By KRISTI TOUSIGNANT
The Daily Record of Baltimore
BALTIMORE - Personal injury attorneys could be moving away from flashy ads on the sides of buses and spots on daytime television. Several firms in the region have launched apps for smartphones as a way to market and streamline their business.
"When you don't want to be on the back of a bus or some cheesy commercial in between Jerry Springer and Oprah, you need to come up with innovative ways to help clients and help market your services," said Steven D. Silverman, managing partner at Silverman ` Thompson ` Slutkin ` White LLC in Baltimore. His firm started offering its app, "Crash 911," to internal clients more than a year ago.
Michael A. Freedman launched an app for his personal injury practice, the Law Offices of Michael A. Freedman P.A. in Owings Mills, just last month.
"We see so many situations where, when an accident happens, the scene cannot be recreated accurately by the client," Freedman said.
For Freedman's app, an "Accident Intake" button prompts the user to a screen for collecting all necessary information _ witness phone numbers, the name and badge number of the responding police officer, license plate numbers and more.
The app asks if air bags were deployed, what damage was done to the cars, which insurance companies cover each car or driver and what the policy numbers are. There are even two buttons at the bottom of the app's welcome screen for taking photos and video of the site.
And, of course, once the app form has been filled out, all the information, including photos and video, can be sent directly to Freedman's email account.
"We can get so much information now," Freedman said. "Clients can email me directly from their smartphone. Theoretically, by the time they get home from the hospital, we can have already contacted the insurance company."
Beyond bringing in clients, Freedman said, the app will also make constructing the cases less expensive and help in establishing liability.
With photos, videos and other information already compiled, he may not need to hire an investigative photographer or accident reconstruction expert, he said.
"So many times, the clients will call us with insufficient amounts of information to establish liability right off the bat," Freedman said. "What this will allow us to do is not only prove the case with data, but provide pictures of the scene, the car, the point of impact, witness testimony. It's neatly wrapped up in a gift box."
While his nascent app hasn't brought him any clients yet, he expects it to change the way his firm does business. Right now, 85 percent of his clients call him on the phone and the other 15 percent come to him via email, he said.
"Everyone always goes to the phone to call," Freedman said. "Now, when you take out your phone, all the information you need is on the app."
Freedman said he thinks apps will soon stretch across the industry.
"There is no question that it is the future," Freedman said. "The question is how quickly the future gets here."
For Silverman's firm, the future arrived about a year and a half ago. It just hasn't gone public yet.
Right now, the firm has only marketed its Crash 911 app internally, through email to existing clients or in-person at meetings, Silverman said.
He is planning to tweak some of the text _ in part, to ensure there's no risk of confusion about when the firm's representation of a new client begins _ before advertising the app through the firm's website and Facebook soon.
The firm also plans to launch a criminal law app with numbers for bondsmen and basic advice for clients who have a run-in with police.
Like Freedman's app, Crash 911 has a camera option to take photos and record video. It has a GPS for marking locations and a form to fill out all the relevant information in a car accident. All this can then be directly emailed to the firm. The app has phone numbers for emergency services, tow trucks, hospitals, auto repair shops and taxis, Silverman said.
Clients "don't need pen and paper," Silverman said. "Everything is laid out for them in stressful situations when they don't know what to do."
The firm spent less than $2,000 to create the app, and Silverman said clients have already used it, though he was not sure how many. Silverman said the firm would receive a return on investment even if it receives only one case per year through the app.
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