Monthly Archives: August 2007

Types of Lawyer Jokes Part 2 – Lawyers are Greedy

As you will remember from Part 1 of this series, lawyer jokes fall into several types. Here are some examples of Type 2- “Lawyers are Greedy”:

 A lawyer, a used car salesman and a banker were gathered by a coffin containing the body of an old friend. In his grief, one of the three said, “In my family, we have a custom of giving the dead some money, so they’ll have something to spend over there.”They all agreed that this was appropriate. The banker dropped a hundred dollar bill into the casket, and the car salesman did the same. The lawyer took out the bills and wrote a check for $300.***

A dog ran into a butcher shop and grabbed a roast off the counter. Fortunately, the butcher recognized the dog as belonging to a neighbor of his. The neighbor happened to be a lawyer.

Incensed at the theft, the butcher called up his neighbor and said, “Hey, if your dog stole a roast from my butcher shop, would you be liable for the cost of the meat?” The lawyer replied, “Of course, how much was the roast?” “$7.98.”

A few days later the butcher received a check in the mail for $7.98. Attached to it was an invoice that read: “Legal Consultation Service: $150 .”

***

A man went into a lawyer’s office, and demanded to see the lawyer. He was escorted into the lawyer’s office.

The man needed legal help, but he knew how expensive lawyers could be, so he inquired, “Can you tell me how much you charge?”

“Of course”, the lawyer replied, “I charge $500 to answer three questions.”

“Don’t you think that’s an awful lot of money to answer three questions?”

“Yes it is”, answered the lawyer, “What’s your third question?”

***

So where do these jokes come from? One possible explanation is to tie this in with Part 1 – the formerly racist joke – and argue that these jokes allow lawyers to dust off Jewish jokes. While that may be partly true, especially given the number of Jewish attorneys out there, I think that explanation lets the profession off the hook too easily.

One possible explanation is that we charge a lot, and “feast on misery,” to quote the Simpsons – we usually only do our jobs when the client has a problem.

Then I thought about plumbers, doctors, roofers, etc. They charge a lot. They each “feast on misery.” No one wants to call a plumber, or break an arm and go to the doctor, and heck, as we speak there are roofers at my house because my roof is leaking and dripping onto my bed. But you don’t have plumber/roofer jokes, and doctor jokes don’t hinge upon them being greedy.

I think it comes from a failure as a profession to show value to our clients. I can tell when my toilet stops leaking, and I can see the new roof. When I feel better or get my arm in a cast, I know what a doctor did. But how good are we at telling/showing our clients what we actually do for them, and what value we bring to the table?

I think this is something the profession as a whole needs to work on. Even when we do something tangible and good – ie a favorable jury verdict – the client may still wonder if the result would have been the same if he had tried the case himself.

So… how do you show value to your clients?

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Rock Island County Arbitration Statistics

I attended a meeting today regarding Rock Island County Arbitration cases. The goal of the meeting was to decide what statistics the county should keep on these cases to help attorneys and arbitrators value cases.

The statistics they kept for the last year were very interesting:

  • 19 – number of cases tried to a jury between June 2006 and June 2007 after rejection of arbitration award (all further statistics will refer to this group of cases).
  •  $7,606.04 – average arbitration award.
  • $3,927.13 – average jury verdict.
  •  3 – number of cases with a jury verdict of $0. 
  • 37% – percentage of jury verdicts that were below the amount of medical bills.
  • 3 – number of verdicts greater than the arbitration award.
  • 84% – percent of jury verdicts that fell below the arbitration award.
  • 2 – number of verdicts over $10,000.
  • 6 – number of arbitration awards over $10,000.
  • 121% – average jury verdict is 121% of the medical bills.
  • Howard Zimmerle – the attorney with the highest jury verdict out of these 19 (pats self on back).

So what are the conclusions to draw from this?

First, many of these cases should have been filed as small claims cases, as very few got even an arbitration award over $10,000, the small claims limit.

Second, your client will not be awarded much for pain and suffering in these types of cases.

Third, the arbitrators may overvalue a lot of these cases.

Fourth, cases with a value of between $15,000 and $50,000 (the arbitration limit), must either settle before trial or be filed as “L” cases (over $50,000).

Fifth, insurance companies who reject arbitration awards aren’t always doing it to be jerks – in 16 out of 19 cases, they did the right thing.

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer in Rock Island County, Illinois).

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Statute of Limitations for Minors in Iowa

Typically, an injured person can wait until after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit. There are exceptions, however.

 One exception was made clear today in the case of Rucker vs. Humboldt Community School District. The Iowa Supreme Court held that, when the defendant is a municipality, officer or agent of a municipality, a minor must give “timely notice” of the claim to the municipality or file suit within two years of the accident. If the minor gives “timely notice,” then the statute of limitations doesn’t run until two years after notice was given. Can’t wait until the 18th birthday.

(Howard Zimmerle is an accident attorney practicing in Davenport and Bettendorf Iowa)

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Important new Illinois Workers Comp case

New case – Gallagher v. Lenart: The Illinois Supreme Court made it clear that an employer’s waiver of a workers compensation lien must be clearly stated in the workers comp settlement contracts (the pink ones). The law used to be that an employer had to explicitly reserve its right to a lien under Section 5(b) of the Workers Compensation Act by stating so in the contract if the employer settled a case when it knew a third-party action was pending. This is no longer true.

