It’s Not All about the Benjamins: Why, When, and How Personal Injury Lawyers Should Expand Their Appeal

Some personal injury lawyers buying billboards in my home town have their message boiled down to one basic strategy: a picture of the lawyer, a sky-blue backdrop, and the phrase, “HOW MUCH IS YOUR CASE WORTH?” The name of the firm and the phone number are smaller, down at the bottom.

Although there is some value to this approach, it doesn’t work for all types of cases, and even when it works, it has some serious problems. To make your website content more effective, you need to balance the compensation angle with more emotionally resonant appeals.

Two Types of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases can be broken down into two basic categories:

  • Compensation Cases: the goal is primarily to get compensation for plaintiffs
  • Violation of Trust Cases: the goal is to use compensation for plaintiffs to redress a dereliction of duty by the defendant

While it’s true that nothing belongs exclusively in one category or the other, compare a car accident case where a person is seeking medical expenses and lost wages vs. the Virginia Tech wrongful death lawsuits where parents had essentially nothing to gain financially by their lawsuit and even said they might drop the case if they got an apology.

Primarily Compensation Cases

The cases that are primarily compensation cases include:

  • Car accidents
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Construction accidents
  • SSDI

In these cases, people are usually just looking for the money they need to pay bills, whether they are specifically from the accident or just harder to meet because of lost wages.

Primarily Violation of Trust Cases

The cases where people feel their trust has been violated include:

  • Medical malpractice and other professional malpractice
  • Product liability
  • Pharmaceutical liability
  • Police brutality

In these cases, people are not looking just for compensation, they are looking for vindication. In many of these cases, people have had their concerns dismissed or trivialized. They may even have been accused of being gold-diggers and are sensitive to that association, so although you want to mention compensation, you don’t want to hit it too hard.

Hybrid Cases

There are also some cases where the appeals are often very nearly equal between financial compensation and violation of trust, such as:

  • Truck accidents
  • Wrongful death

In these cases, it’s important to take a balanced approach that emphasizes the importance of compensation without neglecting the violation of trust portions of the argument.

Money-Only Appeals Mean Problems for Personal Injury Lawyers

The main problem with trying to appeal only to people’s desire for money is that you will mostly attract clients who are only in it for the money. These are clients that are more likely to be trying to scam the insurance company (or you). They may have unrealistic expectations about what compensation they can get for their case, and they may be shopping around for lawyers based only on the amount they are promised.

These types of clients are, needless to say, not the best ones for your practice. They often have weaker cases, and their character may not stand up under deposition. You may be very reluctant to put these clients in front of a jury, and if you can’t go to trial with confidence, you’ll get lower settlement offers.

And you can turn off other clients, people who don’t want to be associated with what society has represented as a selfish action or one taken by people who are not capable of working for a living.

Worst of all, this type of advertising promotes a view of your firm and personal injury lawyers generally as primarily concerned with money and not the well-being of your clients or society. It feeds into perceptions that our civil justice system is “broken,” and makes it easy for lobbyists to sell tort reform legislation that ultimately makes it harder for you to bring in winnable cases of any type.

 How to Write Violation of Trust Appeals

Website content for lawyers who handle these types of cases should start by acknowledging that potential plaintiffs’ trust has been violated. They trusted doctors to do their job, they thought that the drug or product was safe, they expected to be treated appropriately by authorities. This goes along with the basic principle of starting with an empathic understanding of why people are seeking your service.

Next, make sure you balance talk about compensation with talk about the other important gains from a lawsuit: an acknowledgement of wrong, achievement of justice, vindication, and restoring or recognizing the names of victims. Also, make sure that people know that real good can come of their lawsuit. People who have lost a loved one or suffered another personal tragedy want a way to give meaning to their suffering.

When you do talk about compensation, which you should, put it in two different contexts. First, of course, the context in which people bringing lawsuits need the money. Bills. Having to support a family. Being unable to work.

Next, put the money in the context of the violation of trust. Doctors are paid to be experts. Corporations intentionally sacrifice safety for profit. In this country, authorities should be our servants, not our masters.

It’s Never Just the Money

Even in cases where people want a lawyer mostly because it will get them more money, that’s never the whole reason. In a motor vehicle accident, people want to make sure their story is told. This is why many lawyers individually or through membership in a group, emphasize that they ride motorcycles. Motorcyclists want to know that their lawyer understands and can represent them.

Even an SSDI case is as much about validation for the filer as it is about the money.  They have likely been told by family or people in their community that what they have is not a real illness, and they’re just being lazy. Getting their disability accepted is important to them emotionally as well as financially.

You’re not selling a lottery ticket, and acting like you are just feeds notions of “jackpot justice.” You are a hero fighting for what’s right. It just so happens that what’s right sometimes has a significant paycheck attached.

If you are a lawyer looking to add dimension and power to the appeals on your website, I can help. Please contact WriterMC today for more information about website content that brings in cases.

One Response to “It’s Not All about the Benjamins: Why, When, and How Personal Injury Lawyers Should Expand Their Appeal”

  1. Personal Injury Lawyer April 2, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Well-written article… explains a lot about the compensation claims for personal injury. As the writer has said, today, a lot of lawyers sell their services on getting the maximum ‘compensation money’, but it is always not the case. There are other facets that need to be looked into.

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