How Does Hiring a Lawyer in Personal Injury Cases Help?
Erik Ladenburg has been helping people recover money for harms caused by others since 1999.
Victims of injuries can count on close personal service when they hire Erik to help obtain fair compensation for their claim as he knows first hand how difficult it is to deal with insurance companies.
Below he discusses the difficulties clients may face when dealing with insurance companies, why hiring a lawyer in such cases helps and how those who have been in life changing accidents can move on after their legal case.
The humanity in the process has been removed. This often leads to very low offers and low offers often lead to litigation.
How has the field of personal injury changed ever since you first began practising in 1999?
While in law school, dreaming of being a federal prosecutor, my wife was involved in a motor vehicle collision. Fortunately she was not badly injured. We filed a claim without the help of an attorney. As an eager and probably over confident law student, I believed I could handle the matter on my own. I quickly learned how difficult it is to deal with insurance companies. Their ridiculous low offer forced us to file a lawsuit. The insurance company continued to low ball us and delay the claim. They did not believe we would actually force them to be fair until the day of the trial. Only then did they finally make us a fair offer. It was at that moment that I decided to change career paths and become a personal injury attorney. I have dedicated my professional life to helping injured people because I know insurance companies will do everything they can to deny, delay, and diminish compensation for those who have been injured.
The most basic benefit a personal injury attorney provides is knowledge.
Not much has changed since I first battled an insurance company. They continue to delay and diminish claims. The only difference is they have become better at it. Insurance companies have streamlined and automated their process of denying fair compensation. Gone are the days when an adjuster actually adjusted the value of a claim based on his or her own evaluation of the facts and the claimant. Now insurance adjusters simply collect data for input into algorithms. The computer program tells the adjuster what they can offer to settle a claim. The humanity in the process has been removed. This often leads to very low offers and low offers often lead to litigation.
We litigate about 50% more cases now than we did in the early 2000s. Litigating takes more time and more money. The insurance companies know that many injured people will eventually wear down during the process and accept a low offer. The few cases that fight until the end and receive a fair verdict or even a large verdict are not enough to make this business model unprofitable for the insurance company.
A lack of understanding of the process can literally cost an injured person tens of thousands of dollars.
What difficulties do unrepresented victims of injuries often face when trying to gain compensation for their case?
Victims of injuries have an uphill battle that is nearly impossible to climb without quality legal representation. From the very moment a claim is reported, the insurance companies are acting in their own best interest. Obviously, the insurance company’s profit motive is at odds with an injury victim’s quest for fair compensation. The insurance companies are good at what they do and they lead people to believe they are in good hands. Too often injured people trust the insurance companies and do not realize they are losing some or all of their rights to receive full compensation for their loss.
They want an attorney who cares about them as a person, not just as a claim.
How does hiring a lawyer in this area help the above issues?
The most basic benefit a personal injury attorney provides is knowledge. People who understand their rights and the process are instantly better equipped to make an informed decision about their claim. Most people do not know of the various sources of compensation that are available to them after an injury. They do not understand how those sources interact with each other. A lack of understanding of the process can literally cost an injured person tens of thousands of dollars.
Another basic benefit of hiring a good personal injury attorney is legitimacy. Insurance companies know that only a jury can force them to pay fair compensation. If an injured person does not have an attorney, the insurance companies believe the claim will never be in front of a jury. They have no incentive to make a fair offer if there is no consequence for making a low offer. Hiring a good personal injury attorney, one who the insurance companies know will take a case to trial, will give the claim legitimacy.
Of course, the benefit of good personal injury attorneys goes far beyond those two basics. An attorney who is adept at negotiations, who knows and understands the latest laws, and who is skilled in successful trial techniques will likely get a much better result for injured people than an attorney who dabbles in personal injury law when they are not writing wills or defending DUIs. From the clients’ perspective, they expect those professionally qualities but what they really appreciate is an attorney who listens. They want an attorney who cares about them as a person, not just as a claim.
To make matters worse, these people are often called liars or malingerers by the insurance companies.
From auto collision to medical negligence, what field of personal injury is the most emotive, thus most challenging?
The most difficult cases are those with “non-serious injuries” that do not have objective findings in the medical records. We see many people who have experienced life-altering injuries that can’t be seen on an x-ray or MRI. The pain from these injuries can cause significant disruption to our clients’ lives and the lives of their family. Lost income, mounting medical bills, loss of sleep, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of self-image all caused by an act of negligence.
To make matters worse, these people are often called liars or malingerers by the insurance companies. They are accused of trying to milk the system for financial gain. It is not uncommon for clients to be in my office crying because of the impact an injury has had on their life. Never have I looked into the eyes of client and thought “this person is lying”. Yet the insurance companies will not hesitate to add insult to injury if they think it can increase their profits.
Life is much more than money.
Aside from a positive result after a dispute, how else can victims of injury try move on post their legal case?
A positive result from a personal injury claim can help people put their lives back together financially. It can help people get further medical treatment they may need to reduce their pain or improve their quality of life. It may provide people with a sense of justice to know that the wrongdoers were held accountable.
A positive result, even the best result can never make up for all a person has lost from being injured. Never does a client say, “wow, look at all this settlement money. I am sure glad my neck hurts constantly.” Life is much more than money. I discuss with each new client how their claim can provide financial help but nothing else. It is up to them to learn how to live their best life post injury. I urge them to use resources available to them and their families to help them cope with an altered life. Support from family and friends can go a long way in making life better after an injury. I tell every new client “your job is to focus on you. On your health, your healing, your family, your life. Our job is to focus on your claim and compensation for your injury. If we both do our jobs well, everyone will be happier when your claim is resolved.”
Personal Injury Lawyer
Even in law school, Erik was dedicated to helping injured people access the justice they deserve. He was the co-founder of UWSTLA (University of Washington Student Trial Lawyers Association), to help students learn more about the practice of personal injury law. During law school Erik was fortunate enough to work for two of the most prestigious personal injury law firms in the state: Schroeter Goldmark & Bender and Chemnick, Moen & Greenstreet. After finishing law school and passing the bar in 1999, Erik worked for Krilich, La Porte, West & Lockner in Tacoma. There he handled many personal injury cases including auto collision, work site injuries, medical negligence, and dangerous property cases. In 2001 Erik opened his own law firm, Ladenburg Law, where he continued to represent victims of negligence.