Billboards. Television. Radio. Lawyer ads are everywhere. It’s easy to smile and claim expertise. It’s much more difficult to perform the study and hard work necessary to win a complicated case. I’ve written previously that I would never hire a billboard lawyer for a serious case.

What about websites? I believe websites should contain good information for consumers. That’s why I wrote the articles on my firm website. Unfortunately, we have too many lawyers purchasing websites without writing or reviewing them for accuracy. Those sites contain canned content and marketing hype. That creates bad problems for the people who really need help.

For example, a local Huntsville DUI firm suddenly decided it wanted to advertise for personal injury and elder law cases. That firm created new billboards and a new website for their new specialties. However, a look at their website raises serious concerns. Their website has a Personal Injury page. Click on it. It looks nice. But, read to the bottom. That’s where you see the Disclaimer. What? The firm actually has a Disclaimer that tells consumers it intends to refer cases to outside lawyers. The truth — this advertising firm wants your personal injury case just to sign you up for a fee. Maybe the firm will try to negotiate a quick (and perhaps low) settlement. But, another lawyer at a different firm elsewhere will really prepare your case. What’s not on the website? The website does not disclose the “secret” known by many in the Huntsville legal community. The advertising firm has an actual arrangement with a specific other law firm to send personal injury cases to it. The whole process lacks authenticity and transparency. In my opinion, no lawyer should advertise for cases he or she really does not intend to handle to completion. And, no law firm should shadow advertise for another firm.

My problems with that billboard firm’s website don’t stop with what I believe to be a misleading “Disclaimer.” The advertising firm’s website also says it handles Wrongful Death cases. The firm website actually makes that representation. Nothing is more traumatic than losing a loved one. More than any other time — grieving families need to trust the professionals around them. Doctors. Funeral Directors. Financial Planners. Lawyers. Families need to trust these professionals. It’s a very difficult time. So, the new advertising firm claims it handles “wrongful death” cases. I clicked on its website to see. What I found, was troubling. Here is a screenshot of the advertising law firm’s wrongful death page from May 2017:

Screenshot 2017-05-05 13.40.48

If the screenshot is difficult to read, I’ve turned it into a text quote below:

Trust in Our Huntsville Wrongful Death Attorneys

We understand that no amount of money can bring your loved one back, but we make it our mission to try and make sure no other family has to experience the same tragedy. Our firm also works to try to relieve the financial strain of your situation and give you one less thing about which to worry. We believe someone who tragically loses a loved one should not have to shoulder the burden of a financial costs stemming from their loss.

Our firm can work to help you obtain compensation to offset costs such as:

The loss of wages

Suffering

Loss of consortium

Medical bills

Costs of funeral

Our firm offers no-cost consultations. This allows us to explain your rights and options after you lose a loved one in a wrongful death accident. We aim to provide you with the top-notch service you need as you seek justice for your loved one.

Here’s the problem — None of the listed compensatory losses is recoverable in an Alabama wrongful death case. Loss of wages. Loss of consortium. Medical bills. These are considered compensatory damages. And, they are NOT recoverable under Alabama’s current wrongful death laws. So, why is a law firm advertising it will obtain compensation for these items?

In Alabama wrongful death cases, ONLY punitive damages are recoverable. The only damages recoverable for a wrongful death case in Alabama are punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer. The distinction in recoverable damages is critical for your case. If a wrongful death case goes to trial, the deceased’s medical bills and wage losses are not considered in that evidence. They are not recoverable for that claim.

A lawyer who truly handles wrongful death cases should know this law. Alabama is unique in allowing only punitive damages for wrongful death cases. If a lawyer really wants to help a grieving family, he or she will study this law and build their claim based upon it. Otherwise, the lawyer is absolutely failing his or her clients.

I’ve written previous articles about the unique nature of damages recoverable for wrongful death in Alabama. You can read some of these articles on this blog and our law firm website. This legal issue impacts every part of the claim and trial. A lawyer who does NOT understand this area of the law will not prepare your case for the greatest recovery. And, if a settlement is made, such a lawyer may not protect your recovery properly from liens and creditors. Over the years, I have seen many situations where a lawyer cost his or her client money by failing to understand the significant legal issues. These are tremendous issues which affect your claim from day one.

Splashy graphics and lots of promises do not make a good lawyer. No lawyer should suddenly start advertising as an expert in a new area of the law. With law firm websites, the lyrics from the rock song by the Guess Who (or the newer version sung by Lenny Kravitz) ring true — “Colored lights can hypnotize.” Don’t fall for fancy website designs. Don’t fall for promises of money recoveries. Don’t fall for the purchased awards that crowd many law firm websites. If you or your family needs a lawyer, do your homework. Study. Ask questions. Look for real expertise. What you really need is a specialist. To find one, you have to move beyond advertising hype.