Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Our FAQs are split into two sections :
Personal Injury Lawyer Portland FAQ, and Portland Personal Injury Trial Lawyer FAQ & Information.

Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQ

  • Why should you hire DeShaw Trial Lawyers?

    Dr. DeShaw is a nationally recognized Portland personal injury lawyer, who is widely published in the field of insurance claims practices – the way insurance companies actually handle personal injury insurance claims. He is the author of the only legal text on the topic of Colossus – the computer system used by the majority of all auto insurers in the US to calculate auto injury settlement values. We use that expertise in handling personal injury claims resulting from auto accidents and other injury cases where these programs may be used.

    What insurance company adjustors don’t tell you is that they are trained to steer you away from getting a lawyer, because they know that if you hire a lawyer you will get more money for your injuries. The insurance industry’s own research (through the Insurance Research Council) demonstrates that in claims worth between $1,000 and $15,000, the value of claims represented by a lawyer is more than 100% higher than those not represented by a lawyer. So, even with the lawyer’s contingent fee taken out, insurers know that you will get more for your injuries by hiring a lawyer.

    But, the lawyer you hire makes a difference. That is because the insurers know that if the claim is worth more than $15,000 the value of having a lawyer becomes 2x – 3x or more, than the amount you would get if you tried to settle the claim yourself. And, certain trial lawyers (those who actually go to court for our clients) command much larger settlements because insurers know that juries will recognize that our clients are legitimately injured. At our Portland Oregon personal injury law firm, we don’t want to represent every person who calls our office, or even those who are referred to the office. We don’t take the 80% of claims that the insurance industry settles at or below $5,000. Instead, we take a small number of cases where people’s lives have been changed by the carelessness or recklessness of a person who has seriously injured them.

    Unfortunately, Oregon is one of two states in America without “bad faith” laws that require insurance companies to treat injured people appropriately.  This allows insurers to abuse those who have been injured, making little or no offer on serious injury cases, and forcing the injured person to go to court in order to get fair compensation for their loss.  If you are seriously injured, finding a lawyer willing to go all the way to trial is critical if you want any chance of getting a reasonable settlement offer for your injuries.  If you have injuries that have or will impact the rest of your life, you will find that our trial experience critical to the success of your case.

    All of our clients have serious injuries that compromise their ability to handle every day life events in a normal way.   Many find dealing with repeated calls from insurance adjustors to be overwhelming.  Handling a personal injury claim is difficult and time consuming. Once our Portland personal injury law firm takes your case, you can stop worrying about dealing with the insurance companies and focus on recovering from your injuries. Doctors know that there is a window of opportunity for your body to heal properly from your injuries. We want you to take full advantage of that time, rather than expending energy dealing with insurance companies. Once we take the case, our personal injury law firm takes care of all of the paperwork, phone calls, collection and organization of your medical records and medical bills, and communication with insurers, so you can concentrate on getting better.

    Rather than bill you hourly like most lawyers, we handle cases on a “contingency fee basis.”   This means: You don’t pay us for our time unless we recover money for you. The initial phone consultation is free.  The first appointment in our office is also free.  After that, you have no obligation to become a client if you don’t feel comfortable with us.

  • What type of personal injury claims do you handle?

    A: Here are a few of the roles Aaron DeShaw accepts in personal injury cases:

    • Oregon traumatic brain injury case lawyer
    • Oregon birth injury lawyer
    • Oregon cerebral palsy lawyer
    • Oregon amputation lawyer
    • Oregon wrongful death lawyer
    • Oregon quadriplegia lawyer
    • Oregon paraplegia lawyer
    • Oregon paralysis lawyer
    • Oregon nursing home sexual abuse lawyer (on behalf of seniors)
    • Oregon child sex abuse lawyer (on behalf of children)
    • Oregon car crash settlement lawyer
    • Oregon car crash trial lawyer
    • Oregon trucking crash settlement lawyer
    • Oregon trucking crash trial lawyer
    • Oregon plane crash lawyer
    • Oregon bicycle/auto collision settlement lawyer
    • Oregon bicycle/auto collision trial lawyer
    • Oregon pedestrian/auto collision lawyer
    • Oregon burn injury lawyer
    • Oregon electrocution injury lawyer
    • Oregon medical malpractice lawyer
    • Oregon defective product lawyer
    • Oregon bad faith lawyer (involving insurance company underpayments or fraud)
  • How soon after personal injury event should I call you?

