Not so Personal, Personal Injury Attorneys in Philadelphia
This week I met with two different individuals who scheduled consultations because they were unhappy with the attorneys they had hired to represent them. The first woman had a personal injury claim pending as a result of a slip and fall accident and was unhappy with her personal injury lawyer.
The second individual contacted us because she was unhappy with her Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney. As I sat and listened to both of these women describe their experiences with their chosen attorneys I became more and more frustrated. I was not surprised with what I heard-just disappointed that there are so many members of my profession, some of whom prominent, who have lost sight of what it means to be someone’s attorney and what that should involve.
The woman with the Philadelphia personal injury claim told me that after she was injured she called a law firm whose billboards and commercials she had seen because she figured they must be pretty good attorneys to be able to afford to spend all of that money on advertising.
Upon calling the law firm she was informed that this law firm, which spends thousands if not millions of money each year advertising for Pennsylvania personal injury and workers’ compensation case, in fact did not have one attorney on staff licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania! This of course meant that they could not handle her claim, but instead were going to refer her to another Philadelphia law firm with whom they had a relationship.
THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO MEETING WITH A SKILLED INJURY LAWYER
After calling the second law firm to whom she was referred, the injured woman was told that someone would be coming out to her home to meet with her. Expecting an attorney, she was most surprised when an “investigator” showed up to her house instead and obtained more details from her before “signing her up.”
The investigator who she met of course had no law degree and no legal experience at all. Rather, the investigator is employed by the law firm solely to make sure that potential new clients are signed up expeditiously so as not to “lose the case.” Rather than taking the time to schedule an appointment for this woman with an actual personal injury attorney, this law firm was more concerned with simply having her sign forms and a fee agreement so that they did not miss out on the opportunity to represent her. So now this woman has hired an attorney whom she has never met. Worse, this law firm has taken on a client whom its attorneys have never met.
Next the law firm sent its client to one of the doctors whom they regularly refer clients to. The client, who doesn’t have health insurance, attends therapy and treatment sessions thinking that the medical bills will ultimately be paid out of the settlement she obtains. A few months go by and the client is told by her doctor that she can no longer attend therapy at the doctor’s office.
Confused, the client calls her personal injury attorney’s office and is directed to one of her attorney’s assistants, who tells her that the attorney has decided not to pursue her case and that she will be receiving a letter stating that shortly. She receives the letter several days later informing her that the law firm is no longer pursuing her case, without any explanation. Hence, the phone call to my office.
After meeting with this individual for a few minutes it was obvious that the reason the law firm wasn’t pursuing the personal injury lawsuit was because there was not and never had been a valid claim to be made! It would have taken a competent attorney about three minutes to realize this and decline to pursue the case.
Unfortunately, because this law firm uses unqualified investigators to handle its initial client consultations and the investigator’s sole job is to get the potential client to sign on with the firm, a qualified personal injury lawyer never actually reviewed the details of the case until several months had gone by and it was too late. Now this poor woman is going to be stuck with thousands of dollars in medical expenses.
While she was grateful that I took the time to explain why there was no case to pursue before letting her know that I would not be able to represent her, she left disappointed that she had been treated so poorly by the law firm she had chosen to represent her. Oh, and by the way, as of the date of our meeting she had still never met or spoken to her actual attorney!
The second individual I referenced above had a workers’ compensation claim pending and had hired a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney to represent her. Not just any attorney though-she had hired a workers’ compensation attorney from one of those law firms that advertises all over Philadelphia and the surrounding counties telling you they aren’t just a workers’ compensation firm, they are the best, the one and only law firm for work-related injuries.
Of course, she too had not met with the attorney initially, instead meeting with an “intake coordinator,” or paralegal, she was not certain. The injured worker had sustained what sounded like pretty serious injuries resulting in several surgeries.
SETTLING YOUR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE IS YOUR CHOICE
Now, several months into the litigation of her workers’ compensation claim the injured worker was upset because her attorney was trying to force her to settle her case despite the fact that she didn’t want to yet because she was still in need of medical treatment.
