Written by attorney Stephen Laurence Hoffman

How to Choose a Personal Injury or Workers' Compensation Lawyer

One thing all individuals should be prepared for is what to do in the event of an emergency. We usually have some sort of system devised for what to do if there is a serious storm, medical emergency, or something of that nature. Schools have been preparing children for this back to the days of air raid drills and including my Kindergarten recitation of my family telephone number. That was in the days before speed dial, texting, and other shortcuts made "dialing" much easier. Fortunately, seven numbers were not too much for me and I matriculated to the First Grade, only to refuse to learn to write my name until threatened with no recess. Kids are much smarter today and so are adults. Nearly everyone has a smart phone with oodles of important information (including ICE-In Case of Emergency contacts). But what if that "emergency" occurs when you or someone you know is injured in an automobile collision or while at work? Do you know what to do? What is the first thing to do? Does everyone in your family know what to do? Well, Shakespeare's missive to "...let's kill all the lawyers" aside, one thing that should be done in almost all of those situations is to CALL A LAWYER. But, since so many of us have never been involved in a serious auto accident or injured at work, we don't know a personal injury attorney or workers' compensation lawyer in the Chicago area. So how does one find a trusted, effective, and experienced personal injury or workers' compensation lawyer? One thing to think about before the dreaded "emergency" occurs is what type of person am I looking for and what type of personality fits me best. Here are just a few things you should think about in choosing an injury lawyer. I like to think of them as the "3 Rs": o Responsiveness--Find someone who will get in touch with you promptly. Does this person return your phone calls and emails promptly? Is he or she polite to you and willing to answer your questions in a manner you can understand or is he or she rushed, arrogant, dismissive, or otherwise condescending? Do you expect to talk to the lawyer or are you satisfied speaking to an office assistance or leaving endless messages with an answering service? Will you be able to email this attorney and will those emails be returned? o Reputation and Recognition-Find someone who is recognized within the legal community as an excellent and experienced practitioner. Additionally, make sure you can double-check this attorney's reputation among fellow lawyers against that held by his or her clients. Does his website feature client endorsements and case results? Is there any website that "ranks" lawyers? Does this attorney have malpractice insurance? Has he or she ever been disciplined? Many of these questions can be answered by perusing both "official" and "unofficial" sources. I suggest utilizing the lawyer search feature on the Illinois Attorney Registration Commission website. Doing this enables the public to check on that attorney's history of discipline, confirm whether he or she carries malpractice insurance, and is authorized to practice. Another useful font of information is the Avvo website. This is a great way to see what other lawyers and clients say about a particular attorney and, with a numerical rating scale, a great way to quantify some of this data. This is a tool useful to the general public and within the legal community. o Results and Respect-Find a lawyer who has handled cases similar to yours in the past and has a reputation of getting good results and being respected for his or her work. Some lawyers spend incredible amounts of money advertising how wonderful they are but the proof is in the pudding. Lawyers who are respected by their peers and their clients are the ones you want to retain. Substance and results speak loudly. One thing I always try to counsel people about in selecting an injury or worker's compensation attorney is to think about what type of person they like to deal with in a tense situation. Do you buy a car from a pushy, high-pressure sales person? Do you buy an inferior washing machine because the sales person is dressed beautifully? The answer is usually no for those of us who think things through logically and analytically. As we humans tend to become emotional exactly in times of stress when we need to be less emotional, you need to have a lawyer who is selected based upon non-emotional and logical factors. That is why I encourage you to do your homework, look at websites, ask around, and even talk to some lawyers before you actually need them. You will gain a greater understanding of what the cast of competitors out there looks and sounds like and you will gain insight into your own needs and wants.

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