Personal injury attorneys are among the most villainized professionals in business. While many people—including fellow lawyers—hold negative perceptions of us, the truth is that our services are vital to American society. As with any industry, there will always be a few bad apples, but these common stereotypes are not illustrative of what personal injury law is really about.
The most prevalent myth about personal injury attorneys is that we solicit clients. “Ambulance chasers,” they call us, insinuating that we’re the first on the scene when someone is in an accident.
Amateur attorneys—think Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad—might actively pursue victims of accidents, but any reputable California personal injury lawyer will tell you that solicitation is against the rules of the State Bar of California. We are allowed to advertise as you see on billboards and TV spots but cannot “pitch” to accident victims who have not inquired about our services. We take these prohibitions seriously.
Contrary to popular belief, personal injury attorneys are not out to bankrupt people. In fact, it’s exceedingly rare for a personal injury claim to be collected against an individual. Our efforts are targeted more toward keeping insurance companies and large corporations accountable than financially harming a private citizen. Even if an individual defendant was indeed negligent, it is usually the insurer who is responsible for paying a judgment or settlement. Interestingly, the California Rules of Evidence do not allow juries to know when insurance companies are involved.
There is a whimsical misconception that personal injury attorneys hurt the American economy by suing businesses and devastating their financial outlook. We will admit that we’re not necessarily a business’ best friend when an accident occurs on their watch. However, the big picture is that we incentivize them to operate more safely by holding them accountable for negligence or wrongdoing, thus strengthening the economy and building trust between corporations and consumers.
Imagine a world where there are no safety precautions, no regulations for working conditions, and no lawsuits for harmful products. When powerful industries are left unchecked, individual consumers pay the ultimate price. In fact, laws aimed at diminishing the viability of personal injury claims, such as California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), have actually been shown to do more harm than good to the general public. You can learn more about MICRA’s shortcomings in our previous article.
Non-attorneys tend to view us as “truth stretchers” or even outright liars. In actuality, our worst nightmare is that a client or witness will be untruthful—because we know that it will invariably damage the case and our reputation.
We don’t fabricate facts. Rather, we rely on medical professionals, independent witnesses, expert witnesses, and anyone else helpful in uncovering the truth. If we determine that a client or potential client does not have a valid claim, we advise them as such. In that regard, we are upholding our duties as officers of the court and gatekeepers to the justice system.
Lastly, personal injury attorneys are not singularly driven by income. Just like in any business, the attorneys who excel at their craft can make a great living doing so. Those lacking skill, experience, or work ethic are likely to struggle. And because we take most of our cases on a contingency, the risk is much greater for us than for attorneys billing clients on an hourly rate.
The hope for any personal injury attorney is that he or she can build a solid reputation in the field, develop a referral network, land solid cases with great clients, and stay in business doing what they love—which is pursuing justice and serving the interests of individuals in need.
Are you looking for an honest and experienced personal injury attorney with a proven track record? The Law Offices of Belgum, Fry & Van Allen have been serving Southern California for over 20 years. Get a free case evaluation online