What if My Doctor Brings A Lawyer to the Office to See Me?
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Below is a transcript of the podcast
This is Ann Margaret Perkins with Perkins Law Firm and I’m glad that you could join us today to listen to this podcast. I’m going to be talking about a topic today that is not really typical but it happens enough that I think it needs to be addressed. That is what if my doctor brings a lawyer to the office to see me.
I was thinking about this topic and I thought I’ve never gone to a doctor’s office to meet a client. I have had some clients who said “I’m being treated by Doctor X and it’s clear I’m not going to have surgery and I probably need to get a lawyer. Do you know anybody? Do you know anybody good?” And then they gave them my name. I appreciate that because obviously, you don’t work with a lot of doctors, it’s the nature of my business and so that makes me think I do a good job for my clients. But I have never had a doctor call me and say, “Hey Ann-Margaret I’ve got a client down here in my office I want you to come and see. They’ve been in a wreck or they fell down somewhere.” If they did that, I think I’d be concerned about why they would be calling me to come to their office because frankly what it feels like to me is they’re going to trap the patient there so that I’m the lawyer that the patient sees. So it’s not something I’ve ever done. It’s not something I think I would ever do. But I have talked with a number of people over the years who tell me that they went into the doctor’s office and while they were sitting there waiting, somebody came in. Sometimes they call him an investigator. Really it’s not typically attorneys that come in and although maybe nowadays there is some of that but a lot of times it’s an investigator who comes in and starts making a pitch for the patient about, “Hey we handle this sort of stuff, we’re glad to help, you want to go ahead and sign these papers?” And before the patient knows it they’ve hired a law firm where they’ve never met the lawyer. They weren’t there to hire a lawyer they were there to see a doctor. It feels like a pretty hard sell to me. The one biggest downside of this sort of partnership between lawyers and doctors that I see is this: if the doctors and lawyers are working that closely together, it’s probably because the doctor is sending a lot of business to that lawyer. That lawyer may be sending a lot of business to that doctor.
In cases where I have had people who were represented by some lawyers and had been seen by some doctors who had that kind of relationship, the client ended up being dissatisfied and came to me. We got the case resolved, but what I found out was that the doctor expected to get paid 100 cents on the dollar of their bill. I get doctor bills every day and so I know what a doctor charges that’s typically in the business. And I know a bill that is significantly overpriced when I see it. What I see in these circumstances is doctors bills that I think are inflated. And then they want 100 cents on the dollar and they explain to me “Well you know we were going to get that from lawyer X who represented him before you.” I explained I don’t have a relationship with you I don’t think what you’re charging is fair, given what other doctors charge for the same sort of things. And so we worked very hard to negotiate those bills. But I think what happens in these very tight lawyer-doctor relationships is that the doctors are getting paid very well for their services kind of as a guarantee for their continued work with that law firm.
That’s an impression to some extent based on the circumstance that I’ve seen but I’ve seen it more than once. So I don’t think it was just a fluke. If I was in a doctor’s office and the next thing I know somebody has come in to talk to me about hiring a particular law firm, I might listen to what they had to say, but I certainly wouldn’t sign anything when I sat there. I would ask for business card leave, think about it. I wouldn’t make a commitment under pressure sale like that. I would do a little bit of research into the attorney and find out if that’s who I want to hire. I’d want to call and talk with a lawyer before I signed any paperwork and I strongly recommend that people shop around for their lawyers. There are questions you need to ask attorneys about how they handle things. It’s a very personal relationship between an attorney and a client and you need to know that you are comfortable with not just the staff that works for the lawyer but that you’re comfortable with the lawyer. If you end up going to court that’s who’s going to be in that courtroom with you and you need to know them, they need to know you and you need to have confidence in them. So I would always encourage you don’t ever make a hiring decision about a lawyer in a situation like a doctor’s office. Step back, give yourself some space and do a little bit of research and then make a decision after that.
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