Personal injury lawyer Larry H. Parker is best known for his tough-talking television commercials and a catchy slogan: “We’ll fight for you.” But a Riverside County woman who was badly injured in a 2011 traffic collision contends that Parker’s firm made a series of mistakes that left her with no hope of compensation for her injuries. She has filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Parker’s firm.
Selena Burns of Hemet suffered numerous broken bones and is confined to a wheelchair more than one year after the accident, said her attorney, Eric Dubin. “I’m pretty sure she’s going to be in a wheelchair the rest of her life,” Dubin said.
Burns was severely injured in February 2011 when another motorist lost control of his car and collided head-on with Burns' car on the Ramona Expressway in San Jacinto. There have been many collisions on that stretch of highway, which was flooded at the time of the accident, Dubin said. The pending lawsuit claims that the Parker law firm failed to investigate a potential legal claim against the state of California, which maintained the highway and could have been held liable, Dubin said. The deadline to file a claim against the state passed while the case was in Parker’s office. .
The lawsuit also said Parker’s firm did not involve any lawyers in the case. Instead, all work was performed by a paralegal and employees described as “pre-litigation assistant” and “negotiator,” the lawsuit said. “At no time during the entire representation by Larry Parker did a single attorney perform any work or legal investigation” into the woman’s case, the lawsuit said.
Parker did not respond to a telephone message. A lawyer who represents Parker’s firm said there is no evidence to support Burns’ claim that the state should have been held liable. “The Parker firm did nothing wrong and made no mistake,” attorney Ronald Beck said in a letter to Dubin, which was attached to Burns’ lawsuit.
In his commercials, Parker said his firm has practiced law for more than 30 years and obtained more than $1 billion for its clients. Burns said in the lawsuit that she fired the Parker firm after learning that it could only manage to get a $15,000 offer from the other driver’s insurer. “To have absolutely no lawyer work up these cases and not even look at the potential for a seven-figure claim for a woman in a wheelchair is appalling and needs to be addressed,” Dubin said.
THIS IS TROUBLING, BUT HONESTLY, IN THE CONTEXT OF WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THESE BIG ADVERTISING FIRMS, NOT AT ALL SURPRISING.
THESE FIRMS TAKE IN THOUSANDS OF CASES. SOME HAVE ONLY 1 OR 2 ATTORNEYS, BUT DOZENS OF STAFF. THERE IS NO WAY THAT THESE CASES CAN BE PROPERLY SCREENED FOR ALL POTENTIAL LEGAL AVENUES FOR THE CLIENTS, YET, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THESE FIRMS ADVERTISE THEY DO.
LUCKILY FOR CLIENTS LIKE MS. BURNS, THERE IS ANOTHER WAY. A LEGAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM. HOWEVER, THE ROAD WILL NOT BE EASY.
IN THIS LAWSUIT, SHE WILL HAVE TO PROVE HER ENTIRE CASE AGAINST THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AS IF IT WERE STILL A DEFENDANT IN THE CASE AND HAD ITS’ OWN LAWYERS DEFENDING THE ALLEGATIONS OF A “DANGEROUS ROADWAY”. ASSUMING SHE CAN PREVAIL ON THOSE ISSUES, THEN SHE WILL HAVE TO ALSO CONVINCE A JUDGE OR A JURY THAT THE PARKER FIRM COMMITTED MALPRACTICE BY FAILING TO INVESTIGATE AND PROTECT THAT CLAIM FOR HER.
IN THIS CASE, ITS SEEMS IF SHE WINS ON THE FIRST ISSUE, SHE WILL WIN ON THE SECOND—HER SUIT AGAINST THE PARKER LAW FIRM.