Commentary

Tips for Being a Client that Helps Your Own Case

For most people, being involved in a lawsuit, workers’ compensation claim or a Social Security Disability claim, can be confusing, frustrating, and at times, scary. The world of law is uncomplicated for us because it is what we do. However, we realize that just like doctors don’t always explain the terms they use to their patients, we may not always explain things about the process as well as we should. Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant in a lawsuit, or a claimant seeking benefits, there are some things you can do to ease the process and make it go more smoothly and comfortably.

  1. Ask Questions. If we are using terms you do not understand, or you don’t know why things are happening, ask. We are always happy to explain things in a way that our clients can understand. It is your case, and you need to be at ease with the process. You have an absolute right to be kept informed about what is going on.
  2. Respond to Your Lawyer. Understandably, clients are not happy when lawyers don’t return their calls. Lawyers and paralegals feel the same way. When we contact you, whether it is by phone, email, or letter, it is usually because we need information to proceed with your case. Try your best to respond promptly and return any documents we need filled out or signed. Not being responsive can hurt your case.
  3. Be Patient. Litigation takes time. How long this process takes is hard to say. Often, a case will settle without going to court, but in most cases, this won’t happen before discovery (the formal exchange of information and testimony) is completed. Knowing going into the process that it likely will take many months to a few years to resolve your case can help reduce frustration. Also, if time goes by and you don’t hear from your lawyer for a while, don’t assume that he or she isn’t thinking about your case or working hard on your behalf. A lot goes on behind the scenes that doesn’t require client input. But always, if you truly want an update, feel free to reach out. Again, it is your case and you need to be ok with the process.
  4. Be Honest. A lawyer can only do a good job if he or she is provided all relevant information. Don’t hide anything even if you think it could damage your case. It is part of a lawyer’s job to come up with ways to lessen the negative impact of damaging information. Having your lawyer get blindsided with unknown information that the other side discovers makes the job that much harder and could damage your case.
  5. Seek Medical Treatment. If you feel you need medical treatment for any injuries you sustain in a personal injury accident or a workers’ compensation claim, see your doctors. And if your treating physicians recommend follow-up, attend your appointments. Without regularly treating for your injuries, it is hard to prove that you are in fact injured.
  6. Avoid the Blame Game. It is easy to blame your lawyer if your case isn’t going well. Sometimes it is a lawyer’s fault, but some problems stem from action (or non-action) by a client. Some obstacles are the fault of defense counsel, or even no one. Delays happen, deadlines are extended as professional courtesy among lawyers, and at times, lawyers are at the mercy of the courts. Also, some cases are stronger than others. If your lawyer gives you bad news about your likelihood of success or the amount of expected financial recovery, he or she is likely just trying to be honest with you so you can be prepared.

Being a good client is important, but so is being a good lawyer. Here at the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, we advocate strongly for our clients, aim to keep you in the loop and make sure you understand what is happening, and we promise to always be honest about your case, good or bad. As stated above, it is your case. You need to feel in control and happy with the outcome. If at any stage you don’t, we want to know. We are here to help you.

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Shopping Around for the Right Attorney Can Be a Draining Process; We Try to Make it Easy for Clients  

Finding the best attorney for your case can be a draining and tedious process. In a recent study, 44% of clients believed they needed to shop around for a lawyer, and 57% of those who shopped around reported that they reached out to more than one firm. What makes a firm stand out to a potential client? First impressions.

Potential clients value a wide range of aspects in selecting the best attorney for their case. An overwhelming 82% of clients surveyed in a recent study stated that timeliness was their top priority in searching for a lawyer. If a client leaves you a voicemail, chances are that if you wait three days to get back to them, they have already moved on to a new firm. The next most important qualities to potential clients were likeability and clarity of a lawyer’s tone. A legal case can be complicated enough on its own, and clients prioritize an attorney who will clearly explain a plan of action for the duration of the case.

Law firms whose priorities do not align with those of potential clients will often lose consumer interest. Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Havertown Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC puts the priorities of his clients and the top of his firm’s work. When a client has a passion for a desired outcome, Dan will match it in every step of the case. Clients want to work with Dan not only because of his past success, but also because of his values of timeliness, clarity, and care for outcomes. Clients are often so pleased with their experience at our office, that if they experience future legal troubles, they immediately come back to us.

