Advertising By Personal Injury Lawyers Skyrockets

AmbulanceChasersWe’ve all seen them more times than we can count…television advertisements by personal injury lawyers. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s just my imagination, or if there are more of those ads on TV than usual. Well, a new study has just confirmed; it’s not my imagination.

According to a new report published by the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the amount of money being spent on television ads by lawyers is growing faster than the amount of money spent on TV ads by any other industry in America.

The report, Trial Lawyer Marketing: Broadcast, Search and Social Strategies, estimates that in 2015 alone, TV ads by lawyers will total $892 million. In fact, their television ad spending grew six times faster than all other television ad spending during this period. The total for this year is 68% more than they spent in 2008.

Lisa Rickard, president of ILR, says:

“The plaintiffs’ bar orchestrates some of the most sophisticated and relentless marketing campaigns in our society.”

But it’s not just TV ads on which personal injury lawyers are spending their money. They’re also aggressively seeking clients on the Internet, social media and mobile devices. The report found that twenty-three of the top twenty-five Google key words linking ads to user searches are for personal injury law firms.

This spending reflects a major change in philosophy for lawyers. There was a time when they felt that the idea of buying advertising to promote their services was unseemly.

Those days are obviously long gone. Considering how often the American public is exposed to messages promoting litigation as the only option for resolving disputes, law schools and bar associations would do well to remember what Abraham Lincoln advised his fellow lawyers many years ago:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser – in fees, expenses and waste of time.”

That may be a novel idea, but Lincoln’s advice is just as good today as it was when he was practicing law.

New Movie Called, “Hot Coffee,” Deserves A Warning Of Its Own

A plaintiff-lawyer-turned-moviemaker has produced a film about the infamous lawsuit Stella Liebeck filed against McDonald’s nearly 20 years ago, and she definitely won’t be asking McDonald’s to be a sponsor if the movie ever hits theaters.  It’s been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but it’s unclear if the movie will ever make it to screens anywhere else.  That would be a good thing.

I am reluctant to give “Hot Coffee” any free publicity, but I also feel a responsibility to provide information and insight that can shed light on the real objective of those involved in producing this movie.

Liebeck, you might recall, was the Arizona woman who spilled hot coffee on herself in her nephew’s car after purchasing it at a McDonald’s drive through window.  She never alleged that McDonald’s negligently spilled the coffee on her or even that McDonald’s neglected to put the cap on the cup properly.  She did admit that she spilled the coffee on herself.

My point is, without rehashing the entire lawsuit and all of the inconvenient truths that personal injury lawyers usually fail to mention, that Liebeck was attempting to hold McDonald’s liable for her own actions despite the obvious risks involved.  Most of us across America have always viewed this as an issue of personal responsibility.  The maker of this film, however, wants to use the lawsuit as a way to rally Americans to support the political agenda of personal injury trial lawyers.

Visitors to the movie’s website are urged not only to watch the movie, but to “Take Action.”  Specifically, the website suggests that Americans should “Oppose your state’s laws on caps on damages,” and… “Read your contracts and tell Congress to support legislation to limit the use of mandatory arbitration.”

Hmmm.  That sounds a lot like the spiel I hear when I debate contingency fee personal injury lawyers on the radio.

The website also offers a list of resources including the usual suspects like Public Citizen and other groups commonly associated with the lawsuit-loving plaintiffs’ bar.  It even offers a link to a book the plaintiffs’ bar likes to promote.

It’s obvious to me that the producers of this movie have one goal: to convince Americans that the personal injury lawyers who have made America the most lawsuit-happy nation on earth are really the “good guys,” and that America needs even more lawsuits like the one filed by Liebeck.  That notion leaves a worse taste in my mouth than a bad cup of coffee.

Last year on this blog, I noted that Starbucks had been sued in a similar case, and I provided a link to a website containing attorney Ted Frank’s excellent explanation of why Liebeck’s lawsuit was, in fact, ludicrous.  To see that post and the link to Frank’s comments, click here.

You can also find an illuminating review of this movie as well as insightful information about the moviemaker’s lawsuit-promoting background here.

At the end of the day, two questions remain:  Have major restaurant chains stopped serving coffee at the temperature that McDonald’s served its coffee when it was sued by Liebeck?  And, is American better off because of Stella Liebeck’s lawsuit?  The answer to both of those questions is “No!”

