Lawyers PI Program
From the Desk of:
Mark Studin DC, FASBE (C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
“Thriving in Tough Times for Lawyers”
More and more I hear from lawyers that things are getting very tough for the personal injury lawyer who has a “soft tissue injury” practice. A soft tissue injury practice is anything that has nothing to do with fractures or head trauma, but usually disc, spinal related and extremity injuries. It is getting so tough for lawyers to prevail, that many are no longer accepting disc cases. As a result, there are less cases to refer to experts. This creates a trickle-down effect and we are located somewhere in the “trickle.” Some would say that “sucks for us,” but I say, it sucks for everyone else.
5-10 years ago lawyers saw soft tissue injury as a “quick buck” and many real estate, divorce, criminal, eldercare and patent lawyers accepted personal injury cases looking for a quick settlement. They improved their cash flow by taking the personal injury cases and it worked. They got a quick buck taking far less than the experienced personal injury lawyer did and left a huge problem in their wake. They lowered precedents legally across the nation for these types of injuries as a result of the settlements and subsequent awards for future cases. Therefore, it has become unfruitful for many to accept this type of case. Many of those non-personal injury lawyers no longer accept personal injury cases and in turn, lawyers have little to work with. On the surface, it seems as if we have nothing left but doom and gloom…However, if you dig deeper, you'll find it couldn’t be better for us. Keep in mind that: 1) People are still getting hurt in accidents, at a similar rate, year after year. 2) Those people need care. 3) Lawyers will still represent many of those people.
In understanding #1-#3 above, I get the same calls from doctors nationally sharing that lawyers say they have nothing to send because they are slow and I, personally, have heard the same thing. It doesn’t mean you will be any less busy. When I sit with lawyers and they start to appreciate my depth of understanding of their needs, they are now more receptive than ever and are not just listening, but hearing what I have to say. The legal community no longer has the leeway to work with doctors who aren’t the “real deal” because their cases are being scrutinized at a higher level from the carriers and their learned opponents. This means that if there are reports that aren’t of the highest caliber, they will get nothing, and if you have one of those reports, you won’t even get to be a “one and done;” you will be a “NONE and DONE.” They will never refer to you, not even one referral to “check you out.”
A perfect example is a doctor who called me last month, as he was asked to go to court in 2 weeks time on a soft tissue case. The patient had a left lateral bulge that was focal and the opposing lawyer was seeking summary judgment for dismissal based on the bulge diagnosis being preexisting and degenerative. This doctor, who had taken the MRI Course and sat through one of our Primary Spine Care Symposiums that everyone needs to attend, knew that the diagnosis was wrong, as was the interpretation, because you cannot have a left lateral bulge by definition. He called the lawyer and explained it. The lawyer was still not 100%, so the doctor arranged a conference call with me and I explained the same thing to the lawyer. I went on to explain to the lawyer that he had other problems; he wanted the doctor to testify in 2 weeks time, but it was my understanding that the courts need a 4 week lead time to accept another doctor’s report. The lawyer, apparently not very experienced in personal injury, realized that he, in fact, couldn’t get the doctor’s opinion into testimony as a result of the timing and his having screwed up. He immediately settled the case for far less than the value it should have settled for. However, the lawyer now knows that this doctor is the “real deal” and will prevail in future cases with him because this doctor took the time to become the "real deal." The lawyer was working with another doctor in the area who he will never work with again because that doctor fed him a bunch of nonsense in his report and the lawyer put his reputation and money on the line. It cost him both.
Lawyers have reported to me that they are no longer accepting referrals from doctors who have either inferior paperwork and/or poor knowledge of spine, disc, neurology, electrodiagnostics and MRI interpretation. They feel they cannot prevail at the level they need to and will lose those cases, so why should they accept a losing case, no matter the injury, if they have to appreciate the patient’s loyalty to the doctor? Lawyers have also explained to me that they have tried working with inferior doctors and attempted to turn them into good doctors, but the paperwork of the bad doctors followed them into the courtroom and cost them their cases. Henceforth, they won’t even try.
Although lawyers want cases referred to them, the pendulum is swinging away from that. Lawyers are very hungry to find doctors who are the “real deal” and are steering numerous cases to those doctors who have paid the price for excellence. Yes, these are tough times for lawyers and doctors alike, but accidents will always happen. People will always need care and lawyers will continue to represent injured clients and they all need to go somewhere. The “somewhere” is your office if you have paid the price for clinical excellence. Those fancy steak dinners and advertising and all the other crap out there will no longer get you that “one and done.” The new rule is the “NONE and DONE,” as I said before, because they won’t even start with you.
The power of the educational binders, narratives and curricula vitae is to show on paper that you are the “real deal.” The face-to-face meeting is to confirm that you are the “real deal,” articulate and able to stand up to scrutiny on the witness stand. Remember, the end game for the lawyer is the witness stand, not that you will end up there often. However, if the lawyer knows that you can handle that situation, he will have the confidence in negotiations that should it be required, you will have the knowledge and the ability. That equates to higher settlements for the lawyer and referrals for you.