If you are interested in an attorney who values achieving what is best for his clients, give us a call at (610) 446-3457 or click here to send an email and learn how we can help you. You won’t need to search any further than us for an attorney to fight for your desired outcome of a case.

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Why Teamwork Matters

We practice law as a team, not as individuals who just “do their own thing” and reject the input of our colleagues. Doing so allows us to spot “holes” in arguments, improve the focus of whatever point we are trying to make, and – most importantly – win cases and get the best results for our clients. And many of our clients are other attorneys who seek our advice or hire us to handle their appeals.

But not all lawyers subscribe to this belief – to them, ego matters more – they need all the credit.

Consider this scenario. I agreed to collaborate on an amicus (friend of the court) brief for a lawyers group about a legal issue where I had previously drafted an amicus brief that contributed to what was called the most important Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in over 30 years. But like any landmark case, the decision needed some fine interpretations and cases are pending in various appellate courts.

I agreed to collaborate on amicus briefs in both the Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Court, both coincidentally due last week. My collaborator was an attorney with whom I had not worked. He provided me with drafts of the briefs. The briefs contained some excellent arguments, but were turgid, one exceeded the word limit, and both were begging for improvement. So I decided to do so.

One brief was 3,000 words too long, and the lawyer framed the legal issue as:

Whether Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), 161 A.3d 827 (Pa. 2017) (Protz II) is to be applied retroactively to the date on which Claimant’s 500 weeks of partial disability benefits elapsed because the modification from total to partial was based on an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) conducted under statutes since held unconstitutional. Failure to give Protz II full retroactivity violates the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I revised the issue to read:

In Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), 161 A.3d 827 (Pa. 2017) (Protz II), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the Impairment Rating Evaluation provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Because all IREs were deemed void ab initio, does Protz II apply retroactively to the date on which a Claimant’s 500 weeks of partial disability benefits elapsed because any other modification would violate the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I also added multiple introductory sections, and cut the brief down to the proper word limit.  My “collaborator’s” reply was: “Your rewriting of my brief is great. … How did you do that so quickly?” He still filed his draft as written.

The Court rejected the brief my “collaborator” filed as too long. He received permission to file a shorter brief. Did he file my “great” version? No. He cut his dense document by 3,000 words and ignored me.

As for the Pa. Supreme Court brief, I revised his draft to make it more persuasive and reader-friendly. His reply: He attacked me viciously in email. Other attorneys who read it said it was “great” or “perfect.”

My guess is that when the Pa. Supreme Court rules, it will cite our amicus brief, as it regularly does. In fact, one Supreme Court Justice has publicly commented about the quality of my briefs, using compliments that made me speechless.

My “collaborator” is an excellent lawyer by all accounts. He just does not like collaborating, and seems to fit into the subject of Robert Sutton’s great book. But for our office, and our clients, and all the other injured persons we help by writing amicus briefs, we will continue to collaborate. After all, our goal is results!

 

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OSHA – No One’s Minding the Store – A Dangerous Position for Workers

All too often we discover that our injured clients have worked – often for many years – in factories and other facilities where the conditions are unsafe, and often extremely dangerous. All because their employers don’t care about their safety. All because the government doesn’t enforce the laws designed to assure worker safety.

That’s why the latest report about OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is troubling – but not at all surprising. Over 5,000 workers were killed on the job in 2017, and nearly 3 million were injured. Where was OSHA? They weren’t doing their job because they didn’t have anyone to do the job of inspecting workplaces.

As of January 2018, OSHA had only 764 inspectors, that’s 15 per state. The number has been dropping every year since 2016. In fact, enforcement actions – when OSHA inspects workplaces and prosecutes dangerous jobsites – have dropped to record low levels. It’s not surprising under the current administration, which does not value workplace safety. Former OSHA policy adviser Debbie Berkowitz estimates that it will take more than 160 years for the agency to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction just once at current staffing levels.

This news is troubling because it means that if employers know that they don’t have to maintain a safe workplace, they won’t. And they don’t.

