Column: Don’t Make ‘The Worst Legal Mistake Of Your Life’. Why It’s Important To Hire A Local Lawyer

January 11, 2022 | 2:46 pm


When a reader suggested for syndicated columnist and lawyer Dennis Beaver to write an article about why it’s a good idea to hire a local lawyer — as opposed to those salesy TV lawyers — Beaver reached out to Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn to explain the importance. Below is a column by Beaver answering the reader’s question, as published in the Santa Maria Times.

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“Two of my employees were involved in an auto accident that was not their fault. They were about to hire an out-of-town law firm that advertises heavily on television because the attorney in the commercials is a big fan of the same football team they are!

“I told them that’s not a sound basis to retain a lawyer, and to stay local, as our town has many good attorneys. Also, I had them read your December, 2020 article, “Could Your Lawyer Have Cheated You on Your Bill,” which described illegal charges by a TV-advertising, personal injury law firm hundreds of miles away from where your reader lived.

“But they would not listen me, hired them despite horrible Yelp reviews, and now have large unpaid medical bills! Dennis, an article explaining why it is a good idea to hire a lawyer who actually lives in your town would help a lot of people.”

“Fight for You Rights” TV Commercials

We’ve all seen television ads for personal injury and workers compensation law firms that say things like, “We fight for your rights!” What they do not tell you is that hiring one could be the worst legal mistake of your life.

The California State Bar is investigating the fraudulent billing practices of the law firm in my December 2020 article – and they are one of many law firms I am aware of who illegally charge for expenses that the lawyers never incur.

So, Why Stay Local?

I spoke with Bakersfield attorney David Cohn, in practice over 40 years, and considered one of the most accomplished personal injury trial attorneys in the United States. He outlined the risks in hiring a lawyer based on snazzy television commercials.

“In so many instances, the TV ads make it look like the lawyer is local, but that’s deceiving. Many are personal injury mills with a local phone number, and even a local office address. But drop in and you will never find an attorney. You will almost never meet the lawyer in person, only office staff.

“So, you see their commercial, phone, overcomes an investigator who signs you up, and immediately they send you to their out-of-town doctors just to build up huge, unnecessary medical bills in the hopes of a large settlement which seldom occurs. And, you could be left with unpaid bills. I see this often.” Cohn points out, adding:

“When their dissatisfied clients come to us, we often find medical bills that are 10 times what is normal! Clients have no idea what they have gotten themselves into.”

One of the dirty little secrets of these personal injury mills – who spend millions on television advertising – is something clients are also unaware of: “They do not have your best interest in mind and do not ‘fight’ for top dollar! All they want is a quick settlement.”

The TV ads give the impression that the lawyer you see in the commercial —who you will likely never meet — is handling your case. But Cohn notes:

“In reality, it’s an administrative assistant, not an attorney! They take any accident case and hope for one with significant injuries which they broker to a trial lawyer–for a large referral fee — because the lawyers who run these firms don’t try cases!”

Will Your Lawyer Actually Go Court?

In spite of what we see on television and in the movies, few lawyers go to court. Very few personal injury lawyers have ever tried a case. But, does it really matter? And, if it is true that most personal injury cases settle before trial, should it matter at all where my lawyer is located?

You bet it does!

Cohn explains why it is so critical – even for what may seem to be a ‘simple’ case that you would never expect to wind up in court – to be represented by local counsel who are real trial attorneys – who will try a case.

“Insurance companies know which lawyers will go to court and ‘TV’ lawyers who just settle a case without going the extra mile for the client. This allows the company to settle your case for far less — often thousands of dollars less — than what is fair.”

And if your case has to go to trial?

“You want a local law firm that tries cases, knows and is known by the judges in your community, not someone the TV law firm found because they aren’t able to provide their clients with competent professional service,” Cohn underscores.

And Before You Hire the Attorney …

Cohn lists these five important steps before retaining a lawyer.

(1) Research and find out as much as you can about the attorney.

(2) Is that lawyer local?

(3) Does that lawyer try cases in court?

(4) What is their success rate?

(5) Go to your State Bar’s website to find out of that lawyer has had any disciplinary issues.

Concluding our interview, I asked, “What has given you the greatest satisfaction from your long career in law?”

“It is doing the best I can to make my clients as whole as possible. That’s my job, but, Dennis, as corny as this sounds, it’s really more than a job. It is a calling.”

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to [email protected] Also, visit dennisbeaver.com.

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The Reasons You Should Contact An Attorney If You’ve Been Injured On The Job

June 23, 2021 | 6:00 am


You get hurt on the job: What should you do, and when should you contact an attorney?

Chain | Cohn | Stiles work injury attorney Jim Yoro explains in a new video (below) four reasons when it’s important to contact a lawyer after you’ve been injured at work. We also share some bonus reasons you may want to contact a workers’ compensation attorney after being injured on the job.

