My Old Life as a Personal Injury Lawyer

In my life I have often been asked what life is like for a personal injury lawyer. Many people assume that a personal injury lawyer is impervious to the many stories of pain and suffering because we have heard so many. They assume that we have made millions of dollars during our careers and that we live life doing whatever we please.

Now that I have retired and am living in the UK I have had time to really consider what my old life as a personal injury lawyer was like, and I thought it could make an interesting blog post, so here it is.

A Personal Injury Attorney

To understand what my life was like then you have to understand what I did professionally. As a personal injury claims lawyer I went to battle for people who, through no fault of their own, had been injured by someone else’s negligent behaviour.

Many of the people I represented were injured to the point that their entire lives were changed forever. If those individuals did not have legal representation then the insurance companies would have paid them a small pittance that would not have been anywhere near the amount of money they had to put out on their injuries. I feel that I was an advocate for the people who could not stand up and fight for their own rights. I was a crusader for equality, and justice.

What kind of cases I was Involved in

During my days of active practice I represented people who were injured in slip and fall accidents, auto accidents, heavy machinery accidents, medical malpractice injuries, sports related injuries, birth related injuries and just about any other personal injury you could think of.

I represented any person who came to me with an injury that was the result of actions of another person, the lack of actions of another person, or equipment failure. I helped people to negotiate with the insurance companies and their solicitors. Some injury claims lawyers only practice one specific type of injury law, but I have worked on almost every type there is.

What kind of person makes a good personal injury lawyer?

In order to be successful in this profession a person must be able to have empathy for the pain and suffering of others. A good personal injury lawyer cares about other people and is capable of visualizing themselves in situations that are closely related to the ones their clients are going through.

The professionals must be determined in order to put forth the effort it requires to fight the big insurance companies and make them pay for the damages their clients are responsible for. A personal injury claim is looked on by the big insurance companies as a nuisance. The insurance representative will do everything in their power to pay the injured party the least amount of money that they can for the damages caused in their accident.

Sometimes insurance representatives make offers to injured people so fast after an accident that the injured person does not even know the full extent of their condition. As an attorney representing the injured I scrutinized these offers to determine if they were fair, or if they were simply a way to get someone to take a little money and forget that they had their lives altered. As an attorney I had to be educated on all aspects of the personal claims laws, and I even had to have a working knowledge of medical terminology.

I would also say that these attorneys have to be ready to be available to their clients virtually 24/7. Not all clients can come into an office so the attorney must be willing to go to medical facilities and to private homes to meet with their clients. Being available and flexible is crucial if you want to be a successful personal injury lawyer.

What do I consider to be a successful personal injury lawyer?

I consider a lawyer that has a client base that is represented tirelessly to be successful. If the lawyer can look back on the cases they helped and see that in more than ninety percent of the cases the people they represented were better off for having known them then they were a true success.

If you can look back like I am doing now and see that for most of your clients you were able to negotiate a fair settlement that kept the client from having the hassle of court proceedings then you were successful.

G Macs final thought

If at the end of the day you can be proud of your accomplishments, if you can say you did your best, then you are a success. Personal injury is an emotional type of law that requires you to remain calm and collected despite how you are really feeling. It requires you to give your clients one hundred percent of your attention, and for you to devote however much time it takes to make sure that the injured are compensated for their loss.

How Much Compensation Will I Get?

Whenever I used to take on personal injury claims I would often be asked right at the beginning of the conversation “How much compensation will I get?” and I’d always explain that it’s not a random award, you’re not winning the lottery or a scratch card but you will be paid out for what it has actually cost you.

The money you get has to be justified and proven – the numbers aren’t just plucked out of the air to see what you’ll accept. The job of your legal team is to gather evidence that proves how much out of pocket you are now, how much of an impact it will have on your future life and earnings and what impact it had on you at the time of the accident.

I’ve dealt with many different types of compensation claims including: Neck and back whiplash, fractured bones, damaged teeth, facial scarring, hearing problems, brain damage, broken backs and vertebrae, loss of sight, hair damage (chemicals), Asbestos related injuries, pelvis injuries, amputations and also knee problems. This is just a small sample by the way, if I listed every injury type I think I’d need a bigger blog! As you can see the range of possible claims is massive and when you factor in severity and impact on any given individual you can start to see that answering the question of “how much will I get?” is impossible from the outset to answer.

Questions & Answers

When you instruct a personal injury lawyer or team their job is to ask you questions about what happened, this may seem like a questionnaire but it is in fact the start of the evidence for your claim.

Then they will talk with you about costs for things like medication, travel, loss of earnings and trips to the hospital etc. Then your doctors reports will be examined to work out the extent of your injury.

The amount of money per injury will fit into a range for each injury type and then the lawyer will work out, again with medical information provided or by sending you for a further assessment, how severe your injury is and where it fits into the scale of compensation amounts.

If your injury is already fully healed then the claim can be put forward to the insurers legal team for their assessment of your evidence. If you have ongoing symptoms then a doctor or medical professional will assess you so that your team can work out a length of time your symptoms will continue for.