She was most upset that her workers’ compensation attorney told her that she could take some money out of the settlement and use it to buy health insurance to cover future medical expenses related to her injury! Also upsetting to the client was the fact that her attorney had been pressuring her to send her prescriptions for medications to his office so that his firm could get the prescriptions filled for her.
The attorney neglected to mention to her of course that the law firm was going to fill the prescriptions at a pharmacy that….it owned! So yes, every time this client filled a prescription her workers’ compensation lawyer made money, not by representing her mind you, but because it owned the pharmacy to which it was sending her prescriptions.
She only learned this from her treating doctor, who eventually refused to send the prescriptions over to the law firm because, as she advised the client, the pharmacy owned by the law firm was charging way more for the same prescriptions than other pharmacies and the doctor wasn’t comfortable with that.
CLIENT’S INTERESTS FIRST – NO EXCEPTIONS
So who cares right? Why does this bother me? Well, with respect to the personal injury client, it bothers me that so many law firms aren’t taking the time to actually meet with potential new client but instead are trying to “streamline” the process with the goal of signing up as many new cases as possible, regardless of whether they are viable claims or not or whether the new client will ever see any recovery from their case.
Along those lines, it bothers me that this law firm strung the client along for months, having her incur medical bills that she may ultimately be responsible for, before telling her that they were not pursuing her case. I also find it disturbing that there is an out-of-state law firm spending millions of dollars to advertise in the Philadelphia area for personal injury and workers’ compensation cases despite the fact that it doesn’t have any licensed attorneys here.
In my mind, when a law firm advertises to the general public, it is representing to the public that it is capable of and willing to handle the cases it is advertising for. To do so with the sole intention of getting the case in so that the firm can refer it out elsewhere and receive a referral fee back seems to me to be misleading.
Turning to the workers’ compensation client, what concerns me is that the attorney seemed to be placing his own best interests above those of his client. The decision whether or not to settle a workers’ compensation case is always the client’s decision.
While it is understandable that the law firm wants to generate a fee by settling the claim, that does not mean it should push the client to settle when the client clearly did not want to settle and it wasn’t yet in her best interests to do so. What really bothers me though is that this law firm, along with many others unfortunately, thinks it is okay to force its clients to fill their prescriptions through the pharmacy that the law firm owns. We are attorneys, not pharmacists!
As workers’ compensation attorneys we are compensated when we obtain money for our clients-that is it. While I express no opinion on the legality of law firm owning a pharmacy through which its workers’ compensation clients fill their prescriptions, it just doesn’t pass the smell test to me, and it disturbs me that my colleagues think that they need to make money on every piece of the case apparently. Perhaps next the law firms will own court reporting agencies so that they can make money as a result of depositions they conduct in workers’ compensation cases?
WHICH PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER YOUR CHOOSE MATTERS
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers and Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, can promise you that if you contact our law firm we will adhere to the following, without exception, as we always have:
- You will meet with one of our attorneys during your initial consultation.
- Our attorneys will promptly return your phone calls-you will not be passed off to a paralegal, legal assistant or secretary.
- We will let you know early on if, after careful review and investigation, we do not think that we will be able to pursue a case for you.
- Any decisions we make will be those that are in your best interests, not ours. We will never try to force you to settle your workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit. NEVER!
- We will never own an interest in a pharmacy and will never ask you to fill your prescriptions with any particular pharmacy. Where and how you fill your prescriptions is up to you.
- We will only be paid for representing you. We will not make money or be paid for anything else associated with your case.
- We will always be honest with you-even if we have to tell you something that you may not want to hear and that may not make you happy.
- We will not refer you to treat with a doctor, chiropractor or other healthcare professional unless we are confident that you will receive excellent care.
- We will never direct you to continue receiving medical treatment solely to drive up the value of your case, nor will we ever suggest that you remain out of work if you are physically capable of returning to work.
- We will never ask you to pay for any expenses associated with the litigation of your case.
- And most importantly, we will be professional and will treat you with respect at all times.