Every political season, would-be politicians use sound bites and inflammatory language to attack “greedy trial lawyers” and so-called frivolous lawsuits that, according to some, cause political and societal problems. That unfair stereotype doesn’t begin to tell the story of the important work we do, and I think it’s worth taking a closer at what it means to be a trial lawyer.
How do we define “trial lawyer”? The term refers specifically to lawyers who represent plaintiffs in cases that go to trial before a jury. In most cases, trial lawyers represent individuals, rather than large corporations. We fight for people injured as a result of others’ negligence.
Most trial lawyers’ fees come out of the client’s settlement as a percentage of the amount awarded. This payment structure, known as contingency fees, allows individuals with limited means to access the quality legal representation they need. With a contingent structure, clients do not need to pay hourly legal fees. The lawyer only receives a fee if the client receives a settlement. People who have been hurt due to negligence should not be priced out of fair and skilled representation.
Setting aside the critics’ perception of our chosen profession, let me tell you why I proudly own the title of trial lawyer:
Every day, I see the abuses people face from huge insurance companies that only care about the bottom line. Many clients come to us at the most frightening and lowest points in their lives; after an injury caused by the negligence of another. As they navigate the process of managing and paying for their medical bills and trying to recover from their injuries, insurance company lawyers have called them liars, cheats and frauds.
Some of these large insurance companies try to force people into submission with their size and legal budgets. If it were not for trial lawyers standing up for these innocent victims, who would? Insurance companies that promote themselves as protectors of the people? That is, unfortunately, laughable.
If you have any doubt of the tricks insurance companies use to delay and deny claims, read this court opinion that describes one insurance company’s efforts to wrongfully deny claims.
According to the court, the insurance company engaged in “highly reprehensible conduct” that targeted the “financially vulnerable” 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.”
The court found that the company had gained more than $1 billion over the course of several years as a result of its claims misconduct.
I feel truly honored to represent people who, through no fault of their own, are at one of the most emotionally and financially vulnerable points in their lives. I am proud to say I am a trial lawyer!
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