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Personal Injury Lawyer Ads on TV Are All Show

I just saw yet another of those personal injury attorney ads on the tube here in Raleigh. Jesus is this tiresome. Must be a million of these damn things (in every state no less). Tiresome and stupid. But beyond that it’s like a massive ripoff. Let me tell you what I saw.

Here’s this local yokel comes on the screen stroking his little pet doggie, sitting on a living room couch and dressed in a casual button-down. Hey, he’s a real family man huh? Better trust him, right? So this guy goes on to say how he’s been in the game for thirty years and more and whatever. Nice family guy. Maybe there’s even a shot of him with his wifey and 2.5 kids having fun at the  Sunday ice-cream social after church. Salt of the earth dude. He’s got this firm where they all fight for your case, see? Gonna protect your rights, yessiree. Real tough guys. Gonna fight for your rights and all that. Even got a shot of the whole bunch of them marching up the steps of some nameless courthouse. Gonna get some justice by God. Got some women in there too just to make sure we all know he’s no sexist retrograde. Maybe even a minority lawyer trudging up them steps. Hey, he’s everyman. Real liberal-minded. Broad appeal. Gotta love him.

Integrity?  Bullcrap

Integrity. What? Bullshit. Let me tell you the secret of these personal injury factories. Listen here. The deal is this.  Personal injury law is—at least at the level that I’m referring to—a bunch of bullshit. It is not hard. It is not intellectual. It is not brainy. It is not heady. It is not sublime. It is not complicated. It is, in a word, rote.  By extension, the lawyers that practice it are—many of them—down at the very bottom rung of the law-practice ladder and, like the law they practice, full of crap. Consider this:

99% of the personal injury cases that sustain these guys’ big TV law firms are car accidents. And 99% of those car accidents are little tiny “whiplash” cases (called “neck poppers” in the trade). You know what I’m talking about. There’s a stop light, a guy stopped, and some dude hits him from behind. Bent bumper. $1,000 of damage and the car’s still drivable.  Easy peasy. But let’s broaden the scope a bit. Sure there are variations: A left turning car hits the straight-ahead car. A passenger in a car that hydroplanes or over-corrects or whatever. Buncha variations. Pick your facts. They’re all basically the same: The common denominators are these: (1) it is easy to spot the guy who is at fault and (2) no one is badly hurt.  See, cases like this are the big PI firms’ bread and butter. Plenty of these cases out there and no question that the insurance company is going to pay. So, call me cynical, but here’s a typical case:

  1. You are at a stoplight, dude hits you from behind and cop gives him a ticket for failing to reduce speed.
  2. Next day you’re sore and go to the local chiropractor
  3. Two weeks later after cracking your back three times a week and showing you some mumbo-jumbo x-rays Chiro says you’re good
  4. You go see one of these TV lawyers and he treats you real nice in the nice office with pretty secretaries and even gives you a free Coke with your glossy folder which holds a 33% fee agreement
  5. TV lawyer makes much of the fact that “if they don’t get money for you, you don’t owe them anything” (which is the thrust of a contingent fee agreement)
  6. A month later, he calls you in and gives you a check for a big whopping $2,000
  7. Adios

Barely Any Work for that 33%

Easy enough right? And seems reasonable enough, right? I mean $2,000 in the pocket is a lot of dough, right? What’s the criticism here? Well, the criticism is simply this: In order to get you that $2,000, all this attorney had to do in the ever lovin’ world was to gather together a copy of your chiro records and bills (which was a phone call) and send them off to the insurance company and then wait a day or two for the insurance company to call and make an offer. If Mr. TV attorney wants to make a really big deal of it he may call back and refuse the insurance company’s first offer and ask for a bit more. Wow and whoop-dee-doo. How hard that is, right?  So then he calls you up and says he’s got a really great offer and you need to accept it. Then, bada-bing, he gets a check from the insurance company, pays you, pays the chiro, and pays himself a big fat 33% fee.
These PI mills are well-oiled and heartless machines. They do not give a crap about you or your case. They see your accident as a means of skimming a 33% fee for doing just about nothing. They spend many thousands (millions) of dollars on TV and print ads to convince you that they “fight to protect your rights”. They have very efficient software programs that make the process of handling PI car accident claims at least as efficient as the insurance companies have to process your claims on their end.

The Bottom Line

When you walk in the door of Mr. TV lawyer’s impressive office they take your case info and sign you up and then spend about 15 total minutes dealing with your case beginning to end. Yep that’s right, 15 minutes. Not 15 days, not 15 hours, but 15 minutes. What? Wait a minute!  I know I slept through math class, but if the TV lawyer gets $1,000 for his fee, and he spends a total of 15 minutes “working”on the claim” that equates to an hourly fee of $4,000. WTF? $4,000 an hour? Who in God’s green world deserves an hourly fee of 4,000? Brain surgeons? The guys who designed the Mars rover? The dude who cured cancer? Holy jeebus folks. This is true.

Ok. Enough ranting.  So, my friend, next time you see that TV lawyer ad that talks about how they’re gonna “protect your rights” and “fight for justice” , next time you see these grease balls marching up the courthouse steps for the sake of some TV ad, you just remember this, if they are charging you the equivalent of $4,000/hr they have no idea about what a fight for justice is and they damn sure don’t care about your rights.



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