    There are some reasons why you may need to contact us soon after an injury:

    Some types of legal cases require that you provide notice very shortly after the event.  If you wait, you can be prevented from making a claim at all.

    Bad insurance company tactics are often the reason people call us for legal representation.  Some insurers have programs set up to cut people off from the care they need to recover, and Oregon law does not penalize them when they do it. The practice has spread throughout the insurance industry.  Insurers have doctors who make their living off insurance companies who will do “paper reviews” or “IME”s to say that you don’t need treatment that is clinically necessary.  Even though you may not want to hire us immediately, it is helpful to call us to ensure you don’t do something that could jeopardize your ability to get the health care you need.

    Whether you decide to consult with our law firm or another, we suggest that you should not give the insurance companies a recorded statement until you have consulted with a lawyer.

    There is one other reason that it may make sense to call early.  It is important to know right away if there is insurance coverage available to cover your medical expenses and lost wages.  If you are seriously injured in a car crash and have expended all of the “Personal Injury Protection” insurance, there may be additional health care coverage that we can help you obtain.

    Ultimately, it is our #1 goal to ensure people get the health care necessary to give them the best chance at recovering from their injury.

  • Will I meet the lawyer when I come in for my case intake?

    Yes. We limit the cases we accept to only those clients we feel really need our unique skills. If we meet with you, we have an interest in taking your case and forming a strong relationship with you.  In all personal injury cases, Aaron DeShaw does all of the client intake interviews personally. At many law firms you will get a 15-minute interview with someone who is not a lawyer. At our firm, you will be with Aaron DeShaw for between 30 minutes and 5 hours depending upon the complexity of your case.

  • What is my claim worth?

    The value of your injury claim depends on the severity and permanency of your injuries, the location where your injuries took place, the lawyer you hire, and many other things. Contact us for a free consultation so we can discuss your personal injury claim.

  • Can I get compensation for personal injuries if the other driver had no insurance, or didn’t have enough insurance to cover my injuries?

    Yes. In Oregon, and many other states, insurers are legally required to provide you “Uninsured Motorist” and “Underinsured Motorist” coverage as part of every auto policy. What is often abbreviated “UM” and “UIM” insurance, may provide insurance even when the person that hit you has no insurance. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can recover money for your medical bills and pain and suffering even if the other driver had no insurance.

    In the event that the other person has insufficient insurance to cover the full extent of your losses, DeShaw Trial Lawyers can usually make a claim for “Under-Insured Motorist” coverage. The amount is determined by your own auto insurance policy.  This is where our in-depth knowledge of insurance company law becomes critical to our seriously injured clients.

  • Should I accept the offer the insurance company has given me?

    Many of the insurance companies provide different adjustors with different levels of “authority” (the insurance term for money) for people without lawyers.  What we commonly see is that people who get offers before they come to our office get offers that are a fraction of what they end up getting with us.  Take a look at our list of settlements and verdicts to see the difference between the initial offer and the end outcome.

    There is another reason you shouldn’t simply take the money offered.  This is something of critical importance for those with serious injuries; there may be more insurance available to you than they are telling you. And, even if one party is telling you the truth, you may have more insurance for your own injuries in what is called “Uninsured Motorist” or “Underinsured Motorist” insurance coverage.  If you settle the claim with the other person’s insurance even for what they say is the “full amount,” you may waive other insurance available to you if you don’t go through the correct procedure with your own insurer. Since our firm deals with many large personal injury claims, we assists people in finding additional insurance that helps with getting medical bills paid, or additional insurance that will cover your injuries, wage loss, and future treatment.

  • How long does it take to settle or resolve most personal injury cases?

    It depends on the nature of your claim, and usually this is dependent upon the insurer involved. We have settled “policy limits” auto cases ($25,000 or more in Oregon) within a matter of days when the facts are bad for the defendant, and there is too little insurance. However, larger personal injury cases typically take longer to settle. Many insurance companies will force the injured person to file a lawsuit against the at fault party to recover compensation over $100,000.

    Insurance companies want to hold onto the money as long as possible to gain the additional interest on their money. Since the State of Oregon provides no penalty for these delays, or improper claim denials, insurers string out settlements as long as possible.

