What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?

If you haven't heard the answer before, one is said to be a scum sucking bottom dweller, and the other is a fish.

This is one of several lawyers jokes that one of my uncles makes most times that I see him.  It was funny the first time I heard it, not so much now.

Other family, friends and even strangers make various jokes, generally about being an ambulance chaser when they find out what I do. I play along and tell them that ambulance chasing is for amateurs and that I am an ambulance catcher.

Ironically, if any one of them were to suffer from a serious injury or illness due to the fault of someone else, I'd like to think I would be one of the first people they would call after their treating health professionals and immediate family. It would not be the first and unfortunately will not be the last time that I'll represent someone I know in their time of need.

For all the bad publicity that lawyers get there is and will always remain a strong tradition of honesty and integrity in the profession.

In the line of work that I am in I not only act for those who are injured or unwell but also (and to a lesser extent) those defending such claims. When someone has been injured due to the negligence of another, they need legal assistance in the overwhelming majority of circumstances. Those that seek to pursue claims themselves, although not infrequently successful, will receive far less than those that are represented by an experienced personal injuries lawyer if the data associated with motor vehicle accident claims in Queensland is anything to go by.

Likewise, for those that have had frivolous, unmeritorious or even fraudulent claims brought against them the likelihood of successfully defending such a claim is, in my humble experience, far greater with an experienced lawyer than without one. Otherwise, it would be like attempting to service one's car with no mechanical experience.

One of the buzz terms you may have heard bandied about by the insurers in recent months and years is that of that of ‘claims farming’ and the effect that it has upon insurance premiums paid by policyholders and insurance schemes such as the Queensland CTP scheme.

Ironically, in recent articles published by reporter, Liam Walsh, one of the largest CTP insurers in Queensland, RACQ has been shown to have threatened to pull out of the highly lucrative Qld CTP scheme if CTP premium reductions were approved for Queensland motorists.

Mr Walsh also reported on documents showing RACQ pointing the finger at other CTP insurers within the Queensland scheme, alleging ‘soft commissions' are being paid by one or more insurers to ‘aligned motor dealers’ selling new vehicles to ensure that the purchasers are not provided with a choice of CTP insurer but rather automatically assigned to whichever CTP insurer is paying the 'soft commission'.

While I'm happy to cop flak from public liability, CTP and workers’ compensation insurers alike for the work that I do, it’s not a fair suck of the sav that insurers are employing the very same tactics which they so vehemently criticise to the detriment and expense of their insureds, i.e. joe public.

Many lawyers carry on in their roles without much concern for the negative publicity brought upon our profession. I can say with honesty that the prevalence of rogue lawyers within the legal industry is rare and almost certainly results in the loss of the lawyer's practising certificate. 

Accordingly, the next time you are at a barbie with family or friends and find out someone is a lawyer, ask them what they do and how they can help.  I hope you never need to use them but one day you may.

Trent Johnson, Accredited Specialist Personal Injury Law and Director, Bennett & Philp Lawyers can be contacted on +61 7 3001 2953.


Trent Johnson is a Director at Bennett & Philp Lawyers