Next to being a priest or a rabbi, a personal injury attorney probably has more bad jokes created on his behalf than a member of any other profession. “What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? Not nearly enough!” “What do you call 1,000 lawyers covered up to their necks in sand? Not enough sand!” So why is the personal injury attorney portrayed in such a bad light? A lot of it comes from the stereotype of the personal injury attorney as an ambulance chaser, hanging around in hospital waiting rooms to accost injured people to see if they have a case where there’s money to be made. They’re also often seen as sleeze-balls, persuading clients to fake back injuries or other problems in order to secure large settlements.
Part of this stigma may come from the fact that, if personal injury attorneys are good at their jobs, there’s a good chance they’ll be making some pretty good money. The standard pay scale is 33%. That is, if you’re injured and an attorney handles your case, if you win your attorney is entitled to 1/3 of the monetary settlement. This may seem like a lot, especially since you were the one who was injured. However, think about what happens if you don’t win. Most personal injury attorneys won’t charge for consultations or even for taking on your case. If you end up losing your case, your personal injury attorney will have to swallow all the costs for the case including administrative, filing, personnel, and often even court costs. Every case is a gamble for a personal injury attorney, so in some ways they’re justified in asking for a significant portion of the settlement.
So is the stereotype of the ambulance chaser justified? Though you’ll probably be able to find a personal injury attorney with flexible morals without much trouble, most of them do ground themselves with solid ethical frameworks. If you can get past the stereotype and think about the work they really do, much of the work of personal injury attorneys is quite noble. In a sense they’re righting wrongs and getting money and settlements for people who have been injured by no fault of their own. Sure, you’ll find the occasional victim who is falsely claiming injury after a fender bender, but most of the people who file personal injury claims have been seriously hurt and are just trying to find a way to cover their medical bills and lost wages.