    We take a select few cases, and accept those cases knowing that we are in the case as long as it takes to do what is best for the client, including going to trial. In summary, we are not a “high volume, quick settlement” type of law firm. We believe our clients deserve better treatment because of their serious injuries.

    For other types of legal cases like defective products, negligent doctors, class action cases and those requiring thousands or millions of documents, the cases take much longer.

  • Will I have to go to trial?

    Insurance companies track lawyers and know which ones will go to trial for their clients, and which ones will not.  It is clear from unprotected insurance company manuals that they will not pay the same to lawyers who don’t go to trial as those who will.

    The vast majority of personal injury cases don’t go to trial. However, our law firm treats each case as if it is going to be a trial, as we have to be willing to go to trial to ensure our clients get appropriately paid for their actual injuries.

  • Do I need a lawyer who focuses on personal injury law?

    In order to settle your personal injury claim you will have to deal with insurance companies. To get the best outcome, you need to know their culture, the management methods they use, and their negotiation methods. Their goal is to pay you (or your lawyer) as little as you (or your lawyer) will take. It is tough for someone who is not familiar with personal injury cases to know what a fair settlement amount is, or even have a clue about how insurance companies evaluate these type of claims. Again, our law firm handles insurance claims in a particular way, due to Dr. DeShaw’s extensive history litigating against the insurance industry. He literally “wrote the book” describing the way that most U.S. insurers evaluate injury claims. We use that knowledge to your advantage.

  • How do I pay your legal fees?

    We almost always handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not owe us a legal fee for our time, unless we recover money for you. DeShaw Trial Lawyers does not ask for any attorney fees up front for fees, and we do not charge you by the hour, unless you choose that method.

  • Why is it so important to hire an experienced Oregon trial lawyer?

    As discussed above, insurance companies track lawyers and know which ones will go to trial for their clients, and which ones will not. Most personal injury cases settle before trial. The question becomes, how much do they settle for?

    Trial experience is now rare in the legal profession.  While the U.S. Department of Justice and the Oregon Supreme Court have recognized the substantial decrease in the numbers of civil trials, lawyers don’t want to admit the problem to the public. Some of the judges elected to the bench have never done a trial.

    If you hire an Oregon personal injury attorney who has little or no trial experience, they may refuse to file your case just before the deadline for filing, leaving you with no claim. Others will refuse to go to trial out of fear of losing. Others will ask you to front the costs, or hold back on hiring the investigators and expert witnesses necessary to understand and win your case.

    Insurance companies know who these lawyers are, and they offer them much less than the case is worth.  Dr. Aaron DeShaw, Esq., writes and lectures nationally on these insurance tactics. As a result, we know that we must be prepared to take every case we accept to trial, and fully present it to a jury. That is the only way that a reasonable settlement offer will be made before trial.

  • Will it cost me any money up front for filing fees, court costs, expert witness fees, and any other costs?

    Filing a lawsuit, paying court costs and expert witness fees can be extremely expensive. We know that most people cannot afford these costs up front, so we forward these costs in nearly every case we take, interest-free, until the end of the case. Since the recession, fewer law firms do this for clients.

    Before you hire a lawyer, make sure that they are willing to forward the money to fully finance your personal injury case, including getting the necessary evaluations to understand your claim, and hire the necessary expert witnesses to testify in a trial. If the law firm you hire is unwilling or unable to do this, you may be forced into taking a minimal settlement if you cannot afford to spend the money necessary to pursue your personal injury claim.

  • What parts of Oregon & Washington do you handle cases in?

    Although our office is located in Portland, Oregon, we accept serious injury cases throughout the States of Oregon and Washington. Here are just a few of the cities where we accept cases:

    Oregon Personal Injury Cases: Portland, Oregon; Lake Oswego, Oregon, West Linn, Oregon; Beaverton, Oregon; Gresham, Oregon; Salem, Oregon; Silverton, Oregon; Keizer, Oregon; Bend, Oregon;  Wilsonville, Oregon; Tualatin, Oregon; Tigard, Oregon; Oregon City, Oregon; Hillsboro, Oregon; Gladstone, Oregon; Milwaukie, Oregon; McMinnville, Oregon; Troutdale, Oregon; Sherwood, Oregon; Aloha, Oregon; Albany, Oregon; Corvallis, Oregon; Woodburn, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; The Dalles, Oregon; Pendleton,  Oregon; Sandy, Oregon; Newberg, Oregon; Keizer, Oregon;  Forest Grove, Oregon; Estacada, Oregon; Canby, Oregon; Newberg, Oregon; Medford, Oregon; and many others.

