Kenny Harrell is the managing partner of the Joye Law Firm. The Joye Law Firm has focused on handling South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation cases for over 50 years and has offices in Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Clinton. Harrell has been recognized several times by Super Lawyers and by Best Lawyers as one of South Carolina’s top lawyers, both in the areas of workers’ compensation claimants’ and personal injury plaintiffs’ cases. Harrell formerly served as the president of the South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates organization and he has served as the co-chairman of this group’s legislative affairs committee for nearly 15 years.
What it Means to Provide Good Legal Service
Anyone who knows me well knows there are certain things that elicit a reaction from me that far exceeds the scope of the bad act. A couple of examples include a shopping cart left in the middle of a parking lot despite the presence of cart corrals and an empty toilet paper or paper towels roll. What really drives me crazy is when there’s a fresh roll of toilet paper stacked on top of the empty roll in the holder. The people who do these things apparently have such an overblown sense of their importance that they feel they can’t be bothered to spend even 15 seconds doing a menial task. While their slackness may speak to their narcissism, it’s more indicative of a lazy streak. Show me someone who doesn’t perform these basic tasks of consideration for others and I will show you someone destined to never rise above mediocrity in any aspect of their life. So, what does any of this have to do with a law firm? Just as there are routine tasks that are part of our daily lives, there are also many routine tasks that must be handled well to provide good legal service. Here’s a few examples:
Answer the damn phone!
Recently, my wife and I traveled to Seattle for the wedding of the son of some friends. We had an early morning flight back to Charleston, so we changed hotels to be near the airport on the night before we departed. When we checked into the hotel, the desk clerk told me that I could actually leave my rental car at the hotel, as they had a drop box for my car rental company but that I needed to call the rental company to let them know that was what I was doing. Sounded great. What ensued was over 30 minutes of frustration trying to get a live person on the phone. Eventually, I gave up and spent another hour taking the car back to the airport drop-off point and then having to catch two shuttles to get back to the hotel. When you call the Joye Law Firm’s general numbers, you will get a prompt asking you to hit “1” if you’re calling about a new case and to hit “2” if you’re calling for any other reason. From there, we have an elaborate system in terms of how calls are handled so you should always have someone answer your call promptly if you’re calling during normal business hours (and calls about new cases are answered promptly on a 24/7 basis.) Once you become a client of the Joye Law Firm, you should have the direct dial numbers for the attorney and the case manager assigned to your case. Those are the numbers you should call to immediately get to the persons with the most knowledge about your file. Now, it would be unreasonable to expect that they will always answer your calls (that’s especially true of our lawyers, who are often away from their desk for depositions or court appearances) but being replied to responsively is another important task outlined below.
Your lawyer and case manager owe it to you to be responsive and to keep you updated about your case.
Working for a successful personal injury law firm is a demanding job. It should be. In many instances, the people we represent have experienced an injury or a loss that has drastically altered their life. One of our client commitments is that we will return your calls (or emails) within one business day. There are some instances when a call may slip through the cracks. We’re human. However, if you experience a pattern of non-responsiveness as a Joye Law Firm client, call me directly at (843) 725-7171. Not only do I assure you that I will look into this for you, I also assure that I am very appreciative when one of our clients takes the time to call me if they are not 100% satisfied. Fortunately, these calls are infrequent, as everyone who works at our law firm knows how much emphasis we place on responsiveness. Good lawyering goes beyond just being responsive. We also have an obligation to call you (or email you if that is your preference) to keep you updated on important developments in your case. Most of our clients have never had a personal injury case before. How would you know what to expect to happen if we don’t do a good job of explaining that to you?
Timely procurement of medical records and medical bills
For most personal injury and workers’ compensation cases, the medical records are one of the most important components of the story. How can we know what issues you’re dealing with (and will likely face in the future) if we don’t timely procure your medical records? We have a separate team at the Joye Law Firm solely dedicated to obtaining our clients’ medical records and bills. For a personal injury case, getting the bills in hand is also crucial, as we typically don’t send out settlement demands until we know we have documentation of all your damages. We are constantly working to improve our medical records and bills procurement systems because the faster and smoother this process goes, the sooner we’ll be in a position to resolve your claim on fair terms.
When your case is settled, the disbursement statement should explain how the money is being distributed down to the penny.
Whether you were hurt on the job or in a car accident, when a settlement offer is made, the most important question you will have is “how much money am I putting in my pocket?” I know that’s what I would be asking. Our law firm is paid a percentage of the gross settlement amount as our legal fee and we are also reimbursed for the money we have spent prosecuting your case (costs such as procuring medical records, filing fees, expert costs, etc.) For personal injury cases, there are often medical treatment balances or health insurance subrogation liens that have to be paid. This is usually not an issue in workers’ compensation cases as the medical bills should have been paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company if it was an admitted case. A big part of our case managers’ jobs is to timely obtain these treatment provider balances and health insurance company liens (which we can sometimes negotiate down) so we can tell you with specificity how much tax-free money you’ll be receiving out of a settlement. Once the case is settled and you come in for your disbursement meeting, the disbursement statement should accurately reflect where every penny is going so that you’re 100% clear on the same.
Tying up the loose ends
Those of us who are football fans have all seen times when a showboat had the ball stripped out from behind just before he crossed the goal line or, even more embarrassingly, dropped the ball before breaking the line. When I see something like that happen, I thank my lucky stars that I don’t make a living coaching 18- to 21-year-olds! You don’t score a touchdown if you drop the ball at the one-yard line. Likewise, if you have a legal claim, it’s not over until it’s completely over. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the health insurance subrogation lien. Now this isn’t much of an issue for us if you have private health insurance. In those instances, we can typically get an itemized statement of the claimed lien pretty quickly, allowing us to negotiate a resolution of the lien. What is not as easy is when we’re dealing with a federal or state government entity (Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, Champus, etc.) Don’t be surprised when I tell you that federal agencies do things when they darn well please, and there’s not much we can do about it (and you definitely don’t want to ignore a federal agency’s lien). It can often take us months to get a definitive response from one of these government agencies about the amount of their lien. We’ve also seen instances where Medicare pops up years after a settlement with questions about how the settlement funds were distributed. Dealing with these frustrations for you is part of what we do and it’s incumbent on us to continue periodically checking on these liens until we can put the last nail in the case.
Legal work is important work, especially if you have suffered life-altering injuries or lost a loved one. It is often intellectually challenging and poses creative challenges that the best lawyers love. However, it’s also important to have a law firm that has the systems and the commitment to handle the rote tasks properly. Otherwise, you’d end up with a parking lot full of shopping carts, and who wants that? (And please, be nice and change the empty toilet paper roll!)