For Personal Injury, Turn to Lawyers You Know and Trust
You may have heard our current radio ad, focusing on our approach to handling personal injury cases. The ad emphasizes how important it is to deal with lawyers you already know and trust.
The natural tendency, when first meeting with any lawyer, is to assume that he wouldn’t have a license if he weren’t dependable. Regrettably, this is simply not so. Requirements for obtaining a law license represent only the legal minimum, not an indication of how one lawyer might compare to another. Worse, it often takes years for cases of lawyer wrongdoing to be discovered and prosecuted to the point that a bad apple is put out of practice.
We have unfortunately suffered an horrific example of that fact here in the Richmond area. A well-seasoned lawyer, affiliated with a firm that has existed for going on forty years, was recently exposed for having defrauded a client with injuries arising out of alleged medical malpractice.
The lawyer had filed a suit for the client in 2013, but feeling he needed more time to develop the case, he refrained from serving the named defendants initially. In Virginia, a plaintiff may take as long as a full year to serve a defendant, but after the year passes, the court will dismiss the case. Here, the lawyer never served the defendant at all. Ultimately, the court dismissed the case in 2015.
But even before the court acted, the lawyer apparently realized his mistake and embarked on a course of lying to the client in an effort to conceal his fatal error. The lawyer told the client that the defendants had failed to answer the suit and that he had gone to court and obtained a $2.1 million judgment by default. The lawyer even fabricated what appeared to be a copy of a court order to that effect.
With no insurance company involved, the lawyer then continued lying, telling the client that he was experiencing slow going in efforts to collect upon the judgment. To enhance this con job, the lawyer went so far as to pay to the client sums totaling $441,000 over the ensuing years – funds he claimed were the result of his ongoing collection efforts. In reality, the funds came from other clients’ money entrusted to his employing law firm, and from funds embezzled from that firm as well. As he got more desperate to continue covering his tracks, the lawyer eventually even dipped into his own savings.
Eventually, the client became suspicious and complained to the law firm’s managing partner, who up to that point had been completely unaware of the lawyer’s mistakes and fraud. The managing partner was actually the lawyer’s father. Though late on the scene, the father responded responsibly. The roof then caved in on his son.
As horrific as this case is, even now, seven years after the case was begun, the lawyer’s case with the Virginia State Bar has not been concluded. Happily, though, the lawyer is no longer practicing. Unfortunately, the debacle put his father’s law firm out of business as well.
We’re happy to say that the overwhelming majority of lawyers, in Richmond and elsewhere, are highly moral and trustworthy. They go beyond published ethical requirements in their conduct of cases. Thankfully, what problems we experience tend to be few and far between.
But the nature of the work that lawyers do means that when we do get a bad apple in the profession, the harm that results is often catastrophic.
Until just a few months ago, anyone searching for a personal injury lawyer would have found this offending lawyer’s information, with nothing to indicate any cause for concern. This is why it is so very important when seeking a lawyer, that you go beyond a simple Google search. If you think you have found an attorney you like, ask around about that lawyer’s reputation.
Or better still, turn to lawyers you already know and trust.
Marrs & Henry remains fully open and available to you during our current, difficult time. If you need help, there’s no need to wait. We can meet with you in person at our offices, we can come to you, we can talk by telephone, we can be reached by e-mail, and we’re also available via video teleconference.