An accident injured you, or perhaps killed a loved one. Initially, your focus is on your recovery or remembering your loved one, as it should be. Then you have to manage the hospital expenses and piles of bills. If the accident involves a commercial vehicle, you're in for another shock; The insurance company for the driver that caused your wreck isn't likely to be much help. Most will tell you that they'll do the right thing, but it quickly becomes apparent that no matter how many documents you give them (which according to truck accident attorney Michael Grossman, you should never do in the first place), they have no interest in resolving your case.
It's at this point that most people realize they need help. While you may be fortunate to know a knowledgeable attorney, who can point you in the right direction, most people don't have that connection. For many, their attorney search begins with their phone's browser. They suspect they need an attorney and start googling. Google search data shows that most people simply search for "injury attorney." I spoke with attorney Michael Grossman, who has resolved hundreds of commercial truck accident cases over the last 4 decades, about his belief that googling "injury attorney" might not help people find what they're looking for. Here's what he had to say.
Most Attorneys Are Not Injury Attorneys
Grossman Law Offices' in-house research shows that the vast majority of practicing attorneys in Texas don't take personal injury cases. Even if we include general practitioners, who handle a wide variety of matters from tax issues to criminal cases, fewer than 10% of Texas attorneys will even touch a personal injury case. Of that 10%, even fewer deal exclusively in personal injury cases.
Here's why that matters; Personal injury law is quite different from criminal law; Criminal law is a world apart from contract law; And corporate compliance law is still different from the rest. The point is that even though lawyers practice in each of these fields, the likelihood that they have experience, let alone good results, in more than one area of the law is quite low. For example, Michael Grossman spent the last 3 decades practicing personal injury law, to the exclusion of almost every other area of the law. Even with all that experience, when someone calls Mike with a tax problem or contract dispute, he directs that person to an attorney with more experience in those areas of the law.
While Google does a decent job of weeding out attorneys who don't handle any personal injury cases, it's not perfect. Searching for an "injury lawyer" probably gets you in the right ballpark, it's not perfect.
Even Within the Personal Injury Field, There Are Different Types of Cases
As I mentioned before, the "injury lawyer" google search has problems. This is because a slip-and-fall, a car accident, and being hurt from improper alcohol service are just some of the dozens of different fact patterns that can result in a personal injury case. According to attorney Michael Grossman, different areas of the law apply to each of the types of cases I mentioned before. Premises liability governs many slip and falls. Most car accident cases involve general negligence. Alcohol injury cases fall under dram shop law, which most injury attorneys don't touch with a 10-foot pole.
So even if you luck out and find that fewer than 10% of Texas attorneys who handle personal injury cases, what are the odds that the injury attorney has experience with your particular case type? For most people injured in a commercial vehicle crash, the simplest solution is to find a car accident injury attorney. While this approach makes sense, it can still be inadequate.
Not All Injury Attorneys Are Equipped to Handle Commercial Vehicle Cases
I've heard from my boss, Michael Grossman, for years that the biggest mistake most people make is to assume that commercial vehicle crashes are just car crashes with bigger vehicles involved. He's explained countless times that the stakes are much higher in commercial vehicle crashes. There's more on the line for the insurance company in a commercial crash than a passenger car crash, because the law requires commercial vehicle owners to purchase far more insurance. Further, complicating matters is that different laws apply to commercial vehicles than passenger cars. Truckers and trucking companies must comply with rules that just don't apply to the average motorist. As I type this, the Texas Legislature is working on a bill that applies only to truck accident injury litigation. This bill doesn't affect car accident attorneys in the least, but truck accident attorneys are up in arms.
How does this impact the person who just wants an "injury attorney?" It's one of the factors that makes finding the right commercial truck accident injury attorney harder. Another is that 18-wheeler cases just aren't that common. For example, in 2020, 149,120 people suffered some type of injury in a motor vehicle crash in Texas. Of those crashes, 8,921 injuries involved a crash with a commercial vehicle. That's less than 6% of all crash injuries.
In fact, there are more practicing injury attorneys in Texas than there are actionable commercial truck accident injury cases in a year. This explains why there are many attorneys who handle dozens of car wreck cases a year, but may only litigate 1 or 2 18-wheeler cases in a career. How up to date on the law is an attorney going to be, when he only works on that type of case once every couple of decades?
If you're just searching for an "injury attorney," these are just some issues that you may not be aware of.
An "Injury" Attorney's Interests May Not Align with the Clients'
There's no discreet way to say this, so I'll be blunt: From speaking with truck accident attorney Michael Grossman, I learned when an injury attorney handles one or two commercial accident cases in a career, their interests and the client's may not align as well as they should.
