Is That Lawyer Really A Mass Tort Lawyer? Does He Really Intend To Represent You?
Television! Radio! Social Media! You cannot escape the ads for mass torts. Have you been injured by . . . [insert drug or device]. These are serious claims. Every year, many people are injured by dangerous products or drugs. They are also difficult claims to prepare in court. So, why are lawyers asking for your case if they really are not going to prepare your case in court? Why advertise for anything simply to refer it for a cut of the case???
I’m not writing to criticize lawyers who actually work these cases. The real problem are lawyers thinking first of volume fees instead of maximizing individual damages.
I’m not alone in my thinking. A 2021 study revealed almost 2/3 of plaintiffs in mass tort cases were unhappy with their lawyers. Think about that! I receive calls constantly from people unhappy with the large volume firm handling their case. Many of these people are the victim of someone marketing for their case simply to refer it to a large firm elsewhere for part of the fee. While 2/3 of the plaintiffs were unhappy, I would add that a lot of other plaintiffs unknowingly received less than they should have in settlement due to this arrangement. To me, that’s the biggest problem — Volume operations that don’t prepare each individual case for its maximum value.
Next time you see advertisements or videos asking if you’ve been injured by hair straighteners, firefighter foam, chemicals in your water, 3M earplugs, or anything else, ask yourself — Is this lawyer really going to appear in the MDL court and handle the key witnesses for me? If the answer is no, then I think you are getting a bad deal.
Ask Some Key Questions Of The Lawyer
You saw the ad. Maybe you listened to a commercial or short video of a lawyer telling you chemical hair straighteners are linked to cancer; firefighter foam causes injury; or, chemicals dumped in the Tennessee River are harming you. Ask yourself – Is that lawyer going to handle my case in court personally? Or, is that lawyer signing me to refer elsewhere? Here are a few key questions to ask:
1. Do You Intend To Actually Appear In My Case And Represent Me?
Call me old-fashioned. But, I don’t believe a lawyer should ask or solicit cases if he has no intention of actually appearing for you in the matter. I still think it’s misleading and wrong. Any advertising lawyer can read a pitch or state the talking points of a specific case. Ask the key question – Are you going to be one of the lawyers appearing in court for me? Or, are you shipping my case to another firm for that job?
2. Have You Appeared In Any Other MDL Courts Handling Mass Tort Injury Cases?
Mass tort cases are typically consolidated for pre-trial purposes before a single Federal Court judge. That means a judge in some far away place may handle all pre-trial matters while a local judge eventually handles the trial if the case progresses to that point.
I’ll give you a couple examples. When I handled several Actos injury cases, I appeared before a Federal Court in Louisiana. When I handled some Zantac cases, I appeared before a Federal Court in Florida. When I handled some transvaginal mesh cases, I appeared before a Federal Court in West Virginia.
Has your lawyer been admitted before these far away MDL judges? If the answer is no, then he or she is at the mercy of other lawyers who have. No matter how many times the advertising lawyer may claim he can help you by communicating with the actual lawyer appearing in the case, he’s wrong. He’s really just a middleman interfering with direct communications. You need a lawyer who is willing and able to represent you in the far-away MDL court and in proceedings right here in Alabama.
3. Have You EVER Handled Expert Witnesses In An Actual Federal Court Mass Tort Case?
In recent years, many mass tort cases have been lost when key scientific experts were excluded. On both a group and individual level, key technical experts make or break a case. Your lawyer should know how to handle these issues. Your lawyer should have experience dealing with expert issues in Federal Court. Does he? If your lawyer has no ability to deal with the expert issues through Federal Court, he short-changing you and putting you at the mercy of a volume settlement mill.
4. Have You Taken Depositions In A Mass Tort Case?
I don’t mean other personal injury cases. Make sure you don’t fall for the lawyer telling you he has handled medical depositions in a regular personal injury case. I mean mass tort cases because the law and issues are very different. I’m going to repeat that — Medical depositions in mass tort injury cases are very different than medical depositions in normal personal injury cases.
I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, I represented a number of women injured by transvaginal mesh products. These cases presented unique product issues. To maximize the cases, I deposed the local Huntsville and Decatur surgeons who implanted the mesh products in my clients. While many personal injury lawyers take medical depositions, these were not normal medical depositions. These cases involved a product approved by the FDA. The depositions involved complicated issues of product labels, warnings and the learned intermediary rule. One wrong answer by the doctor to these unique issues could have destroyed the case. Make sure the lawyer you are hiring has experience dealing with these unique issues in a medical or expert deposition. Neither the local lawyer simply angling for a referral or the large volume firm taking the referral, likely does.
You Need An Attorney Who Will Prepare Your Case Rather Than Ship It Elsewhere
In Huntsville, we have one lawyer who tells people he signs these cases for referral. At least, he’s being honest about the referral part. But, it’s still a bad deal for you. Why is it a bad deal to hire a lawyer knowing he will not appear and prepare your case?
Maybe the lawyer tells you he will stay involved in communications. Maybe the lawyer tells you he will keep in touch with you. Maybe that’s true. Most of the time, it’s not. Even when it is true, we all know what happens when you add extra people into a communication chain! Important matters are neglected or mis-stated. Why do you need a middleman when you should be able to communicate with the lawyer actually preparing your case?
Even when the referring lawyer does serve as a go-between on communications, it’s still a bad hire. I’ll tell you some more reasons why:
1. You Are Just A Faceless Number To The Large Firm Handling Your Case.
I still remember sitting at my desk several years ago when I received the call from a lawyer at a big volume firm. I represented 15 people injured by a specific product. The big firm lawyer told me they had thousands of cases and were settling for $15,000 each. I knew the other lawyer and he asked if I wanted to be part of the deal. I did not. These cases were worth much more. The injuries were serious. We had worked our way through the court process. It took us another year of work, but the ultimate resolution for my clients was ten times the volume offer.
If you are part of a large group, it is unlikely the primary lawyer knows you, knows your actual medical records or is even able to help you on an individual basis. You are a number to them. Although your local lawyer may stay in contact with you, he does not control the preparation or resolution of your case in court.
2. The Large Firm Handling Your Case Cannot Provide Individual Attention.
I mentioned this in the prior paragraph but the large firm is focused on the large group. Try going to a large volume fast food restaurant and asking for a very individualized food order. At some fast food hamburger places, they look at you funny if you ask for anything different.
I don’t say this to be critical of large volume firms. They can help people. In some mass tort cases, the injuries may be small and that firm can get you something. However, if you have serious injuries that need attention, you may be short-changing yourself.
3. The Large Firm Handling Your Case May Not Even Understand Any Unique Issues Of Alabama Law.
If you look closely at the ads seeking mass tort cases, many of them come from attorneys far away from Alabama. While we do have a couple large mass tort firms in our state, most of them are elsewhere.
If your lawyer works in some large firm outside Alabama, he or she may not know the unique issues of Alabama law. Each state has unique laws. Your lawyer needs to understand them in order to prepare your case.
I could continue with a number of additional reasons why you need a lawyer who will actually represent you in court. If you were injured by a medical device or drug, ask some serious questions. I’ve heard too many after-the-fact horror stories. Why pay a middle man when it’s really not needed:
YOUR LAWYER REPRESENTS YOU IN COURT
ITS ALL ABOUT VOLUME
We are Alabama accident and injury lawyers based in Huntsville. We believe in preparation. If you have questions, we are happy to provide answers. Our consultations are always free and confidential.