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What You Should Know

The Truth About Personal Injury Lawyers (And Cases)

When I first decided to attend law school, I had no interest in being a personal injury lawyer. I believed the narrative (crafted and heavily promoted by insurance companies) that personal injury lawyers are greedy and dishonest, and that most personal injury plaintiffs are frauds. After my first semester of law school, I sent my resume to several different types of law firms, hoping to obtain a summer clerkship position. I needed to make some money for living expenses, and didn’t think the summer clerkship would result in a permanent job. Money was tight, and I would have taken any position that paid. For a while, I worked at Hooters as a dish washer. Finally, I landed a law clerk position at Eubanks & Barrett, which was one of Tallahassee’s first personal injury law firms. While I disdained personal injury law, it was a job in my future profession and, even better, it wasn’t washing dishes.

Vinse Barrett was my boss and soon became my mentor. I quickly learned that everything I had been led to believe about personal injury law was a distortion of the truth. Vinse is a smart and ethical lawyer, a former Army officer and an old-fashioned southern lawyer, and has always been a stickler for honesty. Vinse was the exact opposite of the insurance companies’ narrative about personal injury attorneys.

Instead of an ambulance chaser just out to make a buck, here was a personal injury attorney who cared about truth and justice. He wasn’t encouraging clients to exaggerate injuries. He believed in the tort system, where injured accident victims can get fair compensation for injuries they suffered. He believed he was providing a service to humanity, by fighting for injured people against huge insurance companies who had the power, resources, and financial incentive to take advantage of people who didn’t have a skilled advocate fighting for them.

Vinse Barrett, and the other personal injury attorneys I met that summer in Tallahassee, taught me- showed me- that what I believed about personal injury cases was completely wrong.

After 25 years of working in the legal profession, I’ve met all kinds of people and seen all kinds of personal injury lawyers. Yes, there are people who will try to take advantage of the system for financial gain. But the number of people who lie, exaggerate, and hide the truth are a small fraction of plaintiffs.

In my experience, the vast majority of personal injury clients have legitimate claims and are seeking no more than the compensation they deserve.

Most lawyers in this business have the same moral compass as Vinse. Just as in other professions, there are, unfortunately, lawyers who will make money by working the system. Those lawyers are the exception rather than the rule, and they typically don’t succeed at the same level as the more ethical lawyers.

One of the ways you can spot those lawyers is by how looking at how many cases they litigate. Unethical lawyers often settle all (100%) of their cases without litigation. Others settle almost all without litigation, which means that for their legitimate cases they are more likely to be accepting a fraction of the full value of the case. These lawyers are taking advantage of their clients, plain and simple.

Honest lawyers aren’t afraid of going to court if an insurance company is unwilling to settle for a fair amount, because honest lawyers believe in their cause and are willing to put forth the work to seek justice for their clients.

At Fasig & Brooks, we litigate more than any other local law firm. In all the time I’ve been working here, as a law clerk and now as a partner, our mission has always been to put the needs of our clients first. I am always trying hard to do good service for an honorable cause, and I believe our clients know it. I’m many years older than I was as a law clerk (and hopefully wiser), but the lessons I learned from Vinse Barrett about how to be a personal injury lawyer still hold true: be honest, follow your conscience, and fight for justice for your clients.