Are Personal Injury Lawyers Greedy?
I am an injury lawyer. I help people who have been severely hurt in car accidents, dog attacks, and in other ways. I help the families who have lost a loved one in a tragic accident ranging from construction site injuries to bike accidents to pedestrian accidents. Yes, it is important for anyone reading this article to understand who I am and the bias I hold. I am proud to be a personal injury lawyer, in spite of what that title may represent to so many people. And, in all honesty, I think it is becoming more and more obvious that there is a severe double standard held by many people when it comes to how they evaluate the "greed" of personal injury lawyers.
Now, although I will not attack others that do what I do and the way that they do it, I have never been on a TV commercial screaming "Money! Money! Money!" Also, while I can be a forceful advocate, I am certainly not the person running up and down the street screaming "Hire me now!" Still, I don't think a lot of the attack on personal injury lawyers comes just from those commercials that we see on TV. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that personal injury lawyers usually charge a contingency fee for the injury cases they handle. As a lawyer, I can tell you that not only do we charge a contingency fee to all of our clients, but that most personal injury lawyers throughout the state do the same thing. That means that somebody who has been injured in Arizona and seeks a lawyer usually will pay that lawyer a percentage of what they recover. Now, some people think that suggests greed. I think this is not only a double standard but often shows nothing more than ignorance of the situation. Almost all my severely injured clients are unable to work. Lawyers that are certified as specialists in their area - as I am in mine - often charge $300.00 an hour or more. Are there many individuals who hold their jobs and work hard who can afford to pay me $300.00 out of their pocket? Maybe you think $300.00 is too much for a lawyer to charge. However, I never hear this allegation made against some of the business and corporate lawyers who charge at least that much or more. Therefore, I think this really has more to do with the fact that people want to attack the personal injury lawyers for doing what they do. Now, take a client who is out of work and ask yourself whether or not they are going to be able to afford a lawyer if lawyers do not charge a contingency fee. Of course, not. It is ridiculous to expect somebody who is struggling to stay out of bankruptcy while they are out of work and often times receiving almost no income and without any preparation or notice that they would be without that income to be able to pay a lawyer. If it were not for contingency fees, we would basically be shutting the courthouse doors-eliminating the opportunity for justice and fair compensation to all the injury claimants.
However, the biggest problem I have with the attacks on injury lawyers comes from the double standard. And that double standard really did not rear its ugly head until the economic downturn of 2008. You see, I find it amazing the lack of anger at the CEOs of companies receiving massive bonuses. Sure, there has been a lot of criticism. However, the failure in these bonuses is not the fact that the best people are earning huge bonuses. The reality is that a great leader or somebody who is great at what they do deserves great compensation. I think most people understand that there have been CEOs that have turned companies from near bankruptcy to incredible successes based upon their leadership. Why should those CEOs be capped in what they can earn? Of course, they should not. However, many of the CEOs that are getting huge bonuses are doing a terrible job and still getting paid. And there is the double standard. People want to lump that kind of payment for terrible performance and call those people greedy while at the same time attacking personal injury lawyers.
The reality is that personal injury lawyers will help people after they have been hurt get paid for winning. They get paid based upon a compensation they earn. I have made every single dollar we have ever made in our office by being able to achieve a reasonable amount of compensation that my client instructed me to accept - or that a jury has awarded - for somebody who has been injured and made a claim under the law. I lose, I don't get paid. When a personal injury lawyer loses, they usually don't get paid. A better Phoenix personal injury lawyer will make more money. A better personal injury lawyer will get closer to complete and fair and full compensation for the client who is in need.
Now, if you want to attack me for being greedy for trying to get every single dollar my client deserves for what they have gone through, then go ahead. If you want to attack us for being greedy because you think that the verdicts we've gotten are unjust because they are too high - even though every single one of those verdicts has been signed off on by the judge which is required before payment and before judgment is signed on a jury verdict in the State of Arizona - then you are entitled to your opinion, wrong as it may be. But if you are attacking serious injury lawyers who help people when they are in need because they work on a contingency fee, it is time to give up the double standard. It is time to understand the situation. The best lawyers get the best compensation for the most deserving clients. For that they are paid better than other lawyers. And like in every single other industry, compensation is usually awarded to the people who have absolutely earned it.
I am extremely proud of the work that I have done for so many families who are in desperate need of fair compensation, fair payment of their medical bills, fair reimbursement of their wages lost, and fair compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life and pain that they live with because of somebody else's negligence.
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Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer