I run a plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm. My firm is focused on getting the best results for our clients that we can, consistent with their wishes. Why do I say that? Some clients don’t want to file a lawsuit. There can be many reasons for this. For example:
1. They don’t want to go through the hassle and inconvenience of going to court.
2. They can’t afford to wait for a jury trial verdict.
3. They’re afraid of court.
4. They have a personal reason for avoiding a lawsuit. Maybe they have to work with the person who caused the accident and they’d rather not become confrontational enough to file a lawsuit. Maybe they’re related to the person who caused the accident. You can have a brother who hit his own brother with the car accidentally, and they might be okay filing claims against the insurance companies but not want to mess up the family dynamics by filing an actual lawsuit. Whatever your reason, if you tell me you don’t want to file a lawsuit, we’re not going to file a lawsuit. So, we’re going to get the best results we can for you, consistent with your wishes.
We don’t do everything. As a matter of fact, we do very little when it comes to types of law. All we do is personal injury work. The only type of clients we look to have hire us are plaintiffs with personal injury cases. We represent no insurance companies. I’ve never represented an insurance company. Why is that? Because it just doesn’t fit with my ethical and personal beliefs. If you call me and tell me you’re hurt, I’m going to believe that you’re hurt. That’s what I like to do. Until proven otherwise, I’m going to assume that you’re hurt and try to get you the best results for your case. Insurance defense work isn’t right for me. I don’t want to tear apart a case and try to find a reason not to pay someone and to try to say that an accident is his or her fault. That’s why I represent the parties who were injured.
Why don’t I do other cases? Why don’t I do criminal defense work? Why don’t I do workers’ comp cases? The bottom line is that personal injury work is complicated enough, the law changes enough and I’m busy enough that I don’t have to do other types of law. Early on, when I opened up my own law firm, we reached a point where I could do different types of law but probably not do them as well, or I could limit my practice to one type of law. I chose to limit my practice to personal injury work. I feel that is the best way to get my clients the best value for their money. By limiting the type of area I need to learn about and know about and be familiar with, and the types of cases I handle, I can provide my clients with the best service. I feel I can provide them a much better service doing only personal injury work than I could if I did all types of law.
My staff and paralegals are trained to know about personal injury cases and to help you resolve your property damage as quickly and efficiently as possible so that you can get back in your car and get back to living your life as normally as you can while going to the doctor. I teach them to monitor your treatment so that at certain deadlines my clients and I can talk specifically about how they’re feeling and whether they are getting better. We do this so that an extended period of time does not go by without you getting better. We contact our clients every two weeks just to make sure that there’s not some issue that’s popped up that our clients need help with. As silly as it sounds, my staff and I attempt to return all phone calls within a 24 hour time period. You wouldn’t think that would need to be mentioned by a lawyer talking about his firm; however, one of the major complaints of clients is that lawyers don’t return their phone calls. We try to send written updates to you when major things are happening in your case, such as your demand has been mailed off to the insurance company or we received a first offer. We try to provide a lot of information to educate our clients on their personal injury cases, how to purchase insurance and what they should do in the future. If you’re just looking for information, I would encourage you to go to my web site, www.shanesmithlaw.com or www.hurt999.com. On it there’s a lot of free information regarding personal injury claims, property damage, how to get your car fixed, that sort of thing.
If you call me and we talk about your case, and you and I agree that my firm is the best one to handle your case for you, I normally offer my clients multiple options on how we can start the case. Option number one, my least favorite, is to overnight the paperwork to you. This includes contracts, a medical authorization and lost-wage form, accident report request and any other documents I think that you need to sign. I’ll overnight it; you can overnight it back to me. I don’t like this because I feel like it’s very impersonal and it delays everything. Option number two is to get you into my office, you and I have a sit-down face-to-face meeting and go over your case in detail and then sign all the paperwork. This is the preferred method of starting a case. Option number three is for me to send my investigator out to meet you, go over the paperwork and get it signed. Why do we do this? Sometimes you can’t make it to the office. Sometimes I might be in court for the next two days. Sometimes you might not have a vehicle that can get you here. Maybe you’re too busy going to work and can’t meet during normal business hours. All of these are the reasons why we have an investigator who goes out to meet you, get the paperwork signed and gets back to the office, so we can then contact the insurance company and start working on your case.
We strive to order medical records as the case progresses rather than at the very end. The reason we do this is timing. If you wait until the very end to order all the medical records, you’re going to be done treating and several weeks or maybe months might go by while the attorney gathers the medical records. We attempt to avoid this by ordering your emergency room records and your family care doctor records as soon as you’re no longer going there for treatment. Sometimes delays happen; we can’t help that. However, we attempt to minimize delays. The main way to do it is by getting the records as the case progresses.
Once you’re all done treating and we have all the records, our normal business practice is to get your demand mailed out within two weeks. This way it goes to the insurance company quickly so that we can begin negotiating and fighting for you on your case. Once the demand is mailed, our normal procedure is to call in two weeks to make sure that they received it and inquire when they expect to be able to make an offer and then follow up every week until we get a first offer; and that’s when we’ll begin negotiating and counter with them. My job as a lawyer is to get them to the maximum value they’re going to put on a case without us filing a lawsuit. Once we get to that amount, I will then contact my clients, we’ll discuss settlement, we’ll go over their options, and we’ll break down the amount of the medical bills and what they would receive in their pocket if we settle the case. My clients then will make a decision on how they want to proceed.
Many lawyers have a list of jury verdicts they’ve had or a list of settlement verdicts they’ve had. Sometimes they have $1,000,000 on there, sometimes they have several-hundred-thousand-dollar cases on there, sometimes they have more, a lot of times they have less. I would caution anyone about just looking at settlement verdicts. Sometimes the lawyers only had one or two big cases but that’s all they talk about. Sometimes the lawyer’s gotten lucky. You know, it’s easy to get a $100,000-policy-limit case when that’s all the insurance a person has and the person you represent lost their leg. That case is worth substantially more than that but because the person only had insurance of $100,000, you’re going to get a $100,000 settlement offer, as long as the attorney doesn’t screw the case up too much. And, you know, lawyers like to list their $1,000,000 verdicts. Just keep in mind a great and easy way to get a $1,000,000 case is to screw up a $5,000,000 case. When evaluating any case you need to know how familiar the lawyer is with your type of case. You handle a $1,000,000 case differently than you handle a back and neck strain case. Settlement numbers don’t really have anything at all to do with your case. Look for client testimonials. If you go to our web site, we’ve got a whole lot of client testimonials. These are things our clients said about us and we’ve posted them on our web site.