What can you do when your lawyer ignores you? 1

Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? – Shakespeare, Hamlet

When I was collecting apt quotes about lawyers, I realized that virtually all of them were negative. “Negative” is a euphemism: they slash and burn. Oh dear. People hate lawyers.

Not me, though. As I’ve said numerous times, I really like lawyers, I appreciate them. When I need them, they are there and I have been grateful. And I have praised them.

However. Now you’re going to hear what has just happened in my broken foot lawsuit, for which I am, you may remember, represented by the personal injury specialists Dinkes & Schwitzer.

It’s coincidental that this happened to me now, just after the news of how Sullivan & Cromwell, a major law firm, treated one of their clients, an indigent man on death row. But, although my circumstances are hardly comparable, could not be less dire and, indeed, I have signed off on a settlement, Dinkes & Schwitzer have throughout this case treated me with similar contempt.

And finally, after four years of my good, if sardonic, humor, I am furious. Here’s what happened:

In early November, 2011, I met with Marc Mauser, the lawyer finalizing my case, and without much enthusiasm signed a settlement agreement for a total of $30,000.

At that time Marc told me that among the expenses that would have to come out of the settlement were the medical insurance payments related to my injury. My insurance is a Medicare Disadvantage Plan (yeah, I know what I typed. Take it as an advisement: Medicare, government-run, is terrific. The private insurance companies who grabbed money out of Medicare to “run” the disadvantage plans are beneficiaries of corporate welfare, right out of our tax dollars.).

I knew this and indeed, several years earlier, I had sent all the applicable Medicare documents to Dinkes & Schwitzer. The total that Medicare had paid for my foot-break injury was under $800. So in my file Dinkes had all they needed for the settlement.

Marc then told me the case would probably settle in February.

Which it is now. Haven’t heard from Marc, but have heard from Medicare. Several times. After a couple of informational mailings which were copied to Dinkes & Schwitzer, in early January 2012, I received a fat pile from Medicare with what they said was a summary of all the medical charges my settlement had to reimburse. Medicare had listed every single medical charge they had paid over several years. Instead of under $800, the total came to $9500.

What the hell had Dinkes been doing from November to January? I e-mailed Marc:

I’m assuming you’ve seen the [Medicare documents]. If not, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. Big problem: these people have listed ALL MY MEDICARE expenses for the entire 2008 year, most of which have nothing to do with my foot fracture or the related lawsuit.

At this moment, I’m waiting for a customer rep on the phone [I was typing with my phone tucked under my ear] and will try to deal with them myself. But let me know what you’ve done about it, if anything, and what I should be doing about it. In any case, don’t pay them anything before we get this straightened out. Could you confirm you’ve read this e-mail? Thanks.

You think I heard from him? Nah.

Meanwhile, I learned from Medicare (always helpful, specific, kind — all those good government traits) what I (or my lawyers) needed to do: circle all the irrelevant charges and send a letter explaining why they were irrelevant. Okay.

I did it. It took me hours, and I’m very good at doing things like this.

On January 19, I sent this e-mail to Marc Mauser:

Marc, I just finished a letter to Medicare specifying the payments they made — which we will be reimbursing — for my injury.

I have not heard from you about this. I would have thought your firm should have done this work in conjunction with me, that I should not have had to do it myself.

Nevertheless, I did. Medicare told me, as well, that you have not given them a retainer or any form of consent, informing them that you are my attorneys.

Please respond to this e-mail.

You think he responded?

Next week I will tell you what I’ve done about it, what has happened and what will happen — and what you too can do if your lawyer behaves similarly.

(It’ll be next week, because tomorrow I will be spending my whole day and night in front of the TV, watching my Giants play in the Super Bowl.)

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