieved each year, or how great he is, ask for proof. It is not rude, it’s smart.
Hiring the Right Lawyer
Remember, if you have been injured in a serious car accident, the lawyer you hire will be one of the most important decisions you will make. There is no book out there that says what someone’s pain and suffering is worth. The same case may settle for double or more depending on the skill and reputation of the lawyer involved.
In many of my cases, people are seriously injured and may never work again. Soon the insurance company starts playing games, like cutting off critical no-fault insurance benefits or sending accident victims to notorious “second opinion” doctors for “independent” medical examinations.
I know my clients depend on me, and that responsibility is incredibly affirming and humbling. It’s gratifying to read what many of my own clients have written about me in testimonials on web sites like Avvo or Google Local after I’ve helped them.
To wrap up my “Staring into the abyss” series about insurance company abuse and lawyer deception in Michigan, I’d like to remind my cherished clients and friends that it’s vital to find a lawyer who cares more about you than himself. There are many personal injury lawyers today who do dedicate themselves to helping people. These are lawyers who truly care about and believe in our civil justice system. Unfortunately, some of the worst offenders are often also some of the loudest and most blatant in their exaggerations and lies.
Like everything else in life, buyer beware. Be careful. Take your time, and do your research.
– Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008, according to a published, year-end verdicts and settlements report.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Don Hankins
For more on staring into the abyss of insurance company abuse in Michigan:
Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Southfield, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with a lawyer. There is absolutely no fee or obligation.