July 28, 2010

Carfax Doesn't Advertise This

I have previously posted about how I believe Carfax misleadingly promotes their product. Their recent "Carfox" commercials certainly lead you to believe a clean Carfax report virtually guarantees a good car. It just isn't so. In fact, here's what a Carfax Consumer Affairs Analyst said recently in an e-mail about their product:

The reporting of accident events through our service is based primarily on three main aspects: 1) Whether the event in question was reported to any data source capable of collecting electronic records (government agencies, etc.), 2) If CARFAX receives date from the source collecting events in the jurisdiction involved (CARFAX is not contracted with all sources available), and 3) The time when data is made available to us (CARFAX does not receive events instantly from sources providing data to us).

We suggest using our service as one important tool along with a physical inspection in the car buying process, but never for sole reliance. I am sorry if you were under any other belief regarding what our service provides.

Seriously? Basically, she's sorry if we believed their advertising. That's not right.

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July 24, 2010

How To Be A Good Consumer Lawyer

I have a personal story to tell. Recently I had a serious neck injury. I lost much of the use of my right arm because the nerve that controls the deltoid muscle coming from my spinal cord had been pinched where it passes through my cervical vertebrae. The first doctor I saw told me I needed surgery right away. Although I tried to schedule surgery, I was unable to get it scheduled immediately. Meanwhile, I sought a second opinion. I also began to try to educate myself on the medical issue and who were the best doctors in Indianapolis that treat it. The second opinion I obtained agreed that I needed surgery. I was convinced that I needed surgery.

I had heard that Dr. Terry R. Trammell, a doctor at Orthopaedics Indianapolis, was the best. It was difficult to get in to see Dr. Trammell, but I persisted. I am so glad I did. You can probably guess by now that Dr. Trammell told me that I don't need surgery, at least not right now. Honestly, however, that has nothing to do with why I feel so blessed to have been able to see Dr. Trammell. The awesome thing about him was that he took the time to talk with me and to explain in as much detail as I wanted about my body, the injury, the surgery, what I could expect in the future and what I could and could not do physically and when. He spent about half an hour with me and I learned 100 times more in that half hour than I had in the previous six weeks of dealing with this issue. The doctors before had done virtually nothing to explain the details to me - they just said "you need surgery." I guess I was just supposed to take their word for it - I'm so glad I didn't. No one wants to have to undergo surgery unless it is absolutely necessary.

My recovery has been steady since the very beginning. With what Dr. Trammell has told me, I'm now optimistic that it will continue and I will eventually be back to where I was without the need for surgery. We will see. Of course it's still possible I will need surgery, but even if I do I feel much more comfortable with it now that I have a better idea of what's going on. Thank you, Dr. Trammell.

What does this have to do with consumer law? I see a couple of lessons here. First, I want to model my practice after Dr. Trammell. I know Dr. Trammell's time is very valuable. I know he is super busy and probably sees a ton of patients every day. But he took the time to talk to me, and I am so grateful for that. This medical issue has been dominating my life for the past six weeks. I'm not sure Dr. Trammell realizes how much of an impact that half an hour of his time had on my entire life, but it was huge. I, too, am incredibly busy at work. Much busier than I would like to be. But when people come to me with a consumer law issue, sometimes it is the dominant thing in their life at that time. The are being harassed by a debt collector, have been sued by a debt collector, were ripped off my a car dealer or have a credit report they can't get corrected because the credit reporting agencies won't listen. It is taking up all of their time, thoughts and attention. I want to be able to speak with them in person or on the phone and give them information - just like Dr. Trammell did for me - because that information will empower them - just like it did for me.

But there is also a lesson here for the consumer. Be proactive. Do research. Educate yourself. Get second opinions. Spend time on the purchase, repair or whatever it is in relation to how big of a deal it is. Spend seconds deciding which toilet paper to buy, spend hours or days deciding which car to buy or which attorney to hire. The investment of time will be worth it.

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