One of the things that I enjoy about being a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney is working directly with and getting to know my clients. From the start, I make sure that Painter Law Firm clients know that they’ll be working with me and I’ll be managing their case.
I think that knowing who will actually be working for you should be an important consideration for any client looking to hire an attorney. Some people end up with a surprise, though. I call it a bait and switch.
It starts when a person is seriously injured by medical malpractice in Texas and calls an attorney that they remember from TV or radio advertising. I call them “advertising lawyers.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is anything in particular wrong with advertising. I just hate to see clients injured by medical malpractice suffer another injury by incompetent representation.
Many lawyers who do the blanket wall-to-wall TV and radio advertising never handle medical malpractice lawsuits. I’m not just picking on the advertising lawyers: I’ve found that most Texas attorneys who handle all kinds of personal injury lawsuits shy away from tackling the complexities of medical malpractice cases. I think that this is in part because of the medical aspects of these cases and in part because of the hurdles imposed by various tort reform laws.
Some advertising lawyers sign contracts with clients who contact them with medical malpractice cases, with no intent of ever handling their claims. Instead, once they have a client on the hook, they’ll find a Texas lawyer who will agree to handle the medical malpractice case in exchange for a hefty referral fee.
I know about this practice because one of the Houston advertising lawyers offered to send me cases in exchange for a referral fee of 50% and made it clear that he wouldn’t contribute any time or resources to the development or prosecution of the cases referred. I told him, “No thank you.”
The State Bar of Texas has cracked down on this hands-off approach taken by some advertising lawyers. Under the current rules, an attorney who refers a matter to another attorney must first jump through some hoops. The Bar refers to it as an “association of additional counsel” agreement. The requirements include:
• The agreement to bring in another attorney must be in writing and approved by the client.
• The referring attorney and receiving attorney must share joint responsibility.
• The written agreement must spell out the percentage responsibility of the legal work to be performed as well as any case-related expenses.
• The referring attorney has to participate in the case.
Just because these rules are in place doesn’t mean they’re always followed. If you’ve been seriously injured because of medical malpractice or have a potential wrongful death claim because of poor healthcare, think carefully before hiring an attorney. Here are some questions to ask:
• What’s your experience in handling medical malpractice claims?
• How many active medical malpractice cases do you have?
• Will you be handling my case?
• Do you intend on referring my case to someone else or getting another attorney involved?
I believe that an attorney should welcome these types of questions. To me, it shows that a client is interested in entering into a transparent relationship that works. I explain to every potential client that I focus my practice as a Houston, Texas attorney on handling medical malpractice claims. At any given time, I have multiple medical malpractice cases pending and many others that we’re investigating. For every case that we sign up, I’ll be personally handling the investigation and lawsuit.