Making Moral Decisions as a PI Lawyer
Most of us have seen the movie Rainmaker with Danny DeVito. If not, I included a scene that comes to mind when a lot of people attempt to describe their vision of the venerable negligence attorney. (See below) Of course, most of us have surely heard the ad hominem jokes and slurs about personal injury lawyers.
Many pundits call us ambulance chasers, thieves with suits on, and so on and so forth. You name it, if it's derogatory, it has probably been attributed to the infamous "PI" lawyer at some point in time.
As you can see above, the new attorney, Matt Damon, is not too thrilled about chasing "ambulances." But DeVito made it clear he, Damon, would starve if he did not hustle. Yes, they were walking through a hospital trying to sign up injury cases, which is hilarious.
Of course, capping at a hospital is a practice that is prohibited in California and most states. But DeVito would argue that he was there on other business and just happened to strike up a conversation.
Either way, ethical decision making in the real world could mean the difference between staying in practice or going under with your story in the back of the attorney discipline section of the Daily Journal. It certainly has happened to a lot of newbie lawyers, and it will probably continue to happen. Your job is not to be that guy.
Making sure that you make the most ethical decisions should be an easy statement to agree with. However, properly weighing different factors is important. You must ensure that you act in a manner that is potentially beneficial to yourself and those around you with minimal negative repercussions.
Below you can see some general guidelines to guide you towards what might be the correct decision.
1. How Do I Determine the Moral Parameters?
By seeing whether or not such a situation has a moral side, you will be able to get into the correct state of mind to make a decision. There is a large difference in how to approach such a problem if there is a moral or ethical decision involved.
2. Who is Involved?
By determining who is directly involved in such a decision, it will be easier to see their motives and background. This way, you can put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Now you can determine if ethical causes do not motivate their interests. Determine how these people interact with each other, yourself, and society. Now you can determine if this changes your perspective on how they should be treated.
3. What are Moral Concepts at Play?
What ideas or concepts may be at conflict or risk in such a circumstance?
4. What Can You Do?
By thoroughly thinking out a series of potential outcomes, you will be able to weigh the possible results. These will allow you to see what may happen to the other parties. So now you can see how it may affect them in the short and long run. And this helps you merge ideas into a better result for all sides involved.
5. How Would Action Affect the Parties?
Seeing all of these options will also determine the adverse effects or benefits to the parties involved. In any event, weighing the harm or upside should allow for an easier decision.
6. Precedent Can be Key
You can quickly assess your current situation by looking at similar past cases. Also, by determining the actions of other parties and their analogs in other cases, you can get a better feel for what action you should take.
7. Talk it Out!
Speak to those involved and those with experience or insight. That will also make a significant difference. Speaking to those that have been in similar situations helps shed light on the situation. After that, you will develop a wider perspective to make a rational decision.
8. Is it Legal? Is it True to Form?
Weighing your choice next to laws and rules of organizations also helps. After all, people must obey certain laws. These laws include those regulating doctors or attorneys. Making sure that what you do is legal, honest, and consistent with these regulations is vital.
Could I Make Such a Decision?
So if you are the arbiter, you must ask yourself if you are comfortable making such a decision and live with the consequences. Is this something you can carry with you (publicly if needed) for years? Also, does it serve as a good example for others?
But expunging the vision of ambulance chaser from the minds of most consumers is probably not possible. So in your practice, you simply have to make the right decision every time.