    Washington Personal Injury Cases: Seattle, Washington; Bellevue, Washington; Kirkland, Washington; Redmond, Washington; Lynnwood, Washington; Kent, Washington; Federal Way, Washington; Auburn, Washington; Bothell, Washington; Woodinville, Washington; Kenmore, Washington; Shoreline, Washington; Mercer Island, Washington; Renton, Washington; Tacoma, Washington; Olympia, Washington; Everett, Washington; Vancouver, Washington; Camas, Washington; and others.

  • I’m outside the states of Oregon & Washington, but want to hire you as my lawyer.

    Due to Dr. DeShaw’s national reputation, we have a wide list of high-quality lawyers who we can work with, likely including one in your state. Many times we can find the right lawyer for you to handle your case. In other cases where we have unique knowledge, that requires our personal involvement, Aaron DeShaw can associate with that law firm in your state as “co-counsel” through a motion called “pro hac vice” as long as the State Bar in your state will allow it. Dr. DeShaw has previously been admitted in other states for litigation cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

Trial FAQ & Information

  • Questions about the jury system

    It is particularly hard coming to the legal system from the outside, to understand how or why your case would ever end up going to trial. So, if DeShaw Trial Lawyers seems more reserved than you about the facts of your claim, or our ability to settle your claim for a fair amount before trial, here are a few things we’d like to share before you step into the courthouse:

    First, let it be said that DeShaw Trial Lawyers is always in favor of letting the jury know the WHOLE truth about a case. For that reason, you will rarely see our lawyers object to the entry of truthful information during trial, even if there may be a legal basis for objecting. But, many court procedures prohibit us from telling the jury very important information that would assist them in making correct decisions on a case. Here are a few things that you should know:

  • The “I” word

    Under no circumstances can we mention the word “Insurance” in trial, even though the person who is being sued has insurance. You cannot mention Insurance, nor can your witnesses including the doctors, police or anyone else who may testify for you. If you do, the judge will grant a “mistrial” and we will have to try the case over again. Insurance is available in at least 99% of all auto accident cases that go to trial. But, the insurance industry has lobbied the legislature and within the legal system so diligently that it has created a set of court rules that absolutely prohibits the lawyers representing injured people from telling the jury the truth that the little old lady in the defendant’s chair has had no choice in whether she is sitting there or not. She cannot settle the case even if she believes you deserve everything you are asking for. The insurance company is completely in control of how much to offer the injured person, whether to settle the claim or not, and what they should contest in the lawsuit. So, even if the little old lady sitting in the defendant’s chair wanted to settle the lawsuit for the same amount as what the injured person is requesting, the insurance company won’t offer the money. And, in Oregon it is almost impossible to sue an insurance company for improperly denying a claim or delaying the payment of what is due. Again, effective political contributions, and legal maneuvering by insurers have resulted in the worst insurance laws in the United States in Oregon. Even when the insurance company refuses to pay its own policyholder for losses at the hands of an uninsured motorist, there is almost no recourse for the insurance company’s own customer.

  • It’s cheaper to deny the claim than settle

    Believe it or not, insurance companies have saved billions of dollars since the mid-1990s, by improperly denying claims, and otherwise forcing litigation by paying far below the jury verdict average to settle claims. Frivolous defenses to legitimate claims have resulted in an increase in litigation, against people insured by these companies. This is part of a deliberate claim handling program implemented by McKinsey & Company, the same consulting firm that set up Enron’s business model, at many of the nation&s largest insurance companies. But, in jury selection, jurors often mention that if the injuries are real, the case should have settled with the insurer. That is exactly what the insurance company is hoping for. It doesn’t matter if they offered $0.50 on a claim worth $500,000. The jury will never know, because the lawyers are prohibited from ever mention the settlement negotiations during the trial. McKinsey & Company counted on this when they told Allstate Insurance in the mid 1990’s to quit treating people with “Good Hands” and instead treat them with “Boxing Gloves.” When Allstate forced more litigation and posted record profits, the rest of the insurance industry followed their lead. It is now standard operating procedure in the insurance industry to spend multiple times what a reasonable settlement would be to fight the claim, simply to prove to injured people and their lawyers that filing a claim for injuries is more trouble than it is worth. That is because the end result is that most lawyers will not take the cases, and people will not file the claims themselves. These improper denials have led to a huge spike in bankruptcies in the United States, the leading cause of which is an inability to pay for medical bills. So, when jurors turn injured people away, everyone but the person at fault, and their insurer pay for the damage. Instead, the jurors take the financial burden themselves through higher taxes to pay for the bankruptcy. For more, see the article entitled “In Tough Hands” in BusinessWeek.

