The Hammer Lawyer Texas – This screenshot from a 2018 video ad shows Houston-based plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Adler confronting the truck with a sledgehammer. As the self-proclaimed “Texas Hammer” says in the video, “I stand firm” against “greedy insurance companies” playing “dirty,” one of several plaintiffs’ pleas being floated by law firms across the country.
Previously in this series: How to deal with the risk of litigation after an accident – start at the scene of the accident
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Wally Dugas is Associate General Counsel for Melton Truck Lines. She comes from a trucking family and is a fashionista. When she was growing up, her father owned a truck dealership. Her knowledge of diesel mechanics, which she grew up in the shop, is now “completely useless knowledge,” she said. “I almost never have a case of mechanical failure,” she says in her current role as her company’s defender.
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After law school and a stint defending shipping-related cases in federal courts, she answered an ad for a position with a starting salary of $28,000. “It was a generation of plaintiffs,” she said, one of the biggest advertising firms around. She doesn’t know when she responded to the ad, but she eventually took the job and worked there for twelve years.
At the annual meeting of the Truckload Carriers Association’s Safety and Security Division last June in St. Louis, Dugas presented a sort of anatomy of a plaintiff’s law firm, with the intent of giving truckload carriers of all shapes and sizes tips for moving forward. Threatening such companies to sue.
How do plaintiffs’ lawyers receive lawsuits? Well, you’ve seen the billboards, the YouTube videos, and the city buses plastered bumper to bumper with customized advertising – it’s pretty obvious.
From a practical standpoint, Dugas said, the injured party, Mr. Plaintiff, “calls an 800 number and it’s a hotline – just a room with 100 people answering the phone. They take the information,” then an “investigator” to the attorney . It will be sent to the person’s home with a deductible agreement. “A lawyer has been hired and we are off to the races.”
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At this point, the carrier will likely receive an initial presentation letter informing you that the plaintiff has retained an attorney. Dugas often said, “You think, ‘Why is this lawyer taking on a case and not even a scratch on the car?'”
The truth is that the attorney probably “doesn’t know anything about it at this point,” Dugas explained, adding that it was a form letter in which the plaintiff’s repair shop simply wrote down the date of the damage, the plaintiff’s name, etc . “The lawyer never saw the client – it could take over a year for a lawyer to intervene.”
This is your first strategic advantage, she added, your first chance to turn the tide if the facts support you.
Unlike a defense attorney’s typical relationship with his clients, “there is no fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and his attorney,” Dugas said. How she felt when she was a year old: Most plaintiffs saw her as the only thing standing between them and their money.
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Exploiting this lack of loyalty and the fact that plaintiffs and their attorneys often meet late in the case can be particularly useful when you know you have a plaintiff who is a “scumbag,” Dugas said. She is a person described It was a case involving a truck and a passenger car whose driver clearly made money selling marijuana. Dugas, who had no intention of actually settling the case, nevertheless arranged for mediation with the plaintiff’s attorney as quickly as possible. Sitting in a room with people and “experience them,” Dugas said. It helps that the people involved actually smelled like marijuana smoke during the mediation.
As already mentioned, Dugas and Co. did not come to an agreement that day, but postponed it for six days. Before that time was up, she received a call from the prosecutor’s office’s legal department. “They said, ‘If you still want to settle, we will settle favorably with you.’ You need to get this plaintiff’s attorney involved so he/she can make the same assessment as you.”
Larry Harlow, director of truck claims at Sentry Insurance, agrees that getting the plaintiff and his/her actual attorney in the same room as quickly as possible is ideal, but notes that in most cases, “the problem is that most of them don’t.” “I don’t want to. To do.” Junior paralegals are the point of contact for Sentry’s experts who handle cases and sometimes retain legal counsel in serious cases. Often, “we call to get information to continue our investigation or information about a violation and we don’t get any response,” Harlow said. “You would be shocked. Then when you’re faced with this huge medical compensation claim and the big injury claim, sometimes you sit there for two years waiting for information.”
To expedite this process, the involvement of legal counsel is necessarily required, which Sentry engages early on in serious cases for its insureds, Harlow added.
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Dugas noted that getting all parties in the room early could also provide other opportunities. You can avoid a trial by doing what Dugas calls “plaintiff math,” or the tendency of plaintiffs to think only about the jury award or settlement award and not the reality of their share of the pie, with legal fees often being the case 33.3% before a lawsuit is filed. 40% after that.
Be sensitive to how these realities are processed, she said. “One thing you can do in mediation is … tell the plaintiff, ‘We’re going to talk about a lot of numbers today. You need to figure out how much you’re going to pay this lawyer and this doctor. How much are you going to net? It’s your money. Can you afford to lose if the case actually goes to trial?
Personal mediation makes this possible. Dugas points out that she has managed to target her communications to the numbers involved in a potential trial for a person in the plaintiff’s circle – often the plaintiff himself or a relative – who is in the group of “decision-makers ” is. Let’s say: “The plaintiff appears with 14 people,” she said. “You don’t know who the decision makers are until you’re actually engaged. … I like to lean in and find out what’s going on with them.”
She asked the question above: “Can you bet that you will win the lawsuit and be liable for these medical costs?” – Next, make sure you get the decision maker’s ID. “This guy is going to sit down,” she said, “because he’s the one who’s going to pay for it.”
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Ultimately, let’s break down the fact that the longer the trial takes, the larger the number of payments to medical providers and attorneys will be, and that these payments are fundamentally the plaintiff’s responsibility. The end result can be a more convenient and quicker transaction.
It’s a complete waste to exchange dollars back and forth and “pay a lawyer all the time,” Dugas said. “A real negotiation should be a plan that you implement. If you don’t agree on dollars with the other side, “you may have misjudged the case, or they may have.”
Note that in the event of an injury, the plaintiff’s attorney cannot fully estimate the costs of the case until all possible medical treatments have been performed. “When we pass the bar, we take an oath to uphold the law and protect our clients,” Dugas emphasized. “It’s not our job to think about whether what they’re doing is wrong or right – that goes for doctors too. When someone goes to their doctor and reports an earache, the doctor doesn’t say, “I doubt you do that.” ‘lie.”
It is possible to forego a settlement, although plaintiffs’ attorneys “can’t really settle” if they don’t know the person has completed all medical treatments. Ultimately, the plaintiff is responsible for “complying with counsel” to seek damages if they settle and do not receive enough to cover their client’s costs.
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But what’s really important for some plaintiffs is that meeting these requirements can be a winning strategy in cases where you can save a big settlement. Dugas told the story of an accident in which a young man was injured behind the wheel of a pickup truck and the accident was at least partially due to the actions of the driver of the big truck. Dugas and the company offered a significant settlement in negotiations, but “he wouldn’t accept it,” she said. “We sat down and found out he was a third-generation firefighter.” The nature of his injury meant “he couldn’t be a firefighter anymore – his entire family legacy was ruined.”
His main concern was not necessarily money, but the ability to get ahead. Dugas and Company “agreed to cover the cost of a four-year college education at the college.”
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