Hopefully it will never happen to you. But if you do find yourself injured and in need of legal help, the success of your personal injury claim will be strongly affected by the caliber of the personal injury lawyer you work with. So be thorough and careful in researching the possible candidates. Don’t delay on getting started with this search either, as time is almost always of the essence when it comes to lawsuits.
Assemble an initial list of candidates
Where to get that initial list of names? You can start by asking among friends and acquaintances. But don’t stop there and don’t believe everything they might tell you, because emotions can run high in lawsuits and bias can easily creep in. Here are some other sources of names:
- Do an online search for your location
- Ask any attorneys you may know who practice in other areas
- Make a phone call to the State Bar Association, or visit their website
- Local TV or radio advertising (are the ads tasteful? Helpful?)
- Local phone book (if all else fails; at least you have some phone numbers and possibly some corresponding websites)
After you have a list of names, the next thing is to screen them and whittle the list down.
Check for professional standing
- Your State Bar Association can tell you if a lawyer is in good standing with them
- Call other law associations – e.g. the American Association of Trial Lawyers (ATLA) or your state’s trial lawyers’ association. Membership in such groups indicates acceptance by the lawyer’s peers.
- Look at the lawyer’s website – is it competently put together? Informative? Relevant to your needs?
- Do an internet search on the lawyer’s name to see if any pages come up which were written by this lawyer.
- Look at the online archives of a local newspaper. There may be news articles about previous cases this lawyer has handled, especially if he takes on large-settlement personal injury cases.
Choose a convenient location
Choose a lawyer who’s based in the same area where your injury occurred, which is presumably also the same area where you were treated for it. A good personal injury lawyer will know the relevant authorities in that area, such as:
- Expert witnesses
- Hospital staff
- Police officers
Assuming you live in this same area, you’ll want a lawyer who’s close by and easy to meet with. When you have just 3 or 4 names left, it’s time to meet them, if they have time. Remember that attorneys are very busy people and sometimes can’t make time immediately to meet with a potential new client. 4. Make an initial appointment You’ll want to be prepared for this appointment time and put it to the best use. You probably have a lot of questions. The attorney’s office may ask you to fill out a questionnaire before you come, so by all means do that, as it will give the lawyer more information about you and thus save time.
- Copies of police or accident reports
- Copies of doctor and hospital records
- Any bills you’ve received so far
- Insurance information
- Copies of any insurance documents
- A calendar marked with the critical dates: date of injury, date of surgery, of any medical or therapy appointments, etc.
Bring a list of your questions
- Questions about your potential claim
- Questions to ask the lawyer (see below)
Don’t be shy about consulting your list and writing notes. The interview will probably move along briskly, and you don’t want to get home and realize you can’t remember what the this slip and fall lawyer said. 5. Questions to ask the lawyer
- How much time do we have for this consultation?
- How many personal injury trials have you pursued? How many of them did you win?
- How long have you been in practice?
- Do you do any defense work? (This relates to conflict of interest. You want an attorney who isn’t also defending insurance companies or hospitals, but who specializes in representing injury victims
- Is there a time limit for filing this claim? There will usually be a statute of limitations, a time limit within which you must file.
- What sort of problems do you foresee with this claim?
- How would you approach this claim?
- How long might it take to conclude it?
- Would you do much of this work yourself, or would a lot of it be delegated to paralegals or other attorneys?
- Will you do it on a contingency fee basis? (This means that you’d pay no fees up front. Then if you win, the attorney will keep a pre-arranged percentage of the money, and if you lose, you won’t owe any fees.)
- Will you advance the out-or-pocket expenses (such as for expert witnesses), or would I be responsible for those?
Keep some attention on your surroundings
- Does the office appear to be calm and well-organized?
- Do office personnel treat each other with courtesy and respect?
- Is the attorney giving you his full attention, or does he seem eager to get on to the next thing on his agenda?
- Is the attorney’s own office clean and organized?
Answer questions fully
The lawyer will want to ask you some questions too. So answer them fully and honestly. There are many things he or she will consider in deciding whether to take your case, whether you have a product liability claim, a car accident, dog bite, slip and fall, or whatever type of personal injury claim. 8. Ask for references
- Ask if you can speak to any former clients. Many attorney firms will have a list already prepared of satisfied clients who can share some information with you.
- There may be some brochures in the office; take any such promotional literature and cross check it with the firm’s website. If there are any discrepancies, call and ask which is correct.
Jay Trucks & Associates are Flint personal injury lawyers that have successfully represented thousands of injured people and collected millions of dollars on their behalf. We are strong advocates for the injured and tough negotiators with the insurance industry. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. Ph: (800) 762-8623.