  • Paying insurance companies money for nothing

    In Oregon, the money that is paid out by your own insurer for your medical bills through “Personal Injury Protection” Insurance, must be paid back to the auto insurer under Oregon law before anyone else is paid, including the injured person. But, the insurers refuse to pay any of the costs, or the attorney fees to collect that money. Instead they force their own customer to pay to get the money back through a lawsuit, if the settlement offer is not enough to cover the medical bills. In the end, when the jurors award a small amount of money, all, or almost all of the verdict will go straight back to the injured person’s auto insurer instead of to the injured person for the injuries, or for any future treatment. Injured people often ask “well then why do I pay insurance?” Its simple – the government forces you to buy it, because insurers lobbied them to make it mandatory. But, for those who are injured, the person’s own insurance payments for medical care turn out to be nothing more than a short term loan that you have to pay the costs of a trial to collect for them.

  • When “It’s my fault” really means “It’s your fault”

    Most of us would like to think that when someone who has run a red light or done something wrong says “This is my fault” it actually means something. Particularly when the person gets out of the car and says “it’s all my fault” right away. That was the case at a time in society when someone’s word and honesty actually meant something. Experience in trials has taught us that regardless of what the person who caused the collision said at the scene, it will be entirely different after their insurance company, and the defense lawyer who works for the insurance company, gets ahold of the person. Many defendants will evade the truth on the witness stand if they think it will allow them to escape personal responsibility for their conduct. Most of the time the judge will not let us introduce evidence of the admission at trial if the defendant contests the admission at a later time. And so, the jury goes into deliberations incorrectly thinking that there was some dispute about who was at fault from the day of the collision forward.

  • The Golden Rule

    In trial procedure terminology “the Golden Rule” means that we as trial lawyers cannot ask the members of the jury to put themselves in the position of the injured person when considering the value of a case. While this is the rule of the courts, this is yet another disadvantage to the injured party, given that the jurors should be deciding what they believe such injuries would be worth to them if they had the same injuries of the plaintiff. What “the Golden Rule” does is emotionally insulate jury members who are already numbed by daily violence in the media, to the value of human life and human loss. As the insurers know, if the jurors don’t feel the loss personally, they won’t find as much value in the loss sustained by the plaintiff, as it is actually worth to the injured person. All we can hope for is that through careful jury selection, and honesty by the jurors during jury selection, that we will have a jury of intelligent and caring people who will fully appreciate the significance of the human loss you have sustained.

  • Runaway Jury

    The media and political hype about “runaway juries” and million-dollar verdicts is false. The truth is:

    Jury verdicts are down.

    Lawsuit numbers are down.

    The medical malpractice crisis is a myth. Doctors are not leaving states due to malpractice suits, and there is no correlation between malpractice lawsuits and doctors insurance premiums. Insurance companies have used lawyers as a way of raising insurance rates for doctors, and even the insurers say there would be no decrease in malpractice premiums if a state instituted “caps” on damages.

  • Now You See It, Now You Don’t

    It is a scientific fact that there is no connection between small vehicle damage and small occupant damage. Any study that says otherwise has been funded, directly or indirectly, by the insurance industry, with the intent that such evidence can be relied on by experts defending their cases.

    In reality, some of the most significant injuries to passengers occur in cars where the visible damage is small. But, insurers know that jurors can be misled to believe a person cannot be injured if pictures show small amounts of damage to their car. So, defense lawyers argue to the judge before trial that vehicle damage pictures are relevant for the jury to see if the insurer took photos where it looks like there is a small amount of damage, but then argue they are irrelevant for the jury if they show damage. The result is often that minor vehicle damage pictures are provided to the jury, and that serious injury photos are excluded from the jury.