This is important because it overrules Borrowman v. Prastein, 356 Ill.App.3d 546 (2005). For workers compensation practitioners, it is important to always read the settlement contracts, and if a lien waiver was part of the agreement, be sure that fact is spelled out in the contract.

(Howard Zimmerle is a Rock Island and Moline Workers Compensation Lawyer)

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Ah, malpractice in Illinois… again

Remember yesterday’s post about new insurance companies coming to Illinois?

 Now there’s this article saying that doctors are leaving Southern Illinois because of the changes to the wrongful death act (which allow the jury to consider emotional distress).

Now let’s look at this, shall we? Here are some quotes from the article:

“We had reform to try to calm down the frivolous (medical malpractice) lawsuits that were occurring. What this does is reopen the floodgates,”

This, of course, assumes that frivolous lawsuits get to juries, and that juries award money for them. Both of these assumptions are wrong. 

Dr. Dale W. Kesl, Herrin Hospital emergency department director, said he plans to leave the area because he feels the legislation is putting his career in jeopardy.“In these new cases (with the amended legislation) they can get everything you have,” he said.

No, that’s why you have insurance. If your insurance company has the chance to settle within the policy limits when it should, and chooses not to, and then the plaintiff gets a judgment above the policy limits, you have a claim for bad faith. Most of the time, you can trade your bad faith claim to the plaintiff in exchange for his agreement not to come after your personal assets.

Kesl said being a doctor isn’t about the money, it’s about saving lives. He said some conditions are impossible to diagnose until it’s too late.

Now let’s be honest here. Sure, some conditions are impossible to diagnose until after the fact. However, the test for malpractice isn’t perfection, it’s only acting within the standard of care – doing what a reasonably competent doctor would do under the circumstances. If it’s impossible, boom – plaintiff loses. And let’s not forget that for every malpractice lawsuit in Illinois, before a plaintiff can even file the case, he has to have a certification from a licensed physician that acknowledges that there IS a case.

Oh, and it’s not about the money. Sure. Why are doctors thinking about leaving when their malpractice premiums rise, so they can go to another state with cheaper premiums? So they can make more money! It’s not like they are worried about putting food on the table… they want more money! So be honest… just say that.

Of course you want to help people. We do too. If helping people is so important, why would you want to limit the amount of money that a jury can award to someone’s loved ones after your patient dies because of your mistake?

Bottom line… this is the Wrongful Death Act. The only way it matters to physicians is if the physician is negligent, and KILLS SOMEONE in the process. Do you want a doctor who wants to run away because he is afraid he’s going to kill so many people that he will no longer make as much money as he wants?

(Michael J. Warner and Associates is a law firm handling medical malpractice cases in Rock Island, Illinois)

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New Malpractice Insurer in Illinois

The Trib has this article about a new Medical Malpractice Insurance company coming to Illinois - it’s notable because the company cites “tort reform” for its willingness to come to the Land of Lincoln.

Specifically, the article cites a recent change in law that limits damages for pain and suffering to $500,000 against doctors and $1,000,000 against hospitals – which makes no sense, because the amount of pain and suffering you’ve experienced isn’t controlled by who caused it… but I digress.

Let’s see if malpractice prices drop soon because of the added competition. That’s what we were promised, right? I’ll bet it doesn’t happen.

Oh – and isn’t it funny that insurers worry more about lowering the exposure when something bad happens than about preventing malpractice in the first place?

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Types of Lawyer Jokes Part 1: The formerly racist joke

Q: What do you call 25 skydiving lawyers?
        A: Skeet.

*******

Q: What do you have if three lawyers are buried up to their necks in cement?
        A: Not enough cement.

*******

A man went to a brain store to get some brain to complete a study. He sees a sign remarking on the quality of professional brain offerred at this particular brain store. He begins to question the butcher about the cost of these brains.“How much does it cost for engineer brain?”

“Three dollars an ounce.”

“How much does it cost for programmer brain?”

“Four dollars an ounce.”

“How much for lawyer brain?”

“$1,000 an ounce.”

“Why is lawyer brain so much more?”

“Do you know how many lawyers we had to kill to get one ounce of brain?”

*******

So has anyone else noticed that a lot of lawyer jokes (ie the lazy ones, as quoted above) aren’t really lawyer-specific? My theory on this is that years ago, it was much more acceptable to tell a joke that makes fun of people by race, religion, nationality, etc. Usually these jokes were along the lines of “these people are dumb” or “if these people died, it would be good.”

Then times changed, and now if you tell a racially offensive joke, people are less likely to laugh, will likely get uncomfortable, and it may get you in trouble if you do it at work.

So what’s the solution? Replace race, religion, etc with a universally hated group – lawyers – and keep telling the same jokes.

Now, a possible side-theory on that is that part of the reason it’s become unacceptable for people to tell racist jokes – lawyers, what with our Title VII lawsuits and all. Could it be that people used “lawyers” as the group of choice because they resented lawyers for taking away their ability to tell jokes?

At some point, I’ll probably examine the other types of lawyer jokes and the reasoning behind them, including what lawyers can do to make the profession look better.

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