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Shapiro & Appleton

What it Means to be an Ethical Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer

 

honest lawyers in Virginia

In today’s era of suspicions about personal injury lawyers, and the motives of personal injury victims as well as their attorneys, a person looking to hire a personal injury lawyer needs to understand how important attorney ethics are in the modern legal world.  While every state regulates the ethical conduct of lawyers, just as in any business, there are wide ranging personal injury lawyer practices, ranging from the highest ethical conduct, to the questionable or even unethical personal injury lawyer conduct.  The purpose of this article is to go over some of the personal injury lawyer ethics temptations and ethical obligations, and answer some of the questions personal injury victims have actually asked our law firm and lawyers in the past:

 

Q:

Will an ethical personal injury lawyer tell me what my case is worth in the first initial consultation phone call?

 

A:

No highly ethical personal injury lawyer would tell you what your case is worth even after one long phone call, because without reviewing your actual medical records, and sifting through some of the evidence, no lawyer could put a reasonable settlement or verdict range after one phone call.  it is true that an experienced personal injury lawyer can tell you whether the liability or fault of a potential party seems solid or not after one phone call, but even that opinion has to be substantiated by looking at evidence.  Many times our potential clients ask us what the case is worth early in our first discussion. In my view, it would be extremely poor ethical conduct to state that a case is worth a certain amount of money based on such limited facts. Further, most state lawyer ethics requirements state that attorneys cannot guarantee a specific result or guarantee success.  In the best case scenario, a prospective client should have all their main questions answered, should be informed exactly how an attorney will charge for the legal service, and whether the lawyer will “advance” any necessary court costs and expenses.

 

Q:

Can an ethical personal injury lawyer give me cash for my living expenses right away because I am out of work due to a personal injury?

 

A:

In many states, including Virginia, it is unethical for a personal injury lawyer to pay for daily living expenses for a client, with the sole exception being for “indigent clients-which is somewhat hard to define.  [Note: there are a very small number of states that permit lawyers to make loans or advances.  This outline is based mainly on Virginia law practice, but touches on concepts that apply in most states.]  However, while most states prohibit ethical personal injury lawyers from making loans for living expenses to a client, an attorney can guide a potential client to a business or loan company that will provide cash or money to a personal injury victim, and the loan usually  becomes a claim against the personal injury settlement or verdict.  As a matter of fact, in the last five years these companies that loan to personal injury victims have flourished around the United States and many such companies exist.  The downside of these types of loans is that the interest rates tend to be fairly significant, and obviously is a whole lot higher than mortgage or car loan interest rates, but these companies are the only ones that will make loans to personal injury victims that are out of work.  So, there is a trade off, but a personal injury lawyer can direct a client to one or more of these loan companies to help the client get by while they are suffering losses from a personal injury, such as lost wages, medical expenses, etc.

 

   
   

Q:

I was in a car accident and suffered whiplash type injuries and I did go to a doctor for therapy for my neck just a year ago.  Does my lawyer need to tell the insurance company about this, since it was well before this new accident?

 

A:

Again, the best policy is to disclose everything because an adverse party is entitled to know all issues relating to prior injuries to a part of the body that has been previously injured.  Any ethical personal injury lawyer will give appropriate advice to a potential client in that regard—but the main point is that if the case becomes a suit actually filed, this information will need to be disclosed.

 

 

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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