So, what does that mean for you? It means that you need to be careful, hope that your employer cares about you and maintains a safe work environment. It also means that if you get hurt, you need a law firm that will fight for you – whether it’s pursuing your workers’ compensation claim or assuring that any negligent parties are held legally responsible for your injuries and damages. At the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, we are prepared to help you if you get hurt or a loved one is killed at work. No one should have to experience this hardship, but if you need a lawyer, call us 610-446-3457 to set up a free consultation.

 

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A Message to Insurance Companies, Self-Insureds and Others: Some of Your Lawyers Aren’t Always On Your Side

Imagine that one of the law firms that you hire to defend you and your insureds wants you to pay more, a lot more. It’s true.

One law firm proudly states that it defends employers, self-insureds, and [insurance] carriers in matters involving workers’ compensation, auto claims, slips and falls, and many other types of personal injury lawsuits.

But whose side are they really on? After all, this law firm wants to void and eliminate all medical fees schedules based on Medicare and other non-Pennsylvania guidelines, thus increasing the amount that its clients would have to pay for medical care, and even for future medical care in some cases.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s true.

This Pennsylvania-based insurance defense firm is arguing in a case in the Commonwealth appeals Court that every fee schedule based on an outside formula is unconstitutional. This means that according to a law firm that exclusively represents insurance companies, employers and self-insureds, the fee schedules that they use to determine how much to:

  • Pay for medical bills
  • Pay for hospital bills
  • Pay for medical tests
  • Pay for diagnostic tests
  • Pay for medical equipment
  • Pay for pharmaceuticals, and
  • Pay for every other type of medical care

would be void (in other words – all of these fee schedules would be eliminated) if they were based on a Medicare fee schedule, the Red Book for medications/pharmaceuticals, and any other guidelines that the Pennsylvania legislature did not create.

That’s right, every doctor, every hospital, and every type of medical provider could charge and would be entitled to be paid whatever amount it asked for based on this logic. I am certain that insurance companies would be thrilled to know that their lawyers are taking a position that would cost them millions, all because they don’t like how a small group of pharmacies is compensated under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act for dispensing medication to help injured workers deal with pain without exposing them to cheap, addictive opioids.

Here is what the firm wrote in their Commonwealth Court brief:

It was unconstitutional for the legislature to delegate the law on pricing of pharmaceuticals to a private company without providing that company with any policy direction, limits, or guidance, and with the ability of that private company to change the rules at rates at its whim, in secrecy, and without legislative review.

Analogously, this also means that it is unconstitutional for the legislature to delegate the law on pricing of medications and other care to Medicare without providing any policy direction, limits, or guidance, and with the ability of Medicare to change rates at its whim, in secrecy, and without legislative review.

Our office does not and never will represent insurance companies, we represent injured workers, victims of auto accidents, slips and falls and other negligence. We also recognize that fee schedules are necessary, and that they are best when derived from reputable sources like Medicare and the Red Book. Otherwise, the cost of medical care would have no boundaries.

Imagine that.

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Hamlet & Lawyer Advertising

Ah Hamlet, the famous line, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” came to mind last in the context of lawyers, lawyer advertising, and the Rules of Ethics. As many people know, the majority of our firm’s clients are lawyers and law firms, who trust us to provide ethical guidance, as well as representation before the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. I also write and lecture about ethics for various publications legal. One of my most recent ethics columns, in The Philadelphia Lawyer, the Philadelphia Bar Association’s award-winning magazine, discussed changes to the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct relating to attorney advertising. My opinion was that because no attorney has ever been disciplined for violating the advertising rules, changing them (and making them far weaker in my opinion) would be a meaningless gesture.

Click here to read my column. You can come to your own conclusion.

One lawyer read the column and accused me of  “using a professional periodical to serve [my] own agenda. It also seems like an attempt to at best criticize our Firm/your competitors, and at worst defame them for being unethical and violating the rules of professional responsibility.”

My agenda, as I responded, is “that we should have Rules that are enforced, enforceable, and complied with.” Lots of Rules apply to lawyers; in fact everything we do involves Rules. Yet it remains my belief that the advertising Rules aren’t enforced. As my column noted, “Examination of the published disciplinary decisions on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court website confirms the absence of any public discipline for advertising rules violations.” In other words, no lawyers have ever been publicly disciplined for violating the Pennsylvania advertising Rules.

