“There’s two sides to every story. I saw the video. That’s their personal business, and it shouldn’t have affected his career. I don’t agree with domestic violence, but she’s still with him, so obviously it wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone should just drop it.”
– Random Ravens Fan Last Night
“The case is a perfect symbol of all that’s wrong with the litigation system in this country.”
Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association talking about the infamous lawsuit where an administrative law judge sued for $65 million claiming a dry cleaner had lost his pants
Tiger Woods announced today that he has undergone successful back surgery and expects to be back playing golf this summer. Good for him. This is bad news for golf fans who passionately root for or against Tiger. But it is also bad for personal injury victims who are bringing a back injury claim in front of a jury. Why? Because juries get constant evidence from athletes that back injuries and back surgery is not a big deal. Some will equate Tiger Woods to 58-year-old Mary Smith when she has a discectomy and fusion for a herniated disc after a car accident.
Why Tiger’s Surgery and Expected Recovery Misleads Juries
There are several reasons the comparison is unfair. First, not all back injuries are created the same. Tiger had a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve. That is light-years from, say, a herniated disc suffered by great trauma. But some jurors view back surgery as back surgery, regardless of the severity of the injury. Second, Tiger is a professional athlete who dedicates his life to keeping his body in the best shape. Tiger won’t even share his workout secrets. He will also get stunning medical care. The best doctors, and ridiculous amounts of medical attention you and I would never see. Finally, Tiger’s getting surgery in the first place is probably something you and I never would have gotten in the first place. Why? First, we are not violently swinging a golf club at the speed of light. So I can probably still work out and work around the same injury that Tiger needs to get taken care of so he can perform on a world-class level. Continue reading
A Nate Silver wannabe breaks down the question of whether jury size matters in these jurisdictions, where a jury’s verdict does not have to be unanimous. The greater concern is in criminal cases where it seems odd to convict someone to life in prison, as you can in Louisiana, on a 9-3 vote. Continue reading
Max Kennerly writes a blog post about referral or co-counsel fees in personal injury cases, talking about a case where the lawyers agreed to a fee split but after a nice verdict, they argued about what those words meant regarding carving up the fee.
There has been talk, as Max points out, about reforming the system to not allow lawyers to fee split personal injury cases. The talk comes from advocates of tort reform who have the goal of making life more difficult for plaintiffs to bring claims.
Such a rule would do just that. My firm spends a lot of time and effort providing information about personal injury cases on the Internet. We absolutely want to attract victims directly. No doubt. Getting 100% of the fee in a case is a lot more enticing than getting two-thirds of that fee, which is what we get when we accept a referral from another attorney. When we get a good settlement or a verdict in a case where the client came to us, either from the Internet or non-attorney referral, the words “And it is all ours” slip out when discussing the case.
Yet I put a lot of time and energy into this blog that is directed not to victims, but to other lawyers. Why? I’ll tell you. Every single year, we look at where our fees are coming from. Prior clients and victims who find us on-line are rising every year. Yet together, they do not generate nearly as much in attorneys’ fees as cases that were referred to us by another lawyer. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about volume of cases. I’m talking total fees. So, absolutely, we think the smartest approach is to direct our efforts primarily toward trying to attract other lawyers in and out of Maryland who have a personal injury case. The thinking is if they are regularly reading this blog for news and information, and using the resources on our website, they will think of us when they need help with complex malpractice, accident or product liability claim. Continue reading
I learned last week that my peers selected me to be included in The Best Lawyers in America, 19th Edition.
My rule on these lists is very clear. These lists that rank the best lawyers – and probably particularly the best personal injury lawyers – are so flawed as to be useless… unless they pick me. In that case, they are the ultimate honor.
2013 Update: I was included on this list again for 2014.
Personal injury lawyers hate talking about their contingency fee agreements with their clients. Me too. But it is an interesting and important topic and one of great importance to people who are seriously injured and will hire an attorney. This post explains how our law firm operates and gives a few thoughts on contingency fee agreements in personal injury cases.
Our contingency fee agreement with our clients in every personal injury case is exactly the same. Our firm gets one-third of the recovery if the case settles before a lawsuit is filed. If a lawsuit is filed, or there is an agreement to arbitrate the case, our fee increases to 40%. We have fronted all client expenses in every case we have handled in the last 10 years. If we are not willing to put up our own money, we would not be willing to take the case.
This is our agreement for every single personal injury case in our office. We have turned down at least two cases (that I know of: I’m sure there have been more) that have culminated in a seven-figure recovery because we did not agree to reduce our contingency fee.
Before I explain why we do it this way, let me go the other way and set forth the argument about why we shouldn’t have a set fee for all of our clients. Contingency fees in personal injury cases are designed to a large measure to compensate attorneys for the risk in time and money they must incur. So, theoretically, in a world of perfect information, calibrate the contingency fee with the risk/reward and set the attorneys’ fees accordingly. Continue reading
Tanning beds cause cancer. Cancer kills. Tanning beds also make you look old before your time.
This matters little to the Maryland Senate who crushed the bill in committee. Which committee? The Finance Committee. Because, you know, that makes sense.
The bill, sponsored by Montgomery County Democrat Jamie Raskin, would have prohibited anyone under 18 from using an electric tanning bed, eliminating a provision in Maryland law that allows minors to tan if they have parental permission. So the rule, and it is still the rule in 2018, is that minors can tan in Maryland if their parent or legal guardian provides written consent on the premises of the tanning facility.
