Why choosing 4-1-1 Pain is a BAD IDEA
I will start this post by saying the choice of an attorney is an important one and should not be based solely on advertisements (or this blog post). I do not want to start a fight with 4-1-1 Pain, but I do want to inform readers on the reasons why they should think twice before hiring them.
4-1-1 Pain is an attorney referral service that started in Florida. I went to law school in Florida. I interned at personal injury law firms that had dealings with 4-1-1 Pain. I was already familiar with their tactics before they launched a full-scale advertising assault on the St. Louis market a few years ago. They went from being unknown to being everywhere. They have bright pink billboards and advertise on buses. I do not listen to local radio stations very often, but I assume that they also advertise there.
It may come as a surprise for you to learn that this service not actually owned by attorneys but by a chiropractor. It may also be a surprise to learn that they are being sued in many of the states that they operate in, most notably in their home state of Florida, for unscrupulous business tactics and unethical behavior.
How do 4-1-1 Pain and other personal injury lawyer referral services work?
If you call a service like 4-1-1 Pain or 1-800-HURT-123, you are more than likely going to have your call routed to a call center. This depends on how the licensing agreement works. 1-800-HURT-123 sells licenses to their law firms by geographic location, meaning one law firm will receive all the calls for a specific area. Services like 4-1-1 Pain route calls to call centers. Sometimes these call centers will keep the big cases for the main law firm, and then refer out the smaller cases to local law firms, retaining a one-third interest of the attorney fees while doing none of the work.
Who is answering theses calls? NOT A LAWYER! These are customer service representatives who are tasked with getting all the case information. They are not the people you want to be talking to in a time of need. They are not qualified to give legal advice, nor do they have the education and experience necessary to help clients.
The non-stop advertising is paid for by the chiropractic group that runs the call center. Of course, the advertising does not say that. The fine print gives the impression that it is a law firm. If you take the time to do any amount of research, you will see that this is not true. A Florida chiropractor, through a business entity, is the real owner of 4-1-1 Pain.
How does 4-1-1 Pain decide which attorney is qualified to handle your case?
This call center will then refer your case to an attorney, who may or may not be out of state, and may or may not be worth hiring. Only one skill is necessary to make their referral list: money.
Call center employees decide how to refer cases by simply looking on their list to see what attorney is next in line. So long as that attorney or firm has paid up on their monthly licensing fee, that lawyer will get the call. It does not matter if they are any good at handling that type of case.
In many instances law firms that pay for these licensing fees are personal injury mills that have horrible customer reviews. I recently had a new client call me in the middle of the night from the emergency room after an accident. When he did not immediately get in touch with me, he called 4-1-1 Pain.
I returned his phone call the next morning not knowing he had called 4-1-1 Pain. He told me he wanted to use me and agreed to sign up with my firm at his first chiropractic appointment. A few hours later a “runner” came to his house with a personal injury contract for him to sign. My client mistakenly believed that I had sent that individual to his house. My client realized his mistake later in the day and asked the other firm to terminate his contract.
I found out that the law firm that signed him up was not Kanner & Pintalaga, the purported law firm of 4-1-1- Pain, but a personal injury firm based out of Dallas, Texas. They have a Google Review rating of 3.1 stars out of 20 reviews and an office space in St. Louis that is little more than a mail forwarding address. Most firms like this pay to have these bad reviews scrubbed, but since their business model is not very good at satisfying clients, the negative reviews always work their way back. This will be an ongoing battle for them.
What type of business can afford such Google Reviews? One that is not concerned with the bad outcomes of their clients. One that plans on spending lavishly on advertising to acquire new clients. One that does not care about the results of its current clients because advertising money, not referrals, will allow them to stay in business.
A large problem with lawyer referral services is that the process cloaks the identity of the lawyer and law firm that will be working the case. This is one of the worst possible outcomes for the client and something that I think bars should be concerned about in all jurisdictions. People are signing up with a shadowy organization that does not reveal itself until after the contract is signed. For most people who just want legal help now, they do not realize what a mess they have gotten themselves in until it is too late. They did not realize that they would not be able to talk to a lawyer. They did not realize they were authorizing an undereducated case manager to be the one primarily responsible for their case.
Why did 4-1-1 Pain start in Florida?
Florida has personal injury laws that allow nefarious individuals too much room to operate. Florida has what is called PIP coverage, which stands for Personal Injury Protection. This coverage is a mandated state minimum requirement. By contrast, Missouri has what is called Medical Payment coverage. This works similar to PIP, but it is a policy add-on, not a requirement, therefore not nearly as many people have it.
In Florida, not only does everyone have PIP, but everyone can also use it, whether they caused the accident or not! This is a significant potential resource for doctors and chiropractors. There is a lot of money to be made getting a high volume of patients injured in an accident through the door. The doctors can charge and receive up to $10,000 of bodily injury coverage for accident-related medical treatment knowing that the coverage is there and knowing that it does not matter who caused the accident. The incentive to push the system to the limits has created a culture of greed. From this sprang 4-1-1 Pain.
4-1-1 Pain began as a network of chiropractors that sought to treat as many people as possible after a car accident. Over time, some of these chiropractors pushed the envelope, with many over the years accused of treating non-existent or overstated injuries.
There seems to be more auto insurance fraud in the State of Florida than anywhere in the country. Insurance companies are left with no other choice but to continue to raise their rates as they are forced to spend more money covering claims and more time investigating bad actors.
4-1-1 Pain changed their business model slightly when they expanded to other states. They now advertise as if they are a law firm. This helps them get out of questionable ethics violations in most states as non-attorneys cannot establish exclusive referral relationships with attorneys. Most law firms that license from referral services like these are set up to be personal injury mills. They desire to crank out a hire number of low value cases. To do this, they rely on a system of caseworkers with no legal background. So long as they can type and sound pleasant on the phone, they are qualified to work 40 hours a week under super strict conditions.
When you sign up for this type of firm, you will notice that you can NEVER get a hold of an attorney. That should be a big warning sign. There may be one attorney working there aside from the main attorney, but more than likely there is a former insurance claims adjuster who knowledge on how to “game” the insurance company pulling the strings. He will monitor a team of workers who are each assigned a specific task. One may be responsible for ordering medical records, one may oversee getting police reporters, one may be responsible for setting up medical treatment. At each stage there is someone that is not an attorney representing you. They are likely a part time college student or someone without a degree.
To pay for the substantial marketing budget, these firms often charge more than the 33% contingency fee of most firms. I have seen some charge 40% (pre-suit) and have heard of one firm charging up to 50%. These firms also encourage attorneys to make up a number for medical expenses. I was once told (by a non-attorney manager) of one of these firms how they calculate the expenses for client cases. The number “should be less than $1,000, but more than $500, and that it should be random, never even.”
Why would they inflate medical expenses for injury victims of soft tissue cases? On a soft tissue case worth $9,000, charging 40% and $769.31 in medical expenses is enough to change the client’s portion from $3,000 to less than $2,400. This is unethical and a disgrace to the profession.
These referral services rob the consumer of knowing who they are hiring by relying on gimmicks and overly saturated marketing. They market to low income demographics hoping that they will be more motivated to pursue minor injury claims and less likely to have a job that could get in the way of treatment. You, as the consumer, are the one who will be left to feel the pain.