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Hiring an attorney to handle your work injury claim costs nothing up front, and it gives you the best chance to receive a fair settlement or award for your injuries. But how do you know you actually need an attorney? Here are four reasons when it’s important to contact a lawyer after you’ve been injured at work:

1) If you think your employer has not filed a claim with their insurance company, you should contact a work injury lawyer. The worker’s compensation system in California has specific requirements that California employers and insurance companies must comply with when providing benefits to injured workers, and your employer is required to report your injury to its workers’ compensation insurance company. The employer must also give the injured employee a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC-1) to complete. If your employer refuses to report an injury, that is a red flag. They may be worried about safety violations, not having the right insurance, or a other potential issues.

2) If you expect to be out of work due to your injury, you should contact a work injury attorney. If you suffer permanent disability, either partial or total, that will prevent you from ever fully returning to work, insurance companies are more likely to contest such claims because they are the most expensive. Furthermore, if you have been released to work, but you can only do modified or alternative work, and your employer does not provide you a position that meets your restrictions, you may be entitled to additional benefits to help you get back to work. These benefits are called “supplemental job displacement benefits.” They are designed to help you get some training so you can go into a different line of work. If your employer cannot permanently accommodate your new restrictions, then you may be entitled to receive a retraining voucher. If your employers insurance company is refusing to provide you this voucher or has provided work that does not meet your restrictions or seems unreasonable, it is time to call in a workers’ compensation lawyer.

3) If you’re going to need medical treatment, you should contact an attorney. Your medical issues can prevent you from returning to your job, limit what you can do at work, or keep you from performing any work at all. If you’ve suffered permanent disability — whether partial or total — you may be entitled to payments to make up for your lost wages. These cases can be very expensive for insurance companies, and they’ll often stop at nothing to avoid paying you what you deserve. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney is essential in cases involving permanent injuries or illness.

4) If your employer or their insurance company seems unwilling to help you after an accident or injury at work, you should contact a work accident lawyer. You are entitled to medical care, lost wages, job training, and other benefits under California law if you are hurt on the job. It is supposed to be that straightforward. The most common reason employers deny a claim for benefits is because they do not think an employee was actually hurt at work or that an injury was not caused by something work-related. Employers and workers’ comp insurers also routinely reject legit claims, confident that many workers will fail to appeal.

 

On the other end, you may NOT need to contact a work injury lawyer if your employer and their insurance company if after you report your injury, the insurance company promptly contact you and starts providing you with benefits you’re entitled to receive under California law.

“If at any point, things start looking different, such as the insurance company is not paying you on time, you’re not getting the medical treatment requested, or there is a problem with getting a release to go back to work, that’s when would be a good idea to contact a lawyer,” says Yoro.

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Besides the above, here are a few other reasons you may want to contact an attorney after being injured on the job:

  • You were injured because of a third party‘s actions or your employer’s serious negligence. The workers’ comp system was designed to prevent civil lawsuits for work-related injuries. However, you are permitted to sue outside workers’ comp in certain situations, including when someone other than your employer contributed to your injury (such as a negligent driver who hit you while you were driving for work), your employer doesn’t have workers’ comp insurance, or your employer intentionally caused your injury. An experienced lawyer will be able to explain how the law applies to your situation.
  • If you plan to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, and if your settlement isn’t structured properly, your workers’ comp benefits could significantly lower Social Security disability payments. An experienced attorney will understand how to draft your settlement agreement to minimize or eliminate this offset.
  • If you are injured at work or while doing any activity that benefits your employer, and you are considered an employee under California law, then you should be getting workers’ compensation benefits.
  • If your boss retaliates against you for filing a workers’ comp claim, including firing you, demoting you, cutting your hours, reducing your pay, or discriminating, contact an attorney immediately to protect your legal rights. You should never be terminated by your employer just because you were injured on the job or because you have requested workers’ compensation benefits.
  • If you are having trouble communicating with the employer’s doctor, or the doctor does not seem to care about your well-being as much as your family physician might. If you want to make a change in your medical care, a workers’ compensation lawyer can be a great asset. He or she can provide helpful information about who would be the best person to use for your unique health situation and type of injury.
  • If you have permanent disability because of your work injury, your employer or their insurance company may offer to settle your claim. However, this settlement may not account for the full value of your disability. An attorney will be able to tell you about what the average workers’ compensation settlement might be for a case like yours.
  • Your employer’s settlement offer doesn’t cover all your lost wages or medical bills. If you’re not sure a settlement offer is good enough, don’t rely on the workers’ compensation judge to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Although workers’ comp settlements must have judicial approval, judges will usually sign off on any agreement as long as it’s not grossly unfair. If you really want someone to get you the best settlement possible, call an attorney.

In all, the average injured worker does not understand the workers’ compensation system. That means that you might not know how much money you are supposed to get after a work injury. Some people may not realize that they are supposed to get benefits at all. Many workers put a lot of trust in their employer or its insurance company and count on them to tell the worker what they should and should not do and how much money they should get. This trust is often misplaced, however.

The accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is home to two lawyers who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation law, awarded to legal professionals who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the only plaintiff’s law firm in Kern County that has two attorneys who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation. Learn more about Jim Yoro and Beatriz Trejo at chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.