I got a phone call recently from a very seriously injured worker. She had a major back surgery and is likely facing another. Her case is old, and in her head, she just wants it over with. So naturally, she’s thinking about what the case is worth.
When she called me and I learned how old the case is, I asked if she already had an attorney and she said yes. I then asked a standard follow-up question which is what is wrong with them that you are calling me with this question? Are you not happy and looking to switch law firms? This was her reply.
No I don’t want to switch. It’s just that when I call him he yells at me and told me last month not to bother him anymore. So I’m afraid to call him because I don’t want to piss him off.
My jaw dropped upon hearing this. Let’s unpack it.
- It’s insane that a lawyer would tell a client not to bother them and would yell at them. Who do they think they are? What is the point of having a lawyer if you can’t ask them questions? I can point to cases we’ve been involved in where the client has literally sent hundreds of emails that all were answered and had more than 100 phone calls. Is that typical? No. But if it happens, it happens. As long as the client is respectful this is the job.
- This woman has a major injury that while I can’t tell you what it’s worth yet, it’s likely in the six figures. That means the attorney will one day be getting a substantial lawyer fee. Shouldn’t they do something to earn it?
- The worker is scared of their lawyer. That’s a bad thing. She wanted me to do his job and for him to get paid for it. That’s not how this should work.
- All he had to do was tell her the truth. And the truth is, we won’t know what your case is potentially worth until you are close to finished with your medical care. That’s a phone call that could have taken him less than five minutes.
- The good news for this worker is that because no settlement offer has happened and she has a good reason to not like her lawyer, it would be easy to find a new one to take over and do a much better job. The new lawyer would treat her with respect and it would cost her nothing to switch.
For whatever reason, this worker seems to have a case of Stockholm Syndrome. When I told her that she is being abused and she doesn’t have to take it, she said that she didn’t want to switch. I asked her what she’s going to do when something goes wrong with the case and she needs to talk to her lawyer. She had no answer for that.
I looked up her attorney and he’s a well-known, grouchy guy that just isn’t kind. To me, he’s someone who hates his job, but as he’s in his 60’s and needs the money, he has no choice but to work. So he’s stuck and miserable and he takes it out on his clients.
It’s 2023. You have a right to expect basic customer service from your lawyer. If they are verbally abusive to you, you have a right to get rid of them and certainly should. It’s the best thing for your case and probably for your mental health.