I then asked a few people if they thought my article was directed at any firm, any practice area, or any identifiable group other than lawyers whose advertisements appear to be contrary to the Rules. They thought my column was law firm neutral, and merely highlighted the opinion I have espoused for years. 

Thus, as one person noted, the lawyer doth protest too much.  

Oh, and ironically, one law firm I represent, for which I provide guidance about advertising content, including TV and radio, called for advice shortly after I heard from the other lawyer. They weren’t offended by my column.

I guess, again referring to Hamlet, it depends on whose petard is being hoisted.

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Influencers of the Law – They Aren’t All in Large Firms

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer has an entire section devoted to advertising for, oops, I meant highlighting the achievements of large law firms. Called “Influencers of the Law,” the section focuses on the accomplishments of many large law firms in the Philadelphia area. It also includes (not inexpensive) advertisements for 15 of the firms whose attorneys are featured in the section.

But there was something missing, a big something.

That something was a list of attorneys who practice in solo and small firms whose efforts on behalf of their clients are as admirable and worthy of recognition as the attorneys the Inquirer chose to feature. I could name a dozen such attorneys off the top of my head, whose omission is inexplicable. Because it’s not just the large firms who cases influence the law.

Consider our two-attorney firm. In the past year, for example, we were counsel in two landmark Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases – Protz and Bristol – both of which will have a dramatic impact on future claims for countless injured workers and persons injured in auto accidents. In addition, we are counsel in three pending Supreme Court cases – which are likely to have a similar impact. But like our counterparts in other small injured victim-focused firms, the Inquirer chose to ignore us. Click here to view a summary of some of our cases that changed the law.

Protz, for example, has been called the most important Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case since 1983. In the case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act’s impairment rating examination violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. By declaring this provision unconstitutional, the Supreme Court invalidated the arbitrary 500-week limit on wage losses that reduced the rights of the overwhelming majority of injured workers.

In Bristol, the Pennsylvania Supreme extended the deadline (statute of limitations) for filing claims by underinsured motorists. Before this decision, the deadline for filing these claims was dramatically and arbitrarily limited. This is a game-changing case and one where lawyers have commented how Attorney Dan Siegel’s oral argument made a difference.  Click here to view Dan Siegel’s oral argument before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

So when you need an attorney, remember that small firms are just as impactful as large firms, but we typically have lower fees, are client-focused (after all, some large firms are paying newly-minted lawyers fresh out of law school $190,000 a year, when they have never handled a case as a licensed attorney – who do you think pays for these lawyers’ on-the-job education?), and our lawyers have been there and done that.

I remember years ago learning about one now-retired lawyer, Steve Feldman, who was a solo his entire career. What did I discover? That Steven was involved in virtually every major case that addressed the rights of injured persons – and he was a solo. Lawyers practice as solos and in small firms for many reasons, just as do lawyers in massive corporate firms. It’s not the size of the firm that matters, it’s the lawyer handling the case. In that vien, the Inquirer’s “Influencers of the Law” missed the mark.

 

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Professionals @High_Risk on Social Media

Pundits swiftly smacked down Rosanne’s recent racist and anti-Semitic tweets, comparing them with New York Lawyer Aaron Schlossberg’s videotaped, racist rant against people for standing in front of him in a line. In a situation, where honestly, blameless people were supporting a local business, Attorney Schlossberg fumed at them shamelessly, calling them undocumented immigrants for inconveniencing him. He went so far as to threaten to report them to “ICE” (the deportation and enforcement branch of the United States Customs Immigration Service (USCIS)).

This has raised a question of whether the “digital divide” is blurring the line between opinionated and derogatory. Have we abandoned the ancient wisdom passed down to us from prior generations?

  • “If you would not feel comfortable saying it to your grandmother, then don’t put it in writing.”
  • “If you wouldn’t want to see it in the newspaper, then don’t say it.” Or,
  • “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

Sound familiar?

