Sadly, for some people, the worst part of an accident is not the harrowing experience itself, but the pain, frustration, and loss that comes after. The severe implications to a person’s body, mind, and financial well-being after an accident should not be underestimated. When you add to these challenges the stress of a fraught legal situation, the results can be devastating.
Unfortunately, in the world of attorney referral services, bad actors do exist. There are companies designed to take advantage of the fact that people are scared and stressed after a serious accident. They market themselves cleverly as an easy solution to a difficult problem, and too many people fall victim to their tactics. In reality, they don’t provide the services or success that they advertise, and often lead individuals from a bad to a worse situation, while lining the pockets of the practices in their network in the process.
We’ve gathered important information to know about attorney referral services: the trustworthy and the suspicious ones, the things that can (and do) go wrong, and recommendations for how to find the trusted and experienced attorney that you need.
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What are Attorney Referral Services and How do they Work?
Broadly speaking, getting a referral to use an attorney is not a bad thing at all. For example, reaching out to expert authorities for legal resources, like the State Bar of Texas, can be of tremendous help. Their Lawyer Referral and Information Service can guide you to the specific legal field and practitioners you need for your situation. A list of these certified, state bar or non-profit resources may be found here. Getting a referral from an attorney directly can also be a great option. For example, if you contact a family law practitioner for help with a divorce, but that lawyer specializes in child custody, they may refer you to a trusted colleague who can better serve your specific needs. Even trusted friends and family members can be great resources for attorney referrals. The experiences that people close to you have had in their own legal battles can provide valuable wisdom.
However, there is another side to attorney referral, and it is profit – not public service – driven. There is good reason to be skeptical of these organizations. You may have heard of some of these services like 411-Pain or 1-800-ASK-GARY. They not only spend massive amounts on advertising to promote themselves, but they have also received notoriety from lawsuits, and there have been detailed reports released exposing their crooked practices.
Despite the immediate and considerable relief that these services advertise, the experience that they offer is actually very different. The process usually works as follows. You call into a phone service that is staffed by operators with zero legal experience. They will match you to a law firm based on how recently and how much these “in-network” firms pay, NOT based on expertise, relationship to your specific situation, or even quality of law practice. Similarly, you may be referred to medical service providers in much the same way. From there, your case is handled in a way that runs up your medical costs and legal fees, spending away any guaranteed insurance funds (especially PIP, see more info here) to line the pockets of “your” chiropractors, doctors, and lawyers.
What Can Go Wrong with Attorney Referral Services?
When you utilize one of these disreputable attorney referral services, many things can work against you. One of the worst things that can happen is that you get referred to a firm that isn’t capable of handling your case. This means you are left in pain, with medical bills, and with absolutely no insurance payout funds to show for it. The main complaints we hear from people who have used attorney referral services include:
1) Inflated Costs – Insurance fraud is a very serious matter, and while there have been cases of such activity associated with attorney referral networks, this is not the practice across the board. However, in-network attorneys and clinics know when there are PIP insurance funds on the table, and they are incentivized to seek those funds via excessive services rendered. Additionally, some attorney referral services do charge fees to the clients, so you may owe your attorney and the referrer!
2) Poor Medical Care – Attorney referral services have a network of providers who pay to be part of that network. This pay-to-play structure means that you are being matched with a clinic or care provider based on paid fees in exchange for referrals – not based on the quality of medical care.
3) Poor Attorney Representation – Similar to the referral network of clinicians, membership in the network is based on paid dues or fees, not on the quality or expertise of services. There are good attorneys who participate in attorney referral programs. However, when you call in you are likely to be matched randomly based on geographic location and an attorney’s good standing with the referral program. These are not the most important factors in selecting the lawyer you need!
4) Decreased or Eliminated Payout – Attorney referral services spend millions of dollars on advertising to continue churning through clients and burning their insurance payout funds, all while lining their pockets in the process. Victims of these scheming referral companies see their medical bills and legal fees run up, meaning their insurance payout is completely exhausted paying for these services, and they don’t see a dime. They may even end up on the hook themselves, with additional medical bills and other fees to cover out of pocket.
5) Bad Customer Experience – From the first call, where you may reach an inexperienced phone operator, if you even reach a human at all, users find their experience is confusing and misleading. You should not make a decision as important as hiring an attorney by the suggestion of a message recording, or even a phone operator, no matter how well-intentioned that individual. The attorney and medical providers you are paired with are not incentivized to win you as a customer and gain your trust. They are only interested in their next referral from the network. You as the injured party deserve to be treated well and cared for.
6) Confidentiality Issues – Speaking with one of the referral service operators about your situation will not be protected by attorney-client privilege, because these operators are not attorneys. These first conversations you have may be discoverable by the opposition if your case escalates. Your honest efforts to seek attorney guidance could backfire severely due to the misrepresentation of services rendered by attorney referral firms.
As a victim of a serious accident, you deserve better.
The Better Way to Find an Attorney
Attorney referral services have arisen because individuals often don’t know how to secure appropriate legal help. After serious accidents or in the face of uncertain legal battles, people want and deserve resources to help them decide where to turn next. We completely understand this feeling. So, we have put together our recommendation on the most important considerations as you determine the right lawyer for you.
Great Results: It’s so important to vet the results of the attorney you are considering. For example, Thompson Law has won over $1.8 billion for our clients to date and won 13 of the top 100 settlement verdicts in the state of Texas in 2019. A track record of success matters.
Great Expertise: Choosing an attorney who has thoughtfully gathered a team of experts to join their firm means better results for your treatment, negotiations process, and settlement or verdict. After experiencing painful injuries and losses after an accident, you need an attorney representing you who has experience with the type of case you have and the situation you are facing.
Great Reputation: When beginning the process of finding an attorney, many people start with their own network of friends and family. This is a great way to get honest, insightful advice and opinions about attorneys in your area. Another great option is to consult ratings and review services online. There are specific directories for attorneys, and even places like Google and Facebook can demonstrate a firm’s reputation. You should also look for awards and accolades that a law firm has won. It’s an important indicator of a legal firm’s quality when they have won recognition from industry authorities, peers, and former clients.
Great Client Service: You should select a law firm that meets the above criteria, but that also feels good to you. It is important that you like the attorney and legal experts you will be working with. The challenges of claim negotiations and case arbitration will not make a relationship easier over time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get the clarity you need from the very first phone call.
Thompson Law is Here for You
Whatever your situation after an accident, Thompson Law is here for you. Some of our clients have cuts and bruises and a dinged-up car. Some have life-changing injuries that will result in permanent disabilities and change the rest of their life. No matter your circumstance, please know the dedicated team at Thompson Law is driven to provide help and support to you through this time.
Our staff has over 350 years of combined experience, and we have won over $1.8 billion for our deserving clients. Our founding and managing partner, Ryan L. Thompson, is passionate about helping individuals harmed by the negligent driving or behavior of others. If you have been harmed in any type of auto accident or workplace accident, know you are not alone. Reach out anytime you need us. 24/7 we are ready to take your call.
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The State of Texas has a statute of limitations of two (2) years for personal injury cases, so if you or your someone you love has experienced any injurious accident, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The sooner you know your options, the sooner you are on a smooth path to recovery and your deserved compensation. If you’ve been hesitating to reach out, don’t delay any further. Call Thompson Law right away for assistance with your injury and claim.