Named Top Lawyers in Las Vegas by Greenspan Media Group/Vegas, Inc., & Desert Companion
Personal Injury Lawyer Complaints:
The most common complaints about Personal Injury lawyers are these:
I talk to a Case Manager instead of a Lawyer:
Some law firms rely heavily on non-lawyer “case managers” or trained or untrained non-lawyer “paralegals” to do most of the work of a personal injury case. Or law firms may pay associate attorneys poorly and have a lot of turnover. In either case, the client, over the course of the representation, may be bounced from person to person.
At Reed & Mansfield your personal injury case will be handled by Jonathan Reed or Douglas Reed or Daniel Reed. We are all family and equal partners. In other words your case is always being handled by an owner of the firm who is a lawyer.
My Lawyer Got Paid More than Me:
In the typical fee agreement between client and lawyer, the lawyer is promised a percentage fee of the “gross recovery or settlement” which means a percentage of the check the defendant or its insurer writes, regardless of how much has to be paid to medical creditors. If the case is resolved, for example, for $100,000 and the lawyer is on a 35% fee and there are $60,000 in medical liens, the lawyer, under the typical fee agreement can say to the client, “$35,000 for me, $60,000 to the doctors and hospital, and $5,000 to you. Have a nice day.” In such a case, assuming no other complicating facts, the State Bar would back the lawyer if the client complained.
The Nevada Justice Association, a trade group, representing plaintiff personal injury lawyers, takes the view that a personal injury attorney should never charge the client a larger fee than the client nets on a case. This would mean that in the above example the lawyer would reduce his or her fee to $20,000 so that the client could net $20,000. This is our belief and promise to you. We will reduce our fee if necessary so that we never net more than you. (If you take out a loan against your case—which we don’t advise—then we count the money used to pay back the loan company, including its interest, part of your money out of the settlement.)
You may wonder why a good attorney might only get $100,000 on a case with very such extensive medical bills. For example, you could be hit by a drunk, uninsured, deadbeat driver and have $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. Of course, a good lawyer will usually be able to get substantial reductions in medical liens by threatening not to make a settlement unless the lien holders reduce their liens. We never charge to do this for our clients unlike some lawyers who want a percentage of the reductions. However, hospital liens are sometimes very difficult to reduce if the client doesn’t have medical insurance which gets reductions on the bills.
It’s been two months since the case settled and the Lawyer still hasn’t Paid Me:
Personal injury cases require injury which requires medical treatment which means someone has to pay for the treatment. If the client has health insurance, the health insurance company will typically pay the bills and will then (especially in cases in which the health insurance is paid by an employer) have a lien to be paid back what it paid out. If Medicare or Medicaid has paid, they also have a right to get paid back from a third party. The lawyer in a personal injury case is ethically obligated to pay these liens, compromise them, or get them resolved. The attorney CANNOT make a deal with the client to give the settlement money to the client (less the attorneys’ fees and costs) and let the client pay the liens.
Almost all lien holders refuse to negotiate a reduction until the case is settled and they know how much it was settled for—or at least what the settlement amount being discussed is.
Of all the lien holders, Medicare is the most time consuming to deal with and they won’t start discussing the lien until the case is resolved. And, there can be complications. For example, in the twelve months between the car wreck and the settlement, the client treated extensively, but some of the treatment was for pre-existing injuries, and some was for new injuries. This can get very complicated and at Medicare’s snail pace can take a long time. However, the original Medicare lien will probably be for all treatment since the car wreck. Ultimately, Medicare’s guidelines aren’t that bad. However, it can take many months to get a Medicare lien down to something reasonable.
In contrast to Medicare, a federal program, Nevada Medicaid, a state program, is much easier to deal with. With Medicaid we can typically get on the phone, talk to someone and resolve the lien. With Medicare, typically, we can't talk to anyone, and have to e-mail back and forth with us having no control over how long it takes Medicare to answer.
If, for example, there was a $100,000 settlement and Medicare claimed a $9,000 lien and the attorney thought it could be negotiated down to, say, $4,000, the lawyer could pay the client and hold back $9,000 for the Medicare lien and then pay the client the balance after the lien got reduced. However, if Medicare claimed a $100,000 lien, even if it could be predicted that Medicare would ultimately settle for $20,000, the lawyer would have to hold back the settlement pending resolution of the Medicare claim. In one very complicated case we had Medicare had paid over $100,000 on the client's behalf but most of this did not relate to the claim we were representing her on. After more than half a year, Medicare agreed to take nothing, perhaps, because one of their people just felt the whole issue of what related to the claim and what did not was too complicated.
Another lien problem arises when there are many different lien holders and lien holder A won't agree to a compromise without knowing what percentage reductions lien holders B, C, D and E are giving etc.
The good news is that these multiple lien holder issues are uncommon and just about everyone except Medicare can resolve a lien quickly so if the lawyer hustles the client can usually get paid quickly after the settlement.
The Lawyer Charged me a lot of Money for Costs:
Most cases can be settled without filing suit. Sometimes, however, even a "slam dunk" case has to go into litigation. For example, we recently had a case in which our client was injured when a drunk driving the wrong way on a freeway ran head into our client. Fortunately, in this case, there was a large insurance policy on the car driven by a drunk. Amazingly, our client's car protected him so well that his only serious injuries were his legs. (Perhaps, knee airbags would have helped a lot.) However, his lower legs were shattered. We ultimately settled this case for almost two million dollars, but not before filing suit. If we hadn't filed suit and paid for medical reports, we never would have convinced the insurance company that the leg injuries were worth that much. We actually spent about $30,000 out of pocket preparing this case for trial before it settled. Because of the size of the settlement and our 25% fee, the client actually netted more than 70% of the settlement and didn't mind the $30,000 in costs. However, in smaller cases, issues of liability or damages can cost a lot of money to prove.
With our often reduced fee of 25% and our promise not to take a bigger fee than the client nets, our clients, on average come out much better than do the clients of many of our competitors.
The Lawyer Stole my Money: Unfortunately, there are some rotten lawyers around. When your Nevada case is settled, the insurance company will send a confirmation letter to both you and your attorney as required by law because of past cases of lawyer theft of settlements. The State Bar of Nevada has a fund compensate clients who lawyers stole their money (as opposed to taking their money and being ineffective). Complaints against lawyers can be made to the State Bar of Nevada at 702-382-2200.
My Attorney wasn't very Good: Skill levels vary among lawyers just like in any other occupation. Also, a lawyer who is very good in one area may be lost in another area. Picking the right lawyer is important.