    DeShaw Trial Lawyers is in favor of the jury seeing everything. We trust that they are smart enough to understand that just because the car wasn’t crushed, doesn’t mean that the person inside wasn’t injured.

  • Why you can’t trust anyone who says no vehicle damage = no occupant damage

    It is a scientific fact that there is no connection between small vehicle damage and small occupant damage. It is also a scientific fact that there is no minimum force at which injuries are known to occur in human beings. Despite this, a full scale insurance campaign has occurred since the 1990s to condition the public that less than $1000 in vehicle damages = no injury. This campaign, sometimes referred to as “MIST” (Minor Impact Soft Tissue) or “No Crash, No Cash” has been extremely profitable for insurers. Insurers count on that conditioning, and paid experts to refute injuries in these collisions, relying on studies paid for by the insurance industry, in order to make Billions of Dollars in profits by denying legitimate injury claims. They have accomplished this by limiting settlement offers to $3,000 or less on any claim with less than $1,000 in vehicle damage regardless of the injuries. When the injured person cannot accept that because of a serious injury, they get the “Boxing Gloves” treatment from the insurer, as they are forced into several years of litigation in order to get what is clearly owed to them.

    What the jury will never hear is that in some cases the insurance company actually owns the auto body shop where the “estimate” of vehicle damage is done. Even in the case that they don’t own the garage, most major insurers have “affiliate” programs in which the insurer exchanges referrals for the garage’s agreement to use used or “aftermarket” (non-manufacturers) parts to decrease the cost of the vehicle repair. They also seriously decrease the labor rates to keep the prices down. Vehicle damage estimates are almost always external only, never estimating the true damage to the suspension, frame or internal structure of the car. This allows insurers to get estimates below $1,000 that are actually worth substantially more. In the end, it is only this manipulated evidence that a jury will see. And, they will improperly assume that if there isn’t much vehicle damage, you couldn’t be injured by such a small amount of force.

    In reality, some of the most significant injuries to passengers occur in cars where the visible damage is small. This is because the shock absorbers in each car’s bumpers accelerate the person forward on rebound much quicker than the acceleration that would occur with significant vehicle crush. It is this acceleration that can cause permanent ligament injuries in the occupant’s neck, and other permanent injuries.

    Despite this, defense lawyers parade around vehicle damage pictures before the jury, and refer to the collision as a “bump” or a “tap” in hopes that a jury will buy into a fabrication of the insurance industry.

  • Cash for trash

    "Cash for Trash" is insurance company jargon for the use of doctors who trade their vows to “do no wrong” in exchange for “I will say anything you pay me to say.” This results in a handful of doctors making hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars per year, providing reports which “trash” injured people, thereby depriving them of their insurance benefits under their own insurance policy. Insurers then use these same doctors to “trash” the person in front of the jury, claiming that the person was never injured in the collision, or that they have psychological problems from their mother or father 40 years before the collision happened. For many people, it is hard to believe that doctors will do this. Just wait and you will see it happen, either during the “Independent” Medical Examination your insurance company will require you to attend (or they will terminate payments for your treatment), during trial, or both.

  • One strike, you’re out

    Often times, jurors will think that you already received money from some other source, and that you are just looking for more. More jurors think that if the trial doesn’t go well, you can come back again for money later. Neither is true. There is only one opportunity to get all of the money for the past and future problems caused by the collision, and that is the trial. If the jury provides nothing, you get nothing. In the court system if you get one strike, you are out.

  • All trial lawyers are privileged people with too much money who feed off hard working people

    There are a couple of parts to this one, and so let's deal with these one at a time.

    First, it is very rare that the person who is a defendant in a case will ever lose any of their own money. As discussed above, over 99% of all defendants have insurance in our cases, and it is only because of heavy lobbying by the insurance industry that we are unable to tell the jury the truth about that in an honest way. Instead they hide behind a false appearance of the money coming directly from the defendant, so that juries will give less than what the injured person deserves.

    Now to trial lawyers and money. It is actually quite rare that the best plaintiff’s lawyers are from privileged families, and attend schools like Harvard or Yale. The lawyers born with a silver spoon, to affluent parents, are the lawyers that work for the insurance companies representing defendants and charging $200-$400 per hour or more, every minute they work on a case. They make $100,000 per year the first year they leave school and their salary goes up substantially from there. They get paid regardless of what the jury decides. But, that isn’t the person representing the injured person.

