After practicing law and representing accident and malpractice victims for nearly 18+ years, I’ve learned the most important factors one should consider when one decides to hire a lawyer for his/her accident case. Here are my Top 10 Factors you should consider when choosing your personal injury attorney:
- Choose a Specialist. You should hire an attorney who concentrates his or her practice exclusively in the field of personal injury law. There are many personal injury attorneys who practice in other areas of the law in addition to personal injury. This usually means that the attorney is unwilling or unable to practice in just one area and learn everything there is to know in that area. If you want the best, then I would avoid those attorneys who have multiple practice areas in addition to the field of personal injury.
- Experience Counts. If your claim has a value of less than $50,000, then you should choose an attorney who has at least 5 to 7 years worth of experience representing accident victims. If your claim is a serious or catastrophic injury or wrongful death, then you should choose an attorneywho has at least 12 to 15 years of experience in the field of personal injury and wrongful death law.
- Successful Track Record. Obviously, you want an attorney who is successful. Look at the lawyer’s track record. Does he or she have a history of securing favorable verdicts and settlements? Not every personal lawyer can obtain the multi-million dollar settlement or verdict, or represent high-profile cases.
- Respect. The lawyer you choose should be respected in the community, and respected by the insurance company. A lawyer that commands respect as a skilled and competent trial lawyer will get the best possible result in your case.
- Trust. A lawyer can command respect, but not always be trustworthy. You should trust your lawyer to do what is your best interest, not the best interest of the lawyer.
- Good Communication. The lawyer you choose should be able to communicate with you effectively. This does not mean that you should be able to speak with your lawyer at any time or day, but has more to do with the lawyer being open and honest about your case and the challenges that may exist. Most successful lawyers are in high demand so their time may be limited. If you wish to speak with your lawyer, his or her staff should be able to schedule a time to accomplish this (even if it may take a few days due to the lawyer’s work schedule).
- Good Staff. Alot of the work involved in representing accident victims relies on gathering information and materials to support the claim. Most successful lawyers need to rely on their staff to order records, schedule depositions, answer routine client questions, and conduct the day-to-day mundane tasks that every case will require. You should feel like the lawyer’s staff is competent and helpful. Sometimes personality conflicts may exist, and if that happens be sure to ask your lawyer to assign a different staff person to your case. Most successful lawyers will want you to feel comfortable with the staff person who is assigned to your case so be upfront about any problems you have.
- Community Involvement. This may come as a surprise, but there are some personal injurylawyers that do not live and work in the area where the office is located! Some lawyers actually live in another state and then farm out cases to associates. Do you think that lawyer will be personally or professionally invested in your case? Probably not. Make sure the lawyer you choose actually goes to work at that office most days during the week. If that lawyer participates in other community-building events, then even better. That lawyer will care about his community and doing the best job possible in your case.
- It Shouldn’t Be All About the Money. Personal injury lawyers often get a bad rap – and rightfully so. There are too many personal injury attorneys who care only about earning their fee. Just watch late night TV for the typical ambulance-chaser TV commercial. A lawyer who cares too much about the fee may put his or her interests above your case. Look for a lawyer who actually gives back. If a lawyer makes a sincere attempt to give back, like writing books, donating time to charities, to help other people, then lawyer probably will strive to put your case above his or her own personal interests.
- Professional Reputation. Last but not least, the lawyer you choose should be respected by other lawyers in the same field. If the lawyer has been recognized as being successful and competent (like receiving awards, or being recognized by other lawyers as being successful), then that lawyer likely has a good reputation in the legal community. This is also important when trying your case in court. Many judges will want to know the reputation of lawyers appearing in their courtroom. A lawyer that has a good reputation will command the respect of a judge and make that judge feel comfortable in relying upon the lawyer’s argument or expertise regarding some legal issue or ruling in your own case.
That’s it, my 10 factors one should consider when choosing the best lawyer for your case.