If you have been injured in an accident it is time think about hiring a lawyer. Here are some guidelines to help you through the process.
Generalist or Specialist?
Your divorce lawyer may have done a great job for you but he may not be the best choice for your injury case. Find a lawyer who works primarily on injury cases.
Prepare a List of Questions
Your list of questions should be personal to you so do not hesitate to use your imagination. Here are a few questions to consider for your list:
a. How long has she practiced injury law?
Note: Ideally five years full time. It takes five years to learn the ropes in any area of law.
b. How many cases has she handled?
Note: With five years experience she would have likely handled to conclusion over one hundred cases.
c. Has she handled any cases like yours?
Note: It is not absolutely necessary that she has handled a case identical to yours but if yours is an unusual case her specific experience could be a big plus.
d. What is her largest settlement or verdict?
Note: If yours is a $50,000 case it may not matter that the lawyer has numerous half million cases to her credit.
e. Has she published articles on personal injury law?
Note: This shows a demonstrated interest in injury lawyer and an ability to communicate in writing–important because much of the negotiating in an injury case takes place through written communication.
f. Has she spoken to other lawyers on injury subjects?
Note: Once again, this shows an interest in injury law but also public speaking ability which could be important for the courtroom.
g. Will she actually work on your case?
Note: As a lawyer gets more experience she works on bigger and bigger cases. If yours is a small case the lawyer will probably delegate it to a junior attorney. This is not a problem so long as the senior lawyer is supervising the activities.
h. Is she board certified in injury law?
Note: Some states do not offer board certification in injury law but if your state offers it and your attorney has gotten it, that is a very good sign.
i. Does she carry malpractice insurance?
Note: Nearly all successful injury lawyers will have this coverage. If your candidate does not, it is a red flag.
j. How much is your case worth?
Note: Most successful lawyers will be reluctant to estimate the value of your case without looking at your medical bills and records. Some lawyers will give you a high estimate on the value of your case to get you signed up. Do not fall for it. You should probably avoid any lawyer who does this.
k. Why does she believe she should handle your case?
Note: This one is like those questions they ask at the end of beauty pageants. It gives the lawyer a chance to sell herself.
Now that your list of questions is ready, it is time to start searching. Here are some methods to compile your candidate list.
Get a Referral
Your divorce lawyer will know an experienced injury lawyer. Ask him for a referral. If you are treating with a chiropractor who often works on injury cases, your chiropractor will likely be able to make a referral to an injury lawyer with a lot of successful experience. Some of your friends may have had a great experience with their injury lawyer.
Search the Internet
Nearly every lawyer and law firm has a web site. You can begin there by searching for “Wisconsin injury attorney” or “Albuquerque personal injury lawyer” for example.
Complete Your List
Using your internet research and any referrals you have been given, create a list of suitable injury lawyer candidates
After you have completed your list it is time to begin communicating with your candidates. Call or send an email. See how long it takes for them to get back to you.
Narrow Your List
Scratch from your list those lawyers who took more than 24 hours to get back to you.
Talk to Them on the Phone
Using your list of questions as a guide, have a telephone conversation with each candidate lawyer. Get to know them. How do they feel about your case?
Make an Appointment
With the lawyer or lawyers with whom you feel most comfortable make an appointment. Use your intuition about whom to meet with. There is usually no charge for such an appointment. It’s called an “initial consultation.” It lets you get to know the lawyer a little more. Bring your list of questions. It’s time to get more answers.
Make a decision
You may feel comfortable enough at your first appointment to make a decision. Use your intuition once again. You will probably know when you have found the right match.
Like any major decision in life–it’s a combination of research of the facts followed by an intuitive conclusion. Usually you need both to make a great decision and hiring a lawyer is no exception.