Of course, the novelty and thrill of seeing one’s opinion in print makes social media platforms addictive. Facebook builds upon the indescribable feeling that getting “likes” simulates. It cannot be understood from a rational dimension separate from the feelings that posts create. There are millions of people on Twitter; rationally speaking, does your opinion even matter? The rational answer is generally no, not even if you’re the President of the United States.

As we increasingly publicize our own views, we simultaneously begin to believe that our views are important. By narrowing our focus on our limited perspective, we may fail to honestly assess the valid opinions of others. We lose our audience. We gain only extreme followers who share our views. As a result, the world around us begins to shrink. Our newsfeed populates with limited perspective.

Like Roseanne or Schlossberg, professionals are the most high-risk population on social media because they can lose their reputation, clients, dignity and prestige from a poorly worded post. As we have the most to lose, we must think twice about what we say, how we say it, and be ever mindful of the risks of posts being conscience-shocking, racist, bigoted, and/or incriminating. Is your opinion perhaps unique only because no one would ever actually say it to their grandmother?

Not only does social media pose a risk to a professional’s reputation, it may put an injured person at risk if they post on Facebook, or put an attorney at risk for attorney discipline or a legal malpractice claim if they reveal client information online. If you or someone you know has a personal injury matter or you are a lawyer with a professional discipline matter, call the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, the lawyer other lawyers call for advice.

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The Small Firm Difference – A Freudian Slip of the Tongue That Tells the Truth

We are often asked why a client should hire a small firm where clients speak directly with their attorney rather than a larger firm, with a large staff, large overhead, and levels of bureaucracy?

When it comes to heavily advertised areas of law such as workers’ compensation and personal injury, there may be another enormous difference: many of the larger firms have to feed their seemingly endless advertising budgets and pay for their TV ads and billboards. As a result, their business model (that’s what they call it) requires them to “move” files (in other words, settle cases) rather than fight every case as much as possible — even if that means going to trial, filing an appeal, or merely waiting to settle the case until the best tactical moment. After all, trials, appeals and waiting all take time, don’t generate fees, and don’t pay the advertising agencies’ bills.

Recently, one large advertising law firm included a page on its website in which it said that they “aren’t afraid to back down from any opponent.” That’s right, they are not afraid to back down from an opponent. Well, they are telling the truth. If they fought every case the way they should, it could mean a trial or an appeal, or waiting months until it’s the best time to settle. That’s why they aren’t afraid to back down.

Our office doesn’t have an advertising agency, we don’t have billboards, and we don’t run TV ads. We’re small, allowing us to provide client-focused representation that does what’s right for our clients, even if it means waiting months to settle a case to assure our client receives the maximum settlement.

We aren’t afraid to fight, and we don’t back down.

Insurance companies and defense attorneys know that we go as far as needed for our clients. They know this, and they know that they will have to either fight us, or pay top dollar to settle our clients’ case.

Some firms aren’t afraid to back down.

We aren’t afraid to fight long and hard if we have to. We don’t need to feed the advertising machine. That’s our small firm difference.

 

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Don’t let your claim turn into a pumpkin because you should have called a lawyer

The decision to file a lawsuit can be tricky. Generally, a person may only file a lawsuit within a limited time period, known as the statute of limitations. If you wait until the last minute, your claim might change from a lawsuit into a pumpkin on its way to the courthouse.

For the following personal injury claims, the statute of limitations is two years: Negligence, Toxic Tort, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice, Products Liability, and Fraud. See 42 Pa. C. S. § 5524. This time limit begins to run on the date the injury occurred.

A lawyer can help you determine whether an exception applies. Exceptions have applied when an injury is not discovered until much later or could not be discovered until more than two years after the act that caused the harm. But in most cases, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years, and you shouldn’t assume it’s longer.

A lawyer can also investigate the claims and explain the likelihood of success before being hurled into protracted litigation.

So talk to a lawyer about your case.

When you retain our law firm:

  1. We investigate your claim
  2. We evaluate the case in a holistic manner
  3. We prepare the most effective complaint possible
  4. We consider all of the potential claims
  5. We have time to address any procedural questions
  6. We make informed decisions that lead you to a successful result.

We believe it is best to retain a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your claim. Contact a lawyer at the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC at 610-446-3457 for a free consultation.

 

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