Here is how to pick a personal injury lawyer….
I’ve been in this industry 20 years, and I know the important questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line…
Would you rather hire a big firm or a local firm?
Obviously I think the latter is better because a smaller firm will generally take more time to get to know you and your case. Of course there are great lawyers in the big firms too, it simply a matter of what makes you more comfortable.
Will the lawyer meet with you for an initial consultation, free of charge?
One caveat here is to make sure that, if you’re offered a free ’30 minute’ consultation and the consultation goes for an hour, you won’t be charged for that additional time. You must clarify this ahead of time or you risk being stuck with an unexpected bill.
Will the lawyer advocate effectively for you?
Your best bet is to ask the lawyer this point blank and see how they respond. Do they fast talk you or give you concrete examples of things they’ll do to represent you? If they don’t give you concrete examples upfront, ask for them.
Will the lawyer navigate and simplify the legal process for you?
This should be obvious from the first conversation or meeting. If you leave the meeting feeling more confused and powerless than before, you’re probably dealing with a lawyer who may have all the technical knowledge, but doesn’t communicate it well. While they may steer your case through to a good conclusion, it will probably be more stressful for you than it needs to be because nothing will be clear.
Does the lawyer resolve cases efficiently, fairly and effectively?
Ask for examples. If you ask upfront, lawyers can often provide you with lists of case wins that are relevant to your situation. If you get the feeling that the lawyer doesn’t have much experience dealing with your kind of case, trust your instincts and find a lawyer who makes you comfortable that he or she has done this (successfully) before.
Does your lawyer have experience working on both sides of personal injury law?
This is so important. I spent many years defending insurance companies against personal injury lawsuits. It was an eye opener. I learned how insurance companies think and what it takes to win against their teams of lawyers and consultants. In 2009, I decided to put this experience to good use supporting every day people in their fight to get the compensation they deserve. In my opinion, this experience makes all the difference to my clients.
Does your lawyer clearly explain the fee/payment structure?
This question is worth an entire blog post on it’s own, but suffice to say that if the lawyer is evading the issue of payment, watch out. Luckily most lawyers are upfront about this, but it is important for you to ask the right questions. Most personal injury lawyers get paid only when they win a case. That’s easy enough to understand. But make sure you also ask about things like how disbursements and admin expenses are handled.
Have you talked to more than one lawyer?
Finally, trust your instincts and go for second opinions. An insurance claim can take anywhere from one to three years to resolve, and the last thing you want is to work with a lawyer who doesn’t have your interests at heart.
You’ve got one shot at this. It’s best to work with someone you trust who will see your case through.