“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” –Dick the Butcher, Henry VI
Lawyers frequently get a bad rap, especially personal injury lawyers. We “ambulance chasers” have to fight misconceptions about personal injury law among the general public and even with our own clients. The vilification that our practice area receives often creeps over to our clients and their personal beliefs, creating a situation where many injured parties and families feel guilty suing for their right to be reimbursed for harm. We live in a society that sees the criminal system and custody as appropriate punishment versus monetary compensation for wrong-doing. That’s an incredible double standard to have to work against. When discussing misconceptions about personal injury law, it feels like we always have to begin with justifying the existence of this practice area at all because the perception is that we’re somehow wrong to ask for money instead of twenty years in jail.
There are others, naturally the second most common being that we charge a lot of money or charge more than we’re worth. The courts limit what we can charge, and considering that most personal injury lawyers work on contingency this is also another unfair misconception about our practice. Each of us takes a chance on our clients by working for free and being paid later, sometimes even years later. Consider our offices for a moment. We pay paralegals, admin staff, investigators, etc. out of our overhead. Their pay comes out whether we win, settle big, or not. Very few other professions work this way.
The last, rather huge misconception about personal injury is that cases all go to court. While most lawyers entered the field hoping to spend time in the courts, in front of a judge, most personal injury cases are settled out of court. We negotiate with other lawyers based on the law and circumstances and do our best to create a settlement that will meet the needs and future needs of our clients. While trials still happen in high stake cases where the other party is fearful of a large settlement, we are usually able to negotiate with insurance companies and other lawyers to reach a fair settlement.