For many people who suffer personal injuries or wrongful death of a loved one as a result of a workplace injury, traffic accident defective product or medical malpractice, locating a lawyer can be a bewildering experience. In the case of a car accident, you may be inundated with direct mail solicitations from lawyers and chiropractors seeking your business. The same goes for airplane crashes. In addition, every major city has several big budget advertisers who spread the word that they too handle personal injury and wrongful death cases. These advertisers might be found on TV, radio, billboards, internet, ballpark signs and busses, or a combination of all of these advertising media. Oftentimes, the ads are accompanied by a catchy slogan or jingle to help you remember the firm name when your time of need arises. Are these big market advertisers worth consideration? The answer: it depends.
I thought about this topic after reading an article in The Trial Lawyer, entitled The A List: Celebrating America’s Premier Advertising Law Firms. Surprisingly, none of the big advertisers in my metropolitan area (Cleveland and Northeast Ohio) are even mentioned in the Top 100.
In my experience, many of the big advertisers are staffed with several high quality lawyers who can deliver first rate legal service to injured clients. Some, however, are not. Instead, some firms act as brokers who handle small, run of the mill car accident cases in-house, then farm more complex cases out to other firms. In return, the broker firms seek a referral fee or co-counseling arrangement wherein a portion of any fee is shared with the broker firm. This practice can create economic considerations that work against you.
Ultimately, complex personal injury and wrongful death cases, like medical negligence, truck crash, birth injury, product liability and traumatic brain injury (TBI), are expensive to litigate. The lead counsel will be responsible for advancing the costs of the litigation, which can cost tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. When a lawyer must share his/her fee, there is incentive to cut corners on costs, possibly by hiring fewer or less qualified experts. There is also an incentive to turn down cases that may require intensive lawyering, including investigation and fact discovery, or ones that have smaller damages. Some trial lawyers will only become involved in cases that are catastrophic with a likely recovery in excess of $1,000,000. In such a scenario, your case can get lost in the shuffle.
The bottom line is that personal injury law firms with big advertising budgets generally are very good at handling smaller, run of the mill car crash cases. However, before hiring one to represent you for a serious personal injury or wrongful death claim, or a complex matter such as medical negligence, truck crash, birth injury, product liability, burns, electrocution or traumatic brain injury, it would be best to do an extensive Google search or get a personal recommendation, then interview the trial lawyer who will be handling your case in person.