When you’re embroiled in a personal injury lawsuit, it’s tough to know where to turn, even if you do your research. For one thing, there are a great many statements on a great many websites boiling down to so much marketing fluff.
Perhaps you’re familiar with one of the most common ones already. Many personal injury attorneys refuse to serve anyone other than plaintiffs. They set themselves up as the champion of the little guy, fighting against the evil insurance companies.
Is this really such an advantage?
Perhaps not. An attorney who serves both as a plaintiff’s attorney and as an insurance defense attorney may have advantages you’re not considering. Namely, familiarity with the tactics both sides tend to use to win their cases.
You may instinctively wonder if working both sides creates a conflict of interest. The answer is no: being able to do work for a certain industry does not mean an attorney runs into a conflict of interest every time they encounter a member of that industry.
If we’ve already signed XYZ Insurance as a client and you happen to have a case against XYZ Insurance, then no, we couldn’t serve you. That would, indeed, be a conflict of interest.
If your claim happens to be against ABC Insurance then you’ve got nothing to fear. We haven’t signed them as a client. You would be our client. We would then be unable to accept any cases from ABC Insurance so long as that were true.
In the meantime, we’d have an intimate understanding of how the attorneys working for ABC Insurance will think about your case. This will allow us to create a strategy that works, to create compelling arguments that lead to a swift, fair settlement, and to understand the sorts of legal arguments the other insurance team is likely to make.
For example, insurance defense attorneys often look at pain management portions of a claim with skepticism. This is because they’ve already seen pain management used as a way to inflate claims. If you’ve got a legitimate pain management need you’re going to want someone who empathizes with that stance.
It works both ways of course. It never hurts an insurance company to hire an attorney who has plenty of experience working for plaintiffs. Again, it’s a matter of knowing, intimately, what the pressure points are, how the other attorney might approach the case, and what your best moves are going to be in the immediate future.
This is not a narrative that appeals to most people. The narrative that all insurance companies are evil and that everyone who serves them is equally evil is very popular. Plaintiffs often forget that plaintiff’s attorneys may walk away with as much as 45% of their settlements, which doesn’t quite make them look quite so much like the champion of the little guy. On the flip side, the plaintiff is typically going to walk away with 4 times as much money as they would have otherwise, in spite of the attorney’s cut.
People also forget about the plaintiffs who really do misuse the system so they can wrangle a windfall out of a bad situation.
From a strong attorney’s perspective, “good guy” and “bad guy” don’t matter much. The world is complex. We have a system which entitles both sides of a dispute to expert representation. When choosing yours, it may be a good idea to work with someone who has rejected romantic notions and who has instead devoted themselves to the rigorous practice of civil law from both sides of the aisle.