Specialization in Personal Injury
First, you want an personal injury lawyer in the right area of practice. Look for an lawyer that practices only in the area that you need help. In the medical world, if you have a brain injury, you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor, you’d go to a brain doctor. The legal world is the same. If you have a real estate dispute, do not hire a divorce attorney, get a real estate attorney. If you have an injury case, hire a personal injury attorney. The law is very specialized. It is too difficult for an attorney to keep up with multiple areas of practice. Be careful who you hire, especially when it comes to personal injury.
Many attorneys market themselves as personal injury lawyers when they have very little experience handling personal injury claims. I have helped friends and family with custody battles, real estate disputes, employment disputes, criminal charges, and immigration issues. I would not, however, hold myself out as practicing attorney for any of these fields.
A Lot of Experience Handling Personal Injury Cases
Second, for personal injury claims especially, make sure the personal injury lawyer has substantial experience handling personal injury claims. I’d say a lawyer who has handled at least 400 personal injury claims is experienced enough to handle your claim. In other words, if the attorney has been lead counsel on at least 400 injury claims that he handled from start to finish, that attorney has sufficient experience to take your case.
Make sure that the attorney also has experience litigating several cases. Litigation is what happens after a lawsuit is started. It includes sending written questions and requests for documents, taking depositions, preparing witnesses for statements and depositions, preparing expert witnesses, ongoing investigation, drafting of motions and memoranda, and trial work. I’d recommend hiring an attorney that has litigated at least 100 cases and has taken at least 10 of those cases to trial or arbitration.
Not only do you want an experienced attorney, but you want your attorney to have handled a similar case as the one that you have. With some types of personal injury cases, such as defective product liability, construction defect, or brain injury, the issues are complex and come with a steep learning curve. It may take some time for an attorney to catch up on the issues if he has no experience in these areas. This can put you at a disadvantage, especially if the insurance adjuster or defense attorney has handled several similar cases and has a big head start. Ask the attorney whether he or she has handled a similar case and to give you examples of the results of those cases.
Excellent Client Service/Regular Attorney Contact
Third, you’ll want a personal injury lawyer that gives excellent customer service. You will get frustrated very quickly with an attorney that does not return your phone calls, reply to emails, and never knows what is going on with your case when you finally do get a hold of him or her. Unfortunately, poor customer service is all too common among personal injury attorneys. If you’ve contacted an attorney, and he or she has failed to get back to you quickly from the outset, think twice about hiring this attorney. This is a sign of things to come.
I have found that attorneys who give out their cell phone number to clients provide better communication to their clients. If your attorney refuses to give you his cell phone number, I’d move on to the next attorney. Many attorneys will have assistants or paralegals help with client communication, which is understandable. However, if you only hear from the assistant or paralegal throughout the life of your claim, the attorney may very well be neglecting your case. I have found that the more familiar I become with a case, the more often I like to hear from and converse with the client about her medical condition, expectations, concerns, and any questions she may have. If you do not have a direct number to your attorney, then you are more likely going to be talking with his assistant when you call in.
Beware of A Personal Injury Lawyer With Too Many Cases
Also, a personal injury attorney with too many cases will not be able to provide you with the service you need. Ask your attorney how many cases he or she is handling. If the answer is more than 45, I’d be very careful about hiring that attorney. There’s only so much time an attorney can devote to each case. If the attorney has 100 or more cases, support staff is doing most of the work. Stay far away from attorneys that have multiple legal assistants, paralegals, and secretaries. This is a sign that the attorney has a lot of cases.
Reviews are a helpful way to see whether the attorney provides excellent customer service. Obviously, if several clients have rated the attorney poorly, then you will probably have a less than positive experience as well. Read the poor reviews to understand why the client is unhappy. Avvo.com is useful website that reviews attorneys all throughout the country. Search for the attorney on this website and read his or her reviews. You can also find reviews on Google, Yelp, Glassdoor, and many other websites.
Honest, Respectful, and Professional
Fourth, look for an ethical personal injury lawyer. Attorneys are held to high standards when it comes to moral and ethical behavior. The Utah State Bar may reprimand, suspend, or revoke an attorney’s license. Check with the State Bar or Avvo.com to see whether the attorney has any disciplinary action for past conduct. You will need to develop trust in your attorney and be confident that you can rely on his counsel. An unethical attorney with a blemished record will not look out for your best interests and may even take advantage of you.
Don’t assume that an attorney or law firm with the best or most advertisements is the most qualified to handle your claim. These firms usually need to settle cases quickly to pay for all of their business expenses, especially advertising. A quick settlement does not mean you’re getting the best result. In fact, a quick settlement can mean that your attorney is leaving money on the table.
Also, feel free to shop around. You don’t have to hire the first personal injury lawyer that picks up the phone. Meet with the attorney in person before deciding whether to hire the law firm. You will learn a lot about how your case will be handled by sitting down with the attorney for 30 minutes asking him or her questions. A face-to-face meeting will also give you a feel for how knowledgeable and experienced the attorney is in personal injury law.