Warning! This Museum Is FUN! (To Sue?). Lawsuits Pit Kids Against Lawyers.

What do you call a museum that offers youngsters a five-story jungle gym, slides made from assembly line rollers, and a whale sculpture they can walk through?

Kids call it awesome!

Personal injury lawyers call it too dangerous.  And they’ve filed so many lawsuits against the museum that the price of liability insurance has skyrocketed from $36,000 in 1997 to about $600,000 now.  This is a story you need to hear.

The Wall Street Journal published an excellent article this week about the City Museum in St. Louis.  It’s so popular that it draws 700,000 visitors each year — almost twice the population of the city and way above the attendance at more traditional museums.  Obviously, kids love the place.

But, alas, in a museum that encourages boys and girls to leave the computer behind and climb, jump, and run to their heart’s content, there have been some spills.  Lawyers who have sued owner Bob Cassilly over some of the injuries say that the museum doesn’t have enough warnings posted.

What’s next, warning labels on trees urging kids not to climb on them?

Rather than give in to the lawyers’ demands, however, Cassilly is fighting back.  And his response is priceless.

He’s posted a sign near the entrance to the museum that lists the names and phone numbers of law firms that have sued the museum and which blames them for a 9% surcharge recently added to the cost of a ticket.  I want to shake this man’s hand.

You can read more about how the museum is standing up to the plaintiffs’ bar in a statement the museum has put on its website.

At a time when we’re seeing an alarming rise in obesity in America because so many kids don’t get out and exercise, it’s refreshing to see a man who is motivating kids to play and challenge themselves physically.  We need to be encouraging entrepreneurs to open more museums like this, not placing barriers in their way.

The banner on the museum’s web site proudly announces that this is a place  “Where the Imagination Runs Wild.”  Unfortunately, it has to operate in a nation where personal injury lawyers run wild, too.

Threat Of Lawsuit Over Lost Coat Is Latest Example Of Destructive “Sue First, Ask Questions Later” Mentality

Have you heard about the Houston lawyer who is threatening to file a lawsuit over a leather coat he lost at the Houston airport?  This story will have a lot of people seeing red because of the sheer gall of this guy.

According to reports, William Ogletree lost his $800 black leather coat after leaving it at a fast-food restaurant at the airport.  Now, he wants the city of Houston, Continental Airlines, and a company that manages the food court to find it and give it to him pronto, or he’ll SUE!  After a little digging, I discovered that Mr. Oglegree runs a personal injury law firm in Houston.

I’d like to point out that Ogletree has apparently lost something else, too: his sense of shame.

Aside from the fact that he claims no responsibility for losing the coat, Ogletree has provided no evidence that any of these entities even has his precious leather coat.  That didn’t stop him from firing off a letter threatening to sue them within ten days if they don’t produce the coat, “made by Polo, size X-large and had a plaid lining.”

Of course, this is an X-large example of why personal injury lawyers have earned such a bad name these days.  All too often, they ignore personal responsibility and threaten to use the courts as a weapon to achieve whatever they want.

Coincidentally, this “sue first, ask questions later mentality” is the topic of my radio commentary this week.  Please check it out by clicking on the link at right.  Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll address how disputes like this can be resolved so much more efficiently, and amicably, than in court.

Doctors And Patients Both Lose When Risk Of Malpractice Suits Rises

A study recently released by Brigham Young University found that doctors spend less time on the job if they practice in a state where it’s easier for them to be sued for malpractice.

According to economists Eric Helland and Marc Showalter, doctors cut back their workload by nearly two hours per week when the expected risk of being sued rises just 10 percent. The study, published in the new issue of the Journal of Law and Economics, notes that the decline in hours adds up to the equivalent of one of every 35 physicians retiring without a replacement.

This study is important not only because it provides more evidence that states without medical liability reform laws are discouraging doctors from practicing there, but because it shows how lack of these laws hurts patients, too. Fewer doctors on the job means patients have a harder time finding the medical care they need when they need it.

Unfortunately, the people of Illinois can now expect to see many doctors there begin cutting back on the time they spend in the office. The Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down medical liability reform that had been enacted to keep and attract doctors there. See Chicago Tribune editorial here.

Personal injury lawyers in Georgia and Missouri have also taken to the courts in an effort to repeal laws that limit lawsuits against doctors. If judges overturn those laws, patients there can expect to wait longer to see their doctor, too – if they can even find a doctor!