    Quite the opposite is true of the trial lawyers that represent injured people. Of the Top 100 plaintiff’s trial lawyers in the United States, it would surprise most people to find that almost all of them came from disadvantaged or downright desperate conditions. These are people who have reached their standing in life through staggering hard work, overcoming the many challenges handed to them in life. They are people who achieved the American Dream against all odds, sacrificing the normal pleasures like “down time” or time for social activities, in order to work for someone else’s behalf. Most often, we spend our own money to finance an injured person’s case, because the injury prevents them from having the money to fight the legal battle against an insurance company that could outspend almost any American citizen, including Bill Gates. Some trial lawyers will go so far as to sell the family home, in order to finance a client’s case, with absolutely no guarantee that they will ever get the money back. And, unlike the defense attorneys from Harvard who bill at hundreds of dollars every hour, we don’t get paid one cent, unless we recover money for the client.

  • Everyone’s insurance rates will go up if the jury provides a large verdict

    The reality is with many of the major insurers, they don’t even want to hear about the case at “home office” (the central headquarters of an insurer) unless the verdict is over $120 million. Needless to say, it would take a giant verdict to get any insurance company’s attention. Despite what the media might suggest, there are a small handful of cases nationally in a single year, that result in that kind of verdict. Almost all of the big money cases are business cases, not cases involving injured people. And, even if insurers get hit with punitive damages for their improper conduct, or outright fraud, they are themselves insured for that by what is called “re-insurance” – insurance for the insurance companies. These re-insurance companies, located in places like Switzerland, provide insurance for almost every serious financial loss incurred by an insurance company. Most of the time, though, cases of $1 million or even more are not even worth consideration by an insurer, because they are already budgeted, and expected by the insurance industry. But, as insurers have conditioned the public to believe that jury verdicts are “out of control”, jury verdicts have fallen to their lowest point in thirty years. Since insurance rates keep going up, despite this trend, all it means is that insurance companies don’t have to pay out the money that they are taking from their policyholders, resulting in record profits, and bonuses for their executives.

  • The McDonald’s Coffee case and The Stella Awards

    Few people have any idea, what really happened in the case between Stella Leibeck and McDonald’s. But, as you will see at trial, 80% of most jury pools will raise their hand when asked if the McDonald’s coffee case will pose a problem for them in deciding your case. That’s because certain elements of the media twisted this story into something it simply is not, for their own political and financial advantage. For a full account, see our page on the McDonald’s Coffee case. But the basics are these: After McDonald’s had already received over 700 complaints that its coffee would cause 3rd degree burns due to them keeping the temperature at 190 degrees, the company decided against reducing the temperature of the coffee to a safe temperature, and against labeling the coffee as dangerous for human consumption, because it would decrease their profits. The end result was certain to be a repeat of the Ford Pinto scenario (another explosive social problem stopped by lawyers) – where if increased profits can be made at the expense of a few people, don’t make the change if you can pay the injured people off for less than it would cost in profits. Stella Leibeck’s case really never would have gone anywhere though, had it not been for the fact that McDonald’s refused to pay for Leibeck’s medical bills caused by the burns. That’s right- she asked for $0 for her injuries, and McDonald’s refused. Since they also refused to pay for the medical bills she underwent- including a surgery for the burns, she had no choice but to sue to company for their intentional act. When the jury found out about this decision to keep the coffee at a temperature so hot they knew it would injure people, they returned a verdict equal to two days of McDonald’s profits on coffee. Not two years; two days. But, McDonald’s wouldn’t pay that either. They appealed the case, and eventually settled the case for a much smaller amount of money. But, that doesn’t matter. The only message conveyed to the public was that a woman had successfully sued McDonald’s for millions because she spilled coffee on herself.

    This story led to massive revolt by juries against legitimately injured people. We see the backlash in every case. And, the story then took on a life of its own via a series of stories about other “frivolous lawsuits” entitled The Stella Awards. The only problem is that the e-mails broadcast over the internet about the nation’s most ridiculous lawsuits are in fact comprised of false stories about lawsuits than never existed, and sent under the name of a non-lawyer at a law firm that doesn’t exist. In short, the jury bias, upon which they turn away legitimately injured people is based upon a completely false sense of doing the right thing. What they are in fact doing is severely corrupting the American Judicial system, and the viability of one of the cornerstones of the United States of America – the right to a trial by jury.

