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Lawyers don't have to be rude to be effective

angry-man.jpgI believe in being a strong and aggressive advocate for my clients. I believe that injured people deserve to be compensated for their injuries and the effect on their lives, and I am prepared to use the full extent of the law to obtain a complete recovery for my clients. But there is a big and important difference between being aggressive and being unprofessional. I always conduct myself with professionalism and courtesy to everyone involved in my clients' claims. This professionalism starts with my clients themselves, and extends to their families, their doctors, as well as the insurance personnel and the opposing attorney. While I have found that most attorneys share this value and attempt to treat me and my clients with courtesy and respect even while disputing the claim, some claims adjusters and attorneys are consistently rude and antagonistic for no good reason. Perhaps they think being rude will intimidate me. Perhaps they think that to be a good advocate, they have to be insulting and dismissive of the other side, making demands and threats without regard for the other side's needs. In my experience, claims adjusters and attorneys like this are doing their clients a great disservice and making a favorable outcome less likely.

One of the areas where I most often run into rudeness is scheduling. When a client's PIP coverage is paying her medical bills, the policy allows the insurance carrier to request an independent medical exam or IME. I call these "insurance medical exams" because there's really nothing independent about them. In an IME, the insurance company requires you to be examined by a doctor of its choosing to obtain an opinion about whether it should continue paying for your medical treatment. Obviously, the doctors the insurance companies continue to use are the ones who give the opinions the insurance companies want. Regardless of the problems with this process, if you are getting your medical bills paid with your PIP coverage, your policy almost certainly requires that you comply with the request to attend an IME. Most of the time, the claims adjuster will contact my office to arrange a mutually convenient time and place for the IME, but occasionally, I get a threatening letter informing me that an IME has been set for a specific date and place, and if my client fails to attend, he will be in violation of the policy.

This situation is one where I believe it is best to protect my client from the potential fear and anxiety that might come from such a threat. I inform the adjuster that my client has every intention of cooperating with the terms of the policy, but he will do it at a time and place that will work for him. I then make sure I find a date and location that is convenient for my client, and I facilitate the examination.

Another situation comes up with defense attorneys who are always yelling and making threats on the phone. These lawyers will unilaterally set deadlines, make threats, and then follow up the call with a letter falsely claiming we agreed to something. This requires a follow-up letter clarifying that we never agreed to anything, which often prompts an angry response. This kind of litigation is extremely stressful, and it doesn't lead to anything good except occasionally getting a judge involved, who is usually just as annoyed as we are by the whole process. In situations like this, I refuse to speak to the opposing attorney by phone, requiring all communications to be in writing to avoid any further "misunderstandings."

Hundreds of different situations can occur in which a hospital billing department, health insurance agent, claims representative, or opposing attorney can be rude or inappropriately aggressive, attempting to bully or intimidate. An injured person really shouldn't have to deal with these situations. By having a qualified attorney involved from early in the process, you can protect yourself from this nonsense, while making sure that your claim is being handled properly.

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