When people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I am a personal injury lawyer, they sometimes roll their eyes, tell me a lawyer joke, or wag their finger at me about all the “frivolous” lawsuits us injury lawyers bring. My response to the “frivolous” lawsuits remark is simple and straightforward: Neither my law firm nor I ever accept frivolous cases. We reject every single one from the outset. Why?
First, we are fortunate enough to have a full plate of legitimate claims representing honest people injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Our reputation attracts good cases, so why would we want to take bad ones? Because we successfully attract good cases, we don’t have to accept bad ones.
Second, taking frivolous cases is bad business. You have to be a dishonest lawyer, who is prepared to misrepresent or exaggerate facts and law, to even have a chance at prevailing with a frivolous lawsuit. But if you are dishonest even once, if you misrepresent the facts or law even once, your reputation with insurance adjusters, judges and defense lawyers is affected not just once, but forever. After that, when you bring legitimate cases, the insurance adjusters, defense lawyers and judges will all mutter under their breath, “there he goes again with another one of those cases”. If you get a reputation for bringing frivolous claims, you are less likely to be able to settle your legitimate cases because even those cases may be perceived as frivolous. As the saying goes, “your reputation precedes you.”
So who brings all those “frivolous” lawsuits we hear so much about? First, in my experience, frivolous lawsuits are few and far between. When they do happen, the media and press make a lot of noise about them. They make for a good read. The headline, “Jury Gives Man with Broken Finger $10,000,000” attracts more readers than “Jury Renders a Fair Verdict in Car Accident Case”. The first headline allows the public to shake their heads in bewilderment and disbelief at a legal system run amuck. The second one isn’t even worth a read. My point is that the thousands upon thousands of truly legitimate claims are not broadcasted while the very few frivolous ones grab the headlines.
Most personal injury lawyers are honest and file only legitimate claims. There is, however, one kind of lawyer who brings frivolous lawsuits: The bad kind. One of two defects make these lawyers bad: (1) either they are not bright or are sloppy in their investigation and research and therefore believe the claims are legitimate, when in fact they are not, or (2) they know the cases they bring are frivolous, but since they can’t attract legitimate cases, in desperation they cling to bad ones in the hope of extracting a settlement. Those kind of injury lawyers don’t last; eventually they will end up doing real estate closings or estate work.