    What few people in the public know about is what we lawyers call “McDonald’s II.” This time, a young couple takes their three month old baby into a McDonald’s. While there, one of the parents puts a McDonald’s coffee up on one of the counters inside the McDonald’s. Another child in the restaurant hits the coffee, spilling it onto the baby and causing 3rd degree burns just like McDonald’s coffee did on Stella Leibeck. No big surprise, as McDonald’s never decreased its coffee temperature, even after the Leibeck burn case. The result – McDonalds again denied settlement to the baby’s family and the case went to court. This time, the jury returned a zero verdict, leaving the baby’ family responsible for the full medical bills. In the juries’ eyes, the world is a better place where a baby can suffer 3rd degree burns from 190 degree coffee, than it would be by returning a large enough verdict to suggest it was unacceptable to serve coffee so hot McDonald’s knew it would injure the customer. More and more, those are the messages we see juries return.

  • Lawyers are putting doctors out of business

    The truth is that this is a lie, which the insurance industry has successfully lobbied with doctors and the public. But, regardless of whether you have a medical malpractice case or not, the bias against “greedy trial lawyers” will hurt your case.

    The reality is that over 100,000 people in the US die every year from Medical Malpractice. It kills more people per year than a 747 plane crashing every day of the year. Imagine the horror of the American population if a jumbo jet crashed every day for a year. If these deaths were caused by an enemy we would declare a war to stop it. But, when lawyers try to stop this serious loss of life every day, they are viewed as evil by the public. Now, on top of the 100,000 that die every year from medical malpracice, prescription drug errors kill another 95,000 people every year. This is a very serious public safety issue.

    Despite this, very few of these cases ever reach a lawyer. Even fewer get accepted by a lawyer. Even fewer make it to trial.In fact, in a study conducted by the group Public Citizen on all known medical malpractice claims nationally from 1990 to 2006, the average payment for a medical malpractice verdict dropped 8%, The total number of malpractice judgments and settlements dropped 15.4%, and the number of payments made dropped more than 10%. In summary, the verdict size, number and payments in medical malpractice lawsuits all dropped significantly. So why are you being told there is a “crisis” caused by trial lawyers?

    But, in order to achieve record profits despite natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the insurance industry had to figure out a way to get juries to turn away injured people with nothing, and then deny settlement so that they were forced to go to trial. And they picked the most respected, and well financed group in society to turn the public against lawyers – the Doctors.

    As doctors have donated millions of dollars to campaigns for “Tort Reform”, and sought the media’s help turning the American people against the lawyers – the only group who would help them when they were themselves injured, the insurance companies have laughed all the way to the bank, posting record profits despite the worst natural disasters in US history. And after years of improper profiteering in the medical malpractice and auto accident arenas, they decided to deny the Katrina home claims too. There have been documents shredded providing proof that the damage to these homes was caused by wind damage that is covered. But, has taken a threat of Congressional investigation, and the power of the jury system to force the insurers to pay on this too.

    The reality is that the present rate of medical malpractice rates have nothing to do malpractice lawsuits. Even the insurance companies admit that even if there was tort reform in every state, they would not decrease the doctors malpractice insurance rates. For a fully researched book on this topic see “The Medical Malpractice Myth” by Tom Baker. Even the American Medical Association had to agree after reading the analysis, that there is no link between medical malpractice suits and the staggering insurance premiums that insurers are charging your doctors. So, don’t be fooled. This is about insurance company greed, not about lawyers causing a “litigation crisis.” Lawyers are the only thing that stands in the way of an explosion in what is already the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States – preventable medical malpractice. If jurors want to take out their anger on the cause of this problem, they should provide staggering verdicts for medical malpractice to make the problem itself go away. Safety and life should be sacred, not insurance company profits.

  • Punishing Bad Conduct Helps Other People

    Almost all of the large jury verdicts include what are called “Punitive Damages” – amounts of money solely meant to punish the defendant for particularly bad conduct. In some states like Washington, there are no Punitive Damages. And, in Oregon, almost all of the Punitive Damages awarded by a jury do not go to you, they go to the State of Oregon’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, a fund set up to help people who are injured by people committing a crime who have with no insurance. So, both you, and the lawyers, get very little of what the jury awards in Punitive Damages in a case.

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