Friday, April 28, 2006

Like Winning the Lottery, Part I

DISCLAIMER: As you know, I am not an attorney and this blog post is not written from a legal perspective. It is written from a human and ethical perspective. If I have made errors in legal interpretation, please forgive me—and please do not sue me!
Judge Judy dismisses the plaintiff’s suit that she suffered emotional distress after claiming she walked in on strangers having sex in her new home. The courtroom scene fades from the screen to be replaced by The Heavy Hitter asking if you have been injured in an automobile accident and want what is due you from the driver.

Visions of huge houses, expensive cars, the good life without needing a job, etc., dance through your mind. As an acquaintance reported her soon-to-be mother-in-law saying about her son’s injury in an automobile accident, “This is wonderful! Now you two can afford to marry.”

Or, as I heard another woman say about the neck injury she sustained when her car was rear-ended, “It’s like winning the lottery!”

Personal injury attorneys are advertising more and more on TV these days. I don’t oppose the advertising. I do question the ethics of equating being injured with getting rich quick. It’s not that these TV advertisements make the promise of quick, easy money. None that I have seen do. The closest is the statement that the attorney will “get you what you deserve.” And, of course, we humans being who we are, visions of huge houses, expensive cars, the good life without needing a job, etc., dance through our minds.

In Louisville, “The Heavy Hitter”—attorney Darryl Isaacs—has become a recognized TV personality, exclusively through his TV ads. According to the Louisville Courier- Journal, the price of fame is nearly $1 million a year paid by the Isaacs and Isaacs’s law firm. I don’t know how much money the firm makes each year, but the advertising costs must be worth it.

Of course, Attorney Isaacs isn’t the only heavy hitting lawyer advertising on TV. In his blog, Ben Cowgill on Legal Ethics, Attorney Ben Cowgill tells of another Heavy Hitter: Las Vegas attorney Glen Lerner. Mr. Lerner also ran TV advertisements claiming to be “The Heavy Hitter” (produced by the same advertising firm as Isaacs’s ads)—until the Nevada Bar Association came down on him. The Bar Association called into question, not the implied promise of quick wealth as a result of a personal injury, but they claim that Mr. Lerner is THE Heavy Hitter.” They reasoned that he might call himself "A Heavy Hitter" but not the "The Heavy Hitter" because there certainly must be other Heavy Hitters practicing law. Being familiar with the advertisements of Louisville’s own Heavy Hitter, Darryl Isaacs, I suppose the Nevada Bar Association has a point.

Of course, there are other personal injury attorneys besides The Heavy Hitter advertising on TV. In another frequently seen Louisville television advertisement, you are told that you need “a tiger on your side” to win your personal injury law suit. And suddenly a tiger leaps into your living room and transforms into attorney Cara Wells Stigger of the firm Kaufman, Stigger, & Hughes, who tell you:

A person who negligently operates a vehicle is required by law to pay for any and all damages caused. All operators of vehicles must drive with "reasonable care under the circumstances". If such care is not used and an accident occurs, they are responsible for all damages.

If you have been injured through the carelessness, negligence or irresponsible behavior of another driver, you probably have a valid personal injury claim. Since most of the time you will suffer some form of loss, whether it be income, physical, or emotional, our legal system provides you with a limited time within which to pursue your claim. You should therefore contact us immediately.

If you are the victim of an auto accident, it's smart to be prepared for what may lie ahead. Along with any physical injuries you may have to attend to, people get caught up in the emotional turmoil and confusion of the situation. There are so many things to deal with - the other people involved, the police, and the insurance companies. Signing the wrong papers could mean you've settled for less than you deserve. If you, or someone you care about, have been the unfortunate victim of an auto accident, you can contact our law firm for a free consultation.

Call our team of tough, smart attorneys and let us fight for your rights! Let us fight for you.

The information provided in the above ad is all valid. I do not question that validity. It is information that people who have suffered personal injuries need to know. I am, however, drawn to certain phrases: they are responsible for all damages (I shall address “damages” in tomorrow’s blog post); you will suffer some form of loss (I shall also look at the definition of “loss” tomorrow); a limited time within which to pursue your claim; contact us immediately; signing the wrong papers could mean you've settled for less than you deserve; the unfortunate victim. I do not question the validity of any of these phrases. I do wonder if they might not arouse the so-called victim mentality in those who have been injured.

Again, let me stress, I do not oppose attorneys advertising on TV or elsewhere; neither does the American Bar Association. I tend to agree with the perspective provided by Jonathan K. Van Patten of University of South Dakota School of Law in his insightful article Lawyer Advertising and Professional Ethics. He states that “advertising for legal services is inherently flawed because it is based on telling rather than showing.” To me that means that telling the audience that they will “get what you deserve” from a personal injury implies that one will receive more than one deserves (see my blog post for tomorrow), leading to visions of huge houses, expensive cars, the good life without needing a job, etc., dancing through people’s minds.

In other words, such advertising opens us to one of the most destructive of all aspirations: greed. And to me that’s a weakness, not in the advertisements, but in us humans. We begin to get expectations of unearned wealth that will purchase for us our heart’s desires: huge houses, expensive cars, the good life without needing a job, etc. The reality is: it just ain’t always true!

I have written enough on this subject—some may say too much—for the moment. I will continue in tomorrow’s blog discussing human greed, specifically in relation to expectations of wealth from personal in jury law suits.


  1. We had a couple of personal injury law suits 'pay off', fortunately they went to appeal and both claims were at least halved. Thankgod for sanity prevailing.

  2. I've long believed that the problem with television is not the content of the programs, it's the advertising. Twenty minutes of every hour is dedicated to preaching the gospel of materialism: happiness comes from owning the proper products.

    Commercials teach that nothing is ever you're own damn fault. If something is wrong, no effort is required on your part to fix it- there is a pill or product that will fix it for you.

    Now that mentality has spilled over into politics. This will not end well.

  3. Greed and one wants to admit when they are at fault...its the age of irresponsibility. Its sad but we are teaching everyone that no one is responsible for anything..its all because of something else...and greed is the desperation and fear that is built up in people - its all very sad.

  4. I feel that if a company or person is truly negligent then the injured party should have and medical costs covered, and quickly. However, the people who screw up the system for the rest of us are those who won't take responsibility for their own actions, e.g. "there was no warning on the iron that it could be hot when turned to high. I burned myself and I'm suing the company." There's an obvious line there and some lawyers have no problem blurring it for their own gain.