Every political season that comes around, would-be politicians attack the “greedy trial lawyers” and their frivolous lawsuits that, according to some, are the cause of so many of our problems. Perhaps it’s worth looking a little closer at what it means to be a “trial lawyer.”
The initial question that comes to mind is what exactly is a “trial lawyer?” The term usually isn’t used to simply describe lawyers who actually take cases to trial. If that were the case insurance defense lawyers who defend insurance companies when they wrongfully deny a claim would be “trial lawyers.” Instead, the term is usually used in a derogatory fashion to refer to “plaintiff’s lawyers.” Or more accurately, lawyers who chose not to represent large companies and instead fight for people who have been injured by the negligence of other people and companies. Because these people do not have the hundreds of dollars an hour to pay lawyers by the hour, most of the time the lawyers fee is a percentage of the amount recovered.
Perhaps it is the use of these contingent fees (which sometimes produce huge attorney fees) that give these lawyers a bad name. Perhaps it is the proverbial bad apple frivolous lawsuit that gives all “trial lawyers” a bad name. Heck, we all have heard about the McDonald’s case, right? But allow me to explain why I couldn’t be prouder to call myself a “trial lawyer.”
Every day I see the abuses people face by huge insurance companies that only care about the bottom line. I see all too often people who, through no fault of their own, have been injured and hurt only to have insurance lawyers call them liars, cheats and frauds. These people who, unlike the insurance companies they face, do not have unlimited amounts of money to try and force their opponents into submission. If it were not for trial lawyers standing up for these innocent victims, who would? Insurance companies that promote themselves as the “good hands” people? That’s, unfortunately, laughable.
If you have any doubt of the tricks insurance companies use to delay and deny claims, read this recent opinion that describes one insurance company’s efforts to wrongfully deny claims to increase its bottom line. According to the court, the insurance company engaged “highly reprehensible conduct” which targeted the “financially vulnerable” all in an effort to “augment its profits.” The court notes the insurance company acted “with malice, trickery or deceit and not by accident.” In one particularly telling sentence, the court states that the insurance company’s “misconduct was not just the result of arbitrary action; rather, it was intentional misconduct aimed at obtaining financial gain at the expense of their disabled insured. Such conduct was and is highly reprehensible.”
Based on the credible testimony about targets and goals, documents, and the duration of (the insurance company’s) misconduct, there is every reason to conclude that (the insurance company) gained well in excess of a billion dollars as a result of their claims handling misconduct.
It is truly an honor to represent people who, through no fault of their own, are often at one of their most vulnerable points in their lives, financially and emotionally. This is why I am proud to say I am a trial lawyer!
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