IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT, on the job, or on a job site, caused by the negligence of others or if the death of a loved one has been cause by the negligence of someone else, you most likely will, at some time, have to choose an attorney to handle your case.
Typically, the need to make this choice comes fairly quickly, for if you are contacted by a claims adjuster for the insurance company of the person or corporation causing the injury or death, you DEFINITELY should not speak to them (other than to exchange contact information) without the advice of an attorney. Also, you should DEFINITELY NOT give this person a recorded statement. Without a doubt, you may regret doing so later, as anything you say, “can and will be used against you” in your claim or that of your family for the death of a loved one.
But if you’ve managed to avoid that, then how do you choose the RIGHT attorney to represent you and/or your family?
#1 WHILE YOU MAY KNOW AN ATTORNEY OR HAVE USED AN ATTORNEY for such matters as doing the closing on the purchase of your home or other such legal matters, THAT ATTORNEY IS PROBABLY NOT THE RIGHT ATTORNEY TO HANDLE YOUR PERSONAL INJURY OR WRONGFUL DEATH CASE.
Many attorneys believe that they can handle a significant personal injury or wrongful death case, but the reality is that they can’t. The proper handling of a personal injury or wrongful death case involves not only the skills and knowledge that any attorney who litigates cases (that is, one who actually goes to court) has, but involves much more, such as the ability to…
- Move quickly to investigate all the facts of the case and know what to look for;
- Identify all the potential witnesses and gather statements of what they saw or heard
- Know the experts that may be needed to properly do the case
- Have the negotiation experience to negotiate a proper and fair settlement, if it can be done, AND…
- The skill and savvy to properly try the case should it be necessary to go to trial.
These skills are only acquired over many years of litigation and courtroom experience. Books could be (and have been) written by attorneys for attorneys just on the skills needed to try cases, with page after page devoted to just one aspect, such as how to cross-examine a lay or expert witness.
SO, THE RIGHT ATTORNEY FOR YOUR CASE IS ONE THAT HAS EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE IN INVESTIGATING, NEGOTIATING AND TRYING PERSONAL INJURY AND WRONG FUL DEATH CASES.
#2 YOUR NEXT SOURCE OF INFORMATION in trying to find the right attorney for your case are the recommendations of friends and acquaintances who have had a personal injury or wrongful death case handled by a particular attorney. Friends and acquaintances may be a very good source of information about a particular attorney since they have had personal experience with the attorney they recommend.
HOWEVER, EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT…
…Not only in the kind and severity of the injury involved but also the circumstances of the case (that is, a car wreck injury, a job injury, a machinery malfunction or defect, a bridge collapse, an explosion, etc.) Almost any attorney can handle a case where the client has been rear-ended, as long as he/she can do a good job on putting the medical case together: that is, gathering all the medical records and expenses, determining whether there is permanent injury or not; projecting future medical needs and properly presenting them (usually by a video deposition of the treating physician to an insurance company adjuster or a jury at trial.
Even if recommended by a friend or acquaintance, THE MOST DANGEROUS ATTORNEY (TO YOUR CASE) IS THE ONE WHO THINKS HE/SHE CAN HANDLE A SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY OR WRONGFUL DEATH CASE – BUT REALLY CAN’T.
If you get this attorney, you will either lose your case or get far less than you or your family is entitled. If you consult the recommended attorney, ask about that attorney’s experience in handling personal injury cases and their success in the courtroom. (Note and caveat: Even if an attorney has a large verdict to his/her credit, that might not be a true indicator of their ability in these cases, that large verdict might have been on a relatively easy case to prove).
It is successful consistency in a large number of different kinds of cases over a number of years that prove a personal injury lawyer’s abilities. (Also note: Some of the best personal injury/wrongful death attorneys hardly ever go to trial—they win the case by their hard work in putting all the elements together and convincing the insurance company they’re better off settling than risking a trial).
#3 LAWYERS WHO ADVERTISE—TELEVISION, TELEPHONE BOOK AND INTERNET.
It is a reality for all attorneys today that they must advertise in one or more of these media. Gone are the days when everyone in town knew all the lawyers in town and what they did and what their reputation is. The Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird) days are long gone. So if you don’t know an experienced and capable personal injury/wrongful death attorney and you have no one to recommend one to you, you most likely will turn to what you have seen on TV, what you see in the telephone book and what you see on the Internet.
First of all, a warning about TV lawyers. Most (but not all) are the Wal-Mart of the legal profession. They want your case, get it in fast, settle it quick, get you out the door and on the next case. You may not even get to see or talk to the attorney you see on the TV. These days, yellow page advertising and TV advertising are about the same. Big promises, but little to back it up. Nevertheless, if you’re careful, and actually go see that attorney and visit with him/her and assess him/her and ask questions of him/her that satisfy you, then, by all means go ahead and hire them.
REMEMBER, YOU CAN ALWAYS FIRE AN ATTORNEY HANDLING YOUR INJURY CASE WITHOUT HAVING TO PAY THEM ANYTHING AT THE TIME.
They may make a claim for whatever they may have done on your case up to that time, if your case settles or your collect a judgment, but it’s better to get off the lame horse early than try to ride it where it won’t go.
#4 SINCE YOU’RE READING THIS ADVICE, obviously you found it over the Internet, and I am one of those attorneys who rely on my clients and others to recommend me, as well as the Internet, to get clients. This is, after all, my business and how I support my family.
But if you go to any other attorney you’ve found over the Internet, I recommend you do the following, because the above advice I’ve given is not all there is to it. Once you’ve decided on the attorney to consult, make an appointment and go see him or her, if you can (and if it’s geographically feasible). Or, if you’re case is significant enough, the attorney will come to you. I do.
You should not only assess that attorney’s experience and expertise at handling personal injury and wrongful death cases, you should assess the attorney himself or herself.
- How does he/she dress?
- What appearance do they make?
- Do they make you feel that you can trust them?
- Does a feeling of confidence grow in you about them as you talk to them?
At the end of the day, if you give your case to this attorney, you must leave knowing that that attorney will do his/her utmost for you; that he or she will bring to bear the best and highest skills they have to represent you to achieve the best possible result for you.
Simply said, TRUST AND EXPERIENCE make a difference.