We do not ask parents if their kids can drink or smoke or skip school. Why do we exempt tanning? Call it Big Brother if you want, but I have no problem with stopping bad parents from letting their kids make awful choices.
The World Health Organization’s cancer division last summer listed tanning beds as definitive cancer-causers. I’m willing to take their word for it, along with many studies that concluded the risk of melanoma jumps by 75 percent in people who used tanning beds in their teens and 20s. Melanoma is lethal; 69,000 U.S. cases were diagnosed last year, and about 8,650 people died.
Listen, Katy Perry notwithstanding, it’s dumb to let your child go into a tanning bed. This we know. So what is the problem? According to the Indoor Tanning Association, 8% of the customers are 18 years old or younger. On an average day, over 1 million Americans engage in indoor tanning. Do the math. See where the lobbyists are coming from on this?
There are five finalists for the dean of University of Baltimore School of Law that will visit campus beginning March 26. I will review these candidates for you and make my selection. To be fair, I have never met or even heard of any of these people. I’ve limited my education to a three minute Google search of the candidates.
- Nicholas Allard: A lawyer at political heavyweight, Patton Boggs, Allard is a former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and former legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. While I’m not pretending I’ve ever heard of him, this is the celebrity pick. Moynihan was one of the few politicians in the last 50 years who the left and the right deeply respected, and Kennedy was Kennedy. That’s the big time. He is knee-deep in pedigree, attending Princeton, Oxford, and Yale which, in a bizarre coincidence, are the same schools my children will attend in 13 years (although they are not going to law school). Here’s my concern: is there a risk that hiring Allard is like hiring Michael Jordan to play baseball? Dean Closius came here with a history of turning around a law school. Allard would come with a history of being great at lots of things other than running a law school.
I’ll take “Gimmick Blog Post Titles That Will Defy the Odds and Be Worth Reading, I’m Serious, Just Give Me a Chance” for $400 please, Alex.
Tied for first at the top of Knick players who have had 20 points and 7 assists with 6 consecutive games is Jeremy Lin. As little as three weeks ago, if you were taking odds, you would have bet the Knicks would cut him so they did not have to guarantee his salary for the season. The odds of going from there to this are roughly the same as Barack Obama calling you today and telling you he is dropping Eric Holder, and he desperately needs you to be the U.S. Attorney General. Seriously, the last time I enjoyed a sports story this much was when Mark “The Bird” Fidrych burst onto the scene in 1976. And that was only because I was 7 years old. Jeremy Lin is actually a better story.
There are a lot of Jeremy Lins out there in our business – great personal injury lawyers that are obscure and handling Yorkshire Terrier dog bite cases. Their first problem is the lack of opportunity. Trial lawyers can only do so much with the facts they have. If you don’t have good cases, you will struggle to get consistently great verdicts even if are channeling your inner Gerry Spence.
(The same is true for defense counsel. I’ve tried cases against lawyers considered to the best in Maryland that I thought they were awful or I caught them on a bad day. I’ve also tried cases against lawyers I thought were brilliant that I know have a very hard time chasing down $120 an hour auto tort insurance clients. It is even harder for defense lawyers in some ways because they don’t get paid and recognized for good results like personal injury lawyers do… unless they really know how to spin their successes.)
They key when you are in this spot is to Jeremy Lin it. (Yes, I’m using his name as a verb, too.) Do the best you can with what you have. Shortly after we started our practice, we tried a case in Baltimore County where a woman was in line at the drive-thru at the bank and got in a rear-end accident. The uncontested testimony was that the at-fault driver was going one mile an hour. Laura and I tried the case together. We threw everything and the kitchen sink at it and we got a $125,000 verdict. We had had better verdicts, but this was our signature verdict. LawyersWeeklyUSA did a cover story on it. We got some attention, more lawyers started referring us cases, in we built from there.
(Looking back, almost 10 years later, I look at all differently. Man, I wish I could not see so many shades of gray. First, I’m a little embarrassed we even took the case. How pathetic is it, on some level, to take 1 mph bumper tap case, anyway? And we are really bragging about getting $125,000? My law firm would never take that case in 2012. Yes, I believed the plaintiff was hurt from the car accident and still do. It was one of those rare, fluke things that happen. Still, we turn down cases all the time where I think the person may have gotten badly hurt from the accident but we don’t think we can prove it. Also, the unspoken implication was that we were such great lawyers we could turn a garbage car accident or another personal injury case into a case just because we were the attorneys. It is a false premise, although a lot of lawyers full of themselves would swear otherwise.)
USAA’s release for minors includes this language:
I/We do hereby state that said minor is completely recovered from any and all injuries sustained as a result of said accident and promise to bind myself/ourselves jointly and severally, my/our heirs, administrators and executors repay to the said ________________________ his/her heirs, successors and assigns any sum of money, except the sum above mentioned that he/she/they may hereafter be compelled to pay because of the said accident.
USAA is trying to put itself in the best position that it can to prevent minor plaintiffs from later disavowing the settlement. But it is silly to suggest that having the child’s parents affirm that the child has completely recovered is of any help. You could even argue it makes the problem worse: the parent(s) did not even know the child was so severely injured.