Here's the reason: Most successful injury attorneys make their living handling car accident cases. For most car accidents, the offending driver has a minimum limits policy. This means that the most an insurance company is on the hook for is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per crash. A minimum limits commercial insurance policy is 33 and 1/3 times more valuable. That's where the incentives diverge, since injury attorneys keep a portion of the recovery as their fee.
Given how much more valuable a commercial vehicle policy is, even a poor result for the client is still likely more than an injury attorney makes on a catastrophic injury or wrongful death car crash case. The deal between injury attorneys and clients is that the better the attorney does for the client, the greater the reward for the attorney. When the attorney's compensation is going to be better than a typical case regardless of their performance, that can misalign the client's and attorney's goals.
And misaligned incentives aren't the only reason a typical injury attorney might not be the best choice to handle a commercial truck accident case.
Commercial Truck Accident Cases Require More Resources than a Typical Personal Injury Case
Another thing Michael Grossman explained to me is that proving damages in a commercial truck accident case is more resource-intensive than doing so in a catastrophic car accident case. When someone dies in a car accident, it's obvious to the at-fault driver's insurance company that the losses exceed the value of the policy. Attorneys still need to provide basic documentation for losses, such as hospital bills, paystubs, etc., but it doesn't make a difference to the insurance company if the deceased has $100,000 in losses or $5 million, because the insurance company pays policy limits either way.
According to Mr. Grossman, commercial truck accident cases are a completely different animal. The company's lawyers and the insurance company require meticulous documentation of every dime claimed as a loss. For instance, if a victim can't work after a crash, the defense lawyer is going to demand that the victim produce expert medical testimony, attesting to the fact that they can't work; They'll need a respectable life-planner to testify to any lost future earnings; and the defense attorneys will also require that expert doctors present a reasonable course of treatment to deal with any future medical expenses. These are just three areas where an injured person's attorney must employ the services of expert witnesses, just to verify losses. That doesn't even account for safety specialists or accident reconstructionists needed to prove liability in the first place.
I don't mean to throw a lot of technical terms at you, or overwhelm you with the complexity of truck accident litigation. I'm simplifying quite a bit of what Mr. Grossman explained to me. The takeaway is that none of these extra steps and expenses exist in a typical car crash case. Since clients aren't footing these expenses out of their pockets, they need to be certain that their attorney possesses the resources to properly litigate the case.
There are a number of injury attorneys who simply lack the resources to incur these costs, and not receive any repayment until the case concludes, which typically can take a year or two. We've even heard horror stories from former clients where their attorney asked them to front cases expenses. I don't mean to belittle anyone, but the typical attorney in Texas makes $89,000 a year. Can they really afford to spend 10's of thousands of dollars to get a truck accident case across the finish line?
A Google Search for an Injury Attorney Is Just the First Step
As I mentioned before, just googling "injury attorney" after a serious commercial vehicle accident isn't enough. Here are 5 pitfalls that a simple google search can't overcome:
- Most attorneys who take personal injury cases are generalists, who don't focus on any particular area of the law.
- Even among attorneys who handle plenty of car accident cases, they may go years between commercial truck accident cases.
- A search for an injury lawyer cannot tell you how current they are on commercial truck accident law.
- A google-search cannot give you an indication if your interests and the attorney's align.
- Not every attorney has the resources to successfully litigate a commercial truck accident case.
Perhaps a story that Mike likes to tell is the best way to illustrate these points. Last year, a commercial vehicle accident victim reached out to our firm. He suffered some catastrophic, life-altering injuries in the crash. Grossman Law Offices was not the first firm he called, heck, Michael Grossman wasn't even the first attorney he hired.
This client originally hired another "injury attorney" after doing a google search. That attorney's pitch was, "You need to hire me right now, because I'm the best!" Our client was a little off-put by the claim, but no one wants an attorney who claims to be "just okay." Several months went by and the client didn't feel enough was being done on the case. He wasn't happy with the answers his attorney provided to questions. He knew he had to make a change, so he fired his previous attorney and started a new attorney search from scratch.
Having learned learned the hard way some of the things that an "injury lawyer" search can't tell you, he came up with a more robust criteria and began his search for a new attorney. Grossman Law Offices had a lot of the qualities he was looking for, so he gave Mike a call. Several very pointed questions later, he decided that Grossman Law Offices was the right fit for his case, and hired the firm. Fast-forward a bit and the client is happy and the case is on track for a successful resolution.
When Michael Grossman and I finished our discussion, he seemed genuinely concerned to learn how many people hire attorneys for commercial truck accident cases, just by googling "injury attorney." For as good as Google is, there's so much information that it misses. Our conversation ended with Mike wondering, "I wonder how many people get the injury lawyer, but not the results they were searching for?"