Choosing an accident or injury attorney is one of the toughest decisions you may have to make. You want to make sure you, or your loved one, is represented by an experienced and reputable firm who know every nook and cranny of injury law and will not be afraid to go to trial if absolutely necessary. This decision can mean the difference between a very large settlement or no settlement at all.
So, what do you look for? What separates the “real deal” from the “pretenders” in the world of personal injury law? Listed below are the 5 most important things to consider when choosing a personal injury attorney:
#1 Experience practicing PERSONAL INJURY LAW
Years in practice can be very valuable, providing it was in the right type of law. If your attorney spent the last 15 years drawing up wills or looking at contracts for a corporation, he or she likely won’t have the experience or practical knowledge needed to go toe-to-toe with insurance companies and opposing law firms. Look for an accident attorney who practices injury law exclusively, and has been doing so for years. Ask about the experiences, the cases represented, and any big settlements your potential attorney has won for their clients. Make sure this experience covers many years and many cases – all in personal injury, accident, or wrongful death.
#2 Not afraid to go to trial IF NECESSARY
Let’s face it, no one wants to go to trial. Not the insurance company, not the opposing counsel, not you. But, unless you have an attorney with the knowledge, experience, and courage to go to trial if necessary, you are at a major disadvantage. All too often lawyers with minimal or no trial experience will take lesser settlements, cave to ridiculous demands, or drop cases altogether merely to avoid trial. An experienced trial attorney can be what stands between success and failure in your