Okay, I probably need an attorney… But how do I ensure I’m getting a GOOD attorney?
Attorneys who specialize in the field of personal injury law usually represent injured people or defend against personal injury lawsuits. It is unusual to find an attorney who practices in both arenas. If you’ve been injured, you probably want to hire what’s called a plaintiff’s attorney.
If you’re reading this page, chances are pretty good that you’re looking for an attorney to represent you. Rather than tell you about my own capabilities, let me offer you some guidance on how to hire the right attorney to represent your interests. Then, you can fairly determine if I’m the right attorney for you.
Here’s what I’d be looking for in a personal injury attorney:
What can you learn about the attorneys you’re researching? Do they have specific expertise in the area of personal injury? Do they have any information on their website that is helpful to you? Is the information on their website useful, timely, and informative?
Can you find any articles, or other information the lawyers have prepared that provide you with a level of comfort regarding their capabilities?
Does the attorney belong to any personal injury trial lawyers’ associations, such as the American Association for Justice (AAJ)?
If you already have a relationship with attorneys who practices in another field of law, ask them if they would recommend the lawyer you’re researching.
Ask other people if they’ve heard of the attorney — and what they think about them.
Contact the California or Washington State Bar Association or visit their website to find out if the lawyer is in good standing and if there is a history of disciplinary action.
Check out the online archives of your local newspaper. Sometimes, cases handled by the attorney are reported in the news media.
Ask for references and take the time to talk to those references. They are best suited to tell you about the skill and trustworthiness of the attorney you’re considering. Ask if it is okay to speak with some of the attorney’s representative clients.
Ask about conflicts of interest. Does the lawyer represent any opposing parties? Is the office of the attorney local? Will the attorney come to you?
Don’t cross attorneys off your list because they didn’t have the time to meet with you on short notice. A good personal injury attorney is usually busy, and may not be able to spend as much time with you as you’d like. However, you should always expect to be treated courteously and professionally.
What about finances? If you have a good case, you should be able to hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyer will be paid based on a percentage of recovery – either through settlement or a judgment, if the case goes to trial.
Does the attorney cover the costs of pursuing the claim? Many steps are involved in preparing a case: Research and investigative costs; Obtaining copies of evidentiary materials; Hiring expert witnesses; Deposition costs. Will you have to cover those costs, or will the attorney?