Recently, GetLegal sat down with Attorney Lawrence G. Metzger of the Philadelphia personal injury law practice of Metzger & Kleiner. A graduate of the Temple University School of Law, Mr. Metzger attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate. He also attended the Temple University Anatomy for Lawyers class, earning a certificate from Temple Medical School as a result. He has served as vice-chairman of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Medical Legal Committee and is an active member of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Association for Justice and the American Association for Justice.
Get Legal: Good afternoon, Mr. Metzger. Metzger & Kleiner has established a reputation for being a very effective personal injury law firm in the greater Philadelphia metro area. What is it that you bring to your practice of personal injury law that you think provides an advantage for your clients?
Lawrence Metzger: I’d have to say the relationships we forge with our clients. First, let me just say that we’re interested in helping people try and put their lives back together after a serious injury. That means we focus on the case and the facts that surround it – not on whether the injury victim is a professional, out of work, educated, poor, or what have you.
Secondly, at least in terms of my own background and experience, we know how a serious injury can affect a family. My father drove a truck for a living and I remember what it was like growing up and the struggles and worries my mother and father faced everyday just to feed and raise us kids. Also, before I earned my law degree, I had a number of regular jobs – good, honest jobs – that I needed to make ends meet and put food on the table. So, I understand what families and people face when an injury means lost wages, being out of work for months, or the prospect of long-term or permanent disability.
Get Legal: Do you think your background and experience resonates with your clients?
Lawrence Metzger: Well, I don’t always share my life story with them, but I think my experiences in life have taught me the importance of establishing a balance of power in the courtroom. When people get injured, they’re often facing a big corporation – either a big national insurer, a multi-national employer, a big HMO, or a manufacturer of some kind. As a consequence, it’s only natural for an average person to think all the power is on the other side, that they don’t have the resources needed to fight a big corporation, insurer, or HMO. That’s where my background and knowledge comes in – I establish a balance of power and make the law work in the interest of my client.
And so I think my background has shaped me in this regard. Because of my past experiences, I’m even more motivated and passionate about fighting for what’s in the interest of people who are often dismissed or ignored as being too unimportant to even worry about. As a result, I don’t take anything for granted. Practically speaking, this means I return all my calls, I work closely with clients, I do whatever I can to maximize the compensation they receive for their injuries. In other words, it means I go the extra mile to make sure my clients leave my office better off than when they first entered it.
Get Legal: In what way do you think you’re positioned to “go the extra mile?”
Lawrence Metzger: On the one hand, it’s the simple things – being there for clients when they have a concern or question. This might mean making a call to their insurer when they hit a snag regarding the payment of certain things like medical expenses. Or, it might mean helping them protect their job by helping them file for FMLA, you know, leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Or, after the trial or settlement is over, it might mean explaining to them the advantages of a structured settlement or a special needs trust, letting them know there are implications for Medicaid eligibility and taxes. So in a very real sense, I’m there for my client at every stage in the process from the beginning to the end and beyond, answering questions and helping them cope with various challenges that arise in the wake of a serious accident.
Get Legal: You mentioned that you “established a balance of power in the courtroom.” How exactly do you do that?
Lawrence Metzger: Well, first, depending on the specifics of the case, we’ll conduct our own investigation of an accident. If necessary, I’ll ask any number of experts – doctors, design or structural engineers, life care planners, safety experts, accident reconstructionists, chemists, etc. – to weigh in on the evidence. Next, I’ll talk to eyewitnesses if need be. I’ll reconstruct the accident, create a timeline, etc. Here, it’s about evidence and preparation, putting the insurer, HMO, manufacturer, or employer on the defensive and keeping them there. It’s about preparing for their experts and being ready to counter-act their claims and their version of events.
Given my background and training in anatomy, I don’t always need to consult medical experts; while this often means a savings for our clients, it also means I’m prepared to deal with medical experts testifying for insurance companies and can better evaluate their claims. My background in accounting from Wharton comes in handy here as well. I can evaluate the economics of an injury in many cases, challenging the amount offered by an insurer without having to hire a life care planner.
I’ve also tried cases before judges and juries in different venues – specifically, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I understand what needs to be done when preparing a case for a jury trial as opposed to one before a judge. There are also differences between Pennsylvania and New Jersey courts and I’m well versed in what these unique differences are. I know how to humanize and personalize a case for juries and get them to see the very real human impact of an injury. This is how I take steps to ensure there’s a balance of power in the courtroom.
Get Legal: You mentioned your accounting background. How does this help you question what an insurer is prepared to pay your client for their injuries?
Lawrence Metzger: Without going into too much detail, a large number of insurance companies – especially the national ones like MetLife, Allstate, and Farmers – use a software program called Colossus to calculate injury claims. Basically, Colossus uses a set of algorithms and baseline costs for injuries to then calculate a claims payout. The problem here, however, is that the calculation depends on what factors or variables a claims agent chooses to punch into the program.
Secondly, Colossus does not – to date – have a robust way for taking into account the pain and suffering of an injury victim and the future health consequences of certain kinds of injuries. As a result, in many ways, Colossus displaces human judgment when evaluating an injury. My accounting background and experience in personal injury law means I can quickly identify unreasonable claims offers or ones that are simply bogus and without foundation.
Get Legal: You mentioned that you’re interested in the merits of a case and not whether someone is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, etc. Could you say a little more here about what you mean?
Lawrence Metzger: Sure – and I think this goes back to something we talked about earlier in regard to my life experiences and family background. We take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means – for the most part – we don’t get paid unless our clients get paid. So, while there may be costs associated with expert witnesses, data analysis, or certain aspects of an investigation – if these are even needed – we don’t charge huge up front fees that often make it impossible for injured people to take a case to a personal injury attorney.
This means the working poor, the middle class, the unemployed, the student, new parents – what have you – they can afford to come to us and ask if we can help them. If their case is a good one, we’ll take it and recover our attorneys’ fees from any award or settlement agreed to as a result of our successful legal action. If we don’t win the case, our client isn’t charged. And to date, 98% of the time when we take a case, we recover something.
Get Legal: Is there any area of personal injury that you tend to concentrate in?
Lawrence Metzger: Personally, I have a great deal of experience in cases involving motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, defective medical devices litigation, workplace injuries and slip and falls. As I mentioned earlier, I represent people from all walks of life – government workers, policemen, garbage people, teachers, Sales Reps, stay-at-home moms, small business owners – everyone. I don’t represent corporations or insurance companies, however.
In recent years, I’ve also represented tourists and people from out of state. People come to Philadelphia to see part of our nation’s history and, unfortunately, they get injured on public transportation, in a hotel, or they fall on an icy sidewalk. So, I’ve represented more and more people from out of state in recent years.
Get Legal: Okay, well thank you —
Lawrence Metzger: No, sure – let me stop you there and say one more thing about that. Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state which means if you are more than 51% at fault, you can’t recover anything. This is important if you’re here from a state that has a different understanding of liability. You know, you drive in from – oh, I don’t know – let’s say Rhode Island, and you’re injured while driving your car to your brother’s wedding. Well, you’re insured in Rhode Island but were injured here in Pennsylvania. Which understanding of negligence will determine your compensation – Pennsylvania’s or Rhode Island’s? So, it’s not an unimportant question and I have a great deal of experience in dealing with these kinds of issues.
Get Legal: Well, again, thank you for your time –
Lawrence Metzger: No problem, my pleasure – thank you.