David P. Miraldi
As a life-long Cleveland Indians fan, I spend far too much time watching and listening to my favorite team. This last week Cleveland's starting center fielder was placed on the disabled list. A few days later, the team starting left fielder could not play because he suffered from heat exhaustion after playing a day/night doubleheader in 90 degree plus heat. With two regulars out, the Tribe put in one of its bench outfielders who during his first at bat was plunked on the helmet with a fastball. As he was being helped to the dugout, I wondered who would take his position. The Indians manager called upon a utility infielder who throughout his career predominately played second base.
This substitution came back to haunt the Indians over the next two days. In one game, the substitute was playing so far back that he could not reach two fly balls that would have ended the opposing team's ninth inning threat. Instead, the winning runs scored and spoiled a wonderfully pitched game by the Indian's starter. In the next game, our "utility man" had trouble with a fly ball in the eighth inning that led to the opposition scoring the go-ahead runs. The next day I scanned the sports pages for some word that the Tribe's regular outfielders would be back. Wouldn't it be a shame if the Indians failed to make the playoffs because of these two losses?
So what does this have to do with the practice of law and representing injured people in negligence cases? Far too often, an attorney will advertise that he or she handles personal injury matters. The attorney's large yellow page advertisement will list personal injury and medical malpractice as areas of practice. However, many attorneys who claim to handle personal injury cases are like the Indian's utility infielder, trying to play the outfield without the ability to make the more difficult plays. These attorneys take on cases from criminal defense to domestic relations to real estate transactions. Unless an attorney handles only personal injury cases, there is a pretty good chance that a "utility" attorney will make a mistake at some point in your personal injury case. Just as in baseball, mistakes in personal injury cases always seem to come at a critical point.
Even attorneys who advertise on television, radio, and the yellow pages that they represent injured people may meet with you to discuss your case, enter into a representation agreement with you, and then transfer your case to another attorney in their firm or send you to another firm. This practice is known as "farming out" your case. Using our baseball analogy, if you are pitching, do you want an all-star playing shortstop behind you or would you be just as happy if he sat on the bench and gave his glove to the utility infielder just called up from the minor leagues? The same is true when you entrust a case to an attorney. Be sure that the attorney handling your case has vast experience with your type of case and get a commitment from that attorney that he or she will actually be the attorney handling your case. A substitute could seriously impact the result in your case.
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