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Why you should never hire your car accident lawyer from a TV Ad or Billboard

People who live in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California are sometimes seriously injured in a variety of different types of accidents. Many people do not have prior experience working with an attorney, and they may not understand how a conventional relationship with a attorney works. Because of their lack of experience, many people simply call the first personal injury law firm that they see advertising on television or on billboards that seem to inundate L.A. and other parts of the Golden State. There are multiple reasons why choosing your attorney based on an advertisement is a poor choice.

Why do some personal injury firms engage in blanketed TV and billboard advertising?

In Los Angeles, residents are inundated with advertisements on television and on billboards for personal injury attorneys. Some of these ads include slogans and contain material that is designed to have an emotional impact. If you are wondering why so many personal injury lawyers frequently advertise on TV or billboards, the reason that they do is money. The types of firms that have large advertising budgets are focused on getting as many cases through their doors. The advertisements are designed for the law firms to get hundreds of calls each month. These firms often have huge advertising budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

How do television and billboard law firms make their money back from their ads?

Some personal injury firms have advertising budgets that may cost as much as $1 million or more per year. If you are wondering how these firms are able to pay those large advertising bills, the answer is straightforward. Most simply become what are known as settlement mills. The goal of these firms is to get as many cases in the door as possible and to settle them quickly. In most cases, these types of firms settle claims in a short period of time for much less than the clients may have obtained by choosing a conventional attorney.

What are the characteristics of a settlement mill law firm?

According to research by Stanford Law School professor Nora Engstrom that was published in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics in an article titled "Run-of-the-Mill Justice," settlement mill law firms may display 10 different characteristics. Of the 10, all settlement mills have four key characteristics, and the remaining six indicate that a firm might be a settlement mill. The four key characteristics of settlement mills are as follows:

  • The firms are high volume;
  • The firms obtain most of their clients from their aggressive advertising tactics;
  • The firms are treated more like businesses than law firms; and
  • The firms rarely, if ever, take cases to trial.

In addition to these key characteristics, other factors may indicate that a law firm is operating as a settlement mill. Most of these firms charge tiered contingency fees. For example, they might state that they charge a 33 percent contingency fee if a case is settled without filing a formal lawsuit, 40 percent if a lawsuit is filed and higher if it is litigated through trial. These types of tiered fees might encourage clients to want to settle their cases quickly so that they pay lower fees.

These firms also do not conduct rigorous screening of their cases and often accept nearly all cases that come to them, meaning that they accept more low-dollar claims that other firms would not agree to take. Most settlement law firms also do not provide any meaningful interaction between the attorneys and their clients. Instead, paraprofessionals handle a majority of the casework with the lawyers sometimes only seeing the clients when they come in to get their settlement checks. Settlement mills often offer incentives to their negotiators to settle cases quickly or have quotas for settlements that they must meet. Claims at settlement mills are resolved much faster than at other personal injury firms. A majority of the claims are resolved in less than eight months from the dates of the accidents. Finally, settlement mill law firms very rarely file lawsuits, resolving most of their clients' cases outside of the court system.

Why is hiring a settlement mill personal injury lawyer a bad idea?

While you might think that getting a settlement within mere months of your accident sounds appealing, it is not a good idea to hire a settlement mill personal injury attorney. These firms do not thoroughly investigate their cases and use the same formulas that insurance companies use to determine the potential ranges of values.

Personal injury attorneys who do not work for settlement mills spend time conducting in-depth investigations of their clients' cases before they send demand letters to the insurance companies. This may allow them to build strong cases for their clients that clearly show the liability of the other party. Insurance companies know the difference between settlement mill attorneys and conventional personal injury lawyers. When there is a settlement mill attorney involved in a case, the insurance companies tend to quickly settle the claims because they can get away with paying out the bottom dollar. When there is an experienced personal injury attorney who is willing to litigate cases to trial and has amassed a successful track record for his or her clients, insurance companies may settle in order to avoid a trial that they might lose. As a consequence, these cases are often settled for much higher amounts than the claims that are handled by settlement mills.

What are better ways to choose your personal injury lawyer?

Instead of relying on television ads or billboards that you see around Los Angeles, you should do your own personal research about the attorneys whom you are considering. You can research to find out if the attorneys have received any awards. If the attorneys have received awards, you should check the validity fo them. You will want to find out what criteria are used to receive awards such as being named as a Super Lawyer or having a perfect 10.0 rating on Avvo. Check with the California State Bar to see if the lawyer has any disciplinary record. If the attorney does, you might want to steer clear. If the attorney who you are considering has received awards and is in good standing with the state bar, you should investigate what others have said about the experiences that they have had with the lawyer. You can search on the internet for reviews of the lawyer. Finally, you can also ask your friends and family for recommendations, but it is important that you make certain that they were actually represented by the firm.

If your friends or family members recommend their former attorneys whose practice is primarily in a different area of law, you should instead search for a lawyer who is experienced in handling personal injury claims. Finally, when you meet with the lawyer for a consultation, ask him or her about his or her track record. Ask about his or her litigation and trial experience. Even if your case is eventually resolved in a settlement, knowing that your lawyer is willing to go to trial if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable offer is important for your ability to obtain the maximal recovery amount so that your losses are covered. To learn more, contact Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC to schedule your free consultation.


Run-of-the-Mill Justice

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.