Then using medical evidence they can work out how long you’re likely to continue needing treatment and also what effect the injury will have on you personally and professionally as well. For instance if you are a bus driver and you have a claim for torn ligaments the doctor may say you’ll be unable to drive for 6 months then your lawyer will claim for 6 months loss of work on top of the other claim amounts.

If you had a leg amputation however then the cost to you may be hugely different and so the compensation amount claimed for will be significantly higher. With life changing injuries like amputations there is also the psychological impact on your life to consider. I always used to use a different doctor for this side of the claim as it’s quite a tricky thing to assess correctly.

All of this evidence gathering may seem tedious at the time but a good personal injury claim will gather all of this information in advance of submitting a claim as once you’ve claimed and been paid out it’s often too late to go back and say ‘Actually, I forgot to tell you about this symptom….’

The number of factors to take into account when I was asked the question “How much will I get” meant that I’d usually say “Sorry, I can’t say just yet” because I didn’t want to leave myself open to complaints down the road when the amount claimed was less (no-one complains when it’s more though!) than I’d indicated.

I may make a ball park estimate but would be clear that it was not guaranteed. There are websites that offer a personal injury calculator depending on the injury type that give you an estimate too but those calculators can only take into account the injury itself without knowing anything about you personally and the impact it has on your life.

G Macs final thought

I used to, and most personal injury lawyers still do, offer a free consultation to start with so I’d recommend you speak with them first and then ask the question again when they know a bit more about your unique case, the impact on you and how it will affect you going forwards to get a more realistic answer to the question.

Can The Spam

Following on from a previous post here I thought it would be helpful to raise awareness of the Can The spam campaign.

When I was dealing with personal injury claims in the past, I heard case after case where people were considering not claiming as they thought we were all national companies, employing cheap staff who didn’t know what they were doing and were only in it for making money for the company rather than the claimant. I’d ask why they thought that and in most cases it was down to the cold calls, automated calls or text messages from cheap call centres. Most people have the same reaction as I do when they receive a claims company cold calling them – to hang up the phone. It just gives the impression of a poorly managed sector in the personal injury claims sector that put people off.

The fact is, from my experience, that some companies do employ cheap lead generators. They think they can call, call again and keep calling and people will give in. Or if they aren’t successful then they sell your details on to another company. Even worse than cold callers is when you run halfway through the house to answer the phone and there’s an automated message offering you the services of a claims management company. How many people listen past the first few words these days? As soon as I realize it’s an automated call I simply hang up.

Can The Spam campaign

Well back in June 2016 APIL (the association of personal injuries lawyers) launched the “Can The Spam” campaign and I am fully behind it. It’s about time! Solicitors are unable to cold call, by law, and APIL are calling for that to be a blanket ban on everyone including claims management company’s (not that they all cold call).

According to the Information Commissioner the number of cold calls and text messages doubled from 2014 to 2015 and shows no sign of stopping, so I’m saying that everyone get behind APIL to stop this practice. Even people who are using the free Telephone Preference Service, which should stop unsolicited calls to their number, are reporting the nuisance calls.

When APIL held their annual conference back in May they were lucky enough to get Lord Faulkes as their key note speaker. He said that society has a cost directly from the “substantial industry that encourages unnecessary, inappropriate, or even fraudulent claims through cold calling and other social nuisances and which increases premiums for customers.” In effect he was basically saying that the cost of insurance premiums for everyone else goes up because of wrongly claimed injury compensation.

Neil Sugarman who heads up APIL said “Cold calling for personal injury claims is exploitative, tasteless, and intrusive. Solicitors are not allowed to do it, for these very good reasons. But some claims management companies continue to hound people in this way and we want the government to put a total ban on the practice.”

What APIL want is for people to log any nuisance calls with them via Twitter or their Facebook page and give as much detail as possible, like: when was the call received, what number was it from, was a company name mentioned, was it a phone call or text message and any other relevant information you can give. APIL will then pass this on to the regulator.

APIL wants a total ban on cold calling (and I agree) but the government hasn’t taken this step as yet so the more companies that can be forced to stop by collating this information the better. The government has also linked cold calls and nuisance calling with removing the right of some claims against whiplash injuries which I think is ludicrous. If you’ve been genuinely injured then you have a genuine right to be compensated in my eyes. If some unscrupulous claims firms are inventing or helping people to claim for invented injuries then it’s got to be a good thing for everyone if APIL’s actions are successful in reducing these types of companies or reducing their practises.

In my opinion the sector should be allowed to advertise their services, should be allowed to take calls from customers and should be able to work reactively not proactively. Cold calls are usually very annoying and put pressure on the agent to make false claims or offer unrealistic amounts of money for claims which can never be achieved. The pressure on sales agents then passes down to the consumer who can be led down the path of making false or fraudulent claims that they would’ve never considered themselves before the cold caller made contact.

G Macs final thought

Call centres cost money to setup and more money to pay the staff each day, the only way that money is recovered is by making claims against insurance policies and the only way that money is earned back by the insurers is to increase the premiums that everybody pays for their insurance. I say ‘Can The Spam’ now to improve the costs of insurance for everyone.