Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hot Dog Legal Wars: Who's The Biggest (Wiener?) (Whiner?)

Hot dog companies suing the casings off each other. Seriously? You bet, according to a recent news article. With apologies to Bruce Buffer, the ever present UFC announcer, in one corner is Kraft Foods, home of the Oscar Mayer Wiener. Their corner team consists of a paltry four attorneys. In the opposite corner is Sara Lee and the Ball Park Frank, which has "mustered" (ooh, pardon the bun..err...pun) an entourage of five lawyers.

A reporter for The Naperville (Ill.) Sun aptly summarized this lawsuit lunacy when he noted:

In a development that proves we are entering the dog days of summer, as well apparently as the fact that large corporations have to find some way to justify all the money they spend on lawyers, two of the Chicago area’s biggest companies went to trial Monday over whether they have been making false advertising claims about their hot dogs

Really? Two huge companies seeking to spend probably millions in legal fees grilling and roasting each other over claims and counterclaims of false advertising and unfair "taste tests?" To me, that sounds like a whole lotta bun and no dog, or at least a colossal waste of judicial resources and time (no word on whether the late great U.S Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter will return from the heavens to preside over the case).

But here's what really skewers me. The Chamber Of Commerce and its militant wing, "The Institute For Legal Reform," is famous for sending out alerts and e-mail blasts about the latest "frivolous lawsuits" that supposedly cost us jobs, drag down the economy, and raise the price of consumer goods. According to The Chamber, frivolous personal injury lawsuits are as Un-American as a tofu hot dog served at a VFW picnic on the 4th of July.

But when it comes to two colossal corporations using the legal system in no holds barred, dog eat dog fashion, this is perfectly OK to The Chamber. Wouldn't millions in corporate legal fees conceiveably drive up the cost of Oscar Meyer wieners and Ball Park franks? Yet, you won't see any "e-mail alerts" or railing on this ridiculous lawsuit because corporations' full access to the legal system is "The American Way" and should be cherished. To do so would step on a few corporate toes, and The Chamber will have nothing of that.

Why the double standard? Because they don't care about your individual access to the legal system if you get maimed or screwed. In fact, they spend millions each year lobbying for laws that make it as hard as possible for you to sue corporate America even for LEGITIMATE claims and injuries.

There's two sides to the bad lawsuit coin, folks. But you'll hardly hear about legal laughers like these corporate "wiener wars" unless you dig really hard or stumble upon websites like this one.

All this talk about hot dogs is making me hungry. I think I'll go grill some Nathan's dogs (my preference anyway). I'm sure The Chamber of Commerce will recommend that I wash them down with some McDonald's hot coffee...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Anatomy of A Personal Injury Lawsuit (Part 1)--The Initial Meeting

Almost all of our Ohio personal injury clients have had no dealings with lawsuits or the legal system. Their only "experience" may have been what they've heard from others or what surfaces in the media. Consequently, they understandably have no frame of reference for the day to day workings of our civil justice system. When this truism is mixed with the LOADS of misinformation floating around about our legal system (hatched by interest groups too lengthy to mention here), it can be a prescription for a lot of confusion.


This is often the first opportunity we have to educate our clients about what is involved in the life cycle of a personal injury claim. But before this occurs, the best thing we can do is simply listen. Clients have understandable concerns and questions like:

Who's going to pay for my medical bills?
Will my lost wages be covered?
How long will my claim take?
Will a lawsuit be necessary?
What is my claim worth?

Many of these questions can be answered at the initial meeting. In fact, our free book, "Your Ohio Accident: Sorting Through The Insurance Maze," addresses many of these questions. One question that CANNOT be answered at the initial meeting is the value of the claim. There are too many variables that come into play that make that question pure guesswork until more information is learned from the accident report, witnesses, the medical treatment, what's contained in the medical records, and whether the client's injuries are permanent or merely temporary in nature.

But for certain, the initial meeting should not be a 15 minute revolving door one, and it should not be a high pressure "sign the contract right now for us to get started." Anything else is a red flag that should send you right out the revolving door to someone else...