We were in an accident and injured and have met with several lawyers. How do I know who is trustworthy?
I cannot take issue with most of what Mr. Leighton said. He is certainly a highly respected top notch litigator. Board Certification is an impressive accomplishment which cannot be ignored; although there are fantastic, well respected & experienced lawyers who do not care (or feel the need) to take the time for the testing process. As for SuperLawyers, etc; some of the lawyers are certainly among the very best in their field, but in my opinion others are not. Also, many excellent lawyers don’t care to spend the time lobbying every lawyer in town to vote for them as a superlawyer. Just as important is what to avoid. The most important lawyers to avoid are ones who illegally solicit you, either directly or through “runners”; lawyers referred by body shops, tow truck drivers, etc. Be wary of mass advertising TV lawyers, as big rarely means good and in my opinion many just want to flip cases quickly. They rely on a volume of new clients rather than referrals from satisfied prior clients. Many will not reduce their fees even if their fee is far more then the clients net settlement and good luck getting the lawyer on the phone. Also don’t get sucked into flashy websites devoted to a particular product or type of action. In a recent product liability case, my client was most impressed with a flashy website devoted to the product at issue. She thought he must be “the” leading lawyer in this area. Turned out he was only a few years out of law school. What he was tops at was setting up fancy websites for every defective product and major action out there. He gets the cases and ships them to another firm which gives him a referral fee.
First find out if the lawyers are board certified civil trial specialists by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization. That's the first big step. Few lawyers are board certified. That is the highest formal recognition and the only lawyers who can claim to be specialists by law in Florida. Second, check out sites like SuperLawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and other peer honor organizations that recognize the lawyers that are at the top of their field (AVVO.com is a very good source). Find out if the lawyer has written or lectured in the field. That can tell you a lot about whether they have expertise and recognition. Check out the lawyer's web site and se eif they list representative verdicts and settlements. Ask the lawyer for references and ask if they have tried similar cases. Ask other lawyers about this lawyer. If they are good, others will know them. Lastly, check the Florida Bar site and see if the lawyer has a history of discipline for ethical violations. Find out if they are a member of professional societies like ABOTA (American Board of Trial Advocates) or other trial bar groups. These are the best ways to check out a lawyer.
You need to know that the lawyer (1) has the expertise and skill-set to handle your case, and (2) is someone you will like working with over the life of your case.
Determine whether and to what extent the lawyer specializes in your type of case - if a Lawyer shows him or herself to work in many different practice areas, walk away. Jack of all trades, master of none.
Does the Lawyer generally have good results? Ask the lawyer to give you proof of his or her results - a track record. Do not just put your money on large settlements, have the lawyer point you to enough facts to judge the difficulty of the case, and what the lawyer had to do to accomplish a good result. Being extreme to make a point, most lawyers can get a good result from an obvious catastrophic injury, but not every lawyer can take a minor car accident case (for example) which caused not-so-obvious life changing injuries, and get best value. If the lawyer got a good result there, it becomes easier with catastrophic cases.
Does the Lawyer have a track record of trying cases similar to yours? He or she must be prepared to go to verdict on your case if necessary. Insurance Companies know who try cases and who won't - that matters to your result. Have the Lawyer give you a list of cases he has tried to verdict.
Even though the lawyer may be good at what he or she does, he may not be good for you. Can you relate to the idea of a great medical doctor with very poor bedside manners? You want the best of both worlds. Find out if the lawyer has a large group of raving fans? This is an indication of how the Lawyer treats his or her clients. Ask the Lawyer to point you to a source showing a reputable long history of good testimonials from past clients.
Lastly, after you have taken care to be satisfied about what I talk about above, it should come down to how comfortable you are with the attorney. After talking to the lawyer face to face, determine if he or she relates to you and your concerns? Do you relate to him or her? You should, as you likely will have a long relationship over the life of your case.
Lots of good suggestions these previously given answers. I'd add that you should ask friends, relatives about their similar experiences. Likewise, if you know any lawyers--maybe from church, your kids' soccer team or just down the street--ask them who they might know & recommend that does good personal injury work. Lastly, remember that case results are also highly dependent on the particular facts & circumstances of that case and so cannot generally be extrapolated as predicting what will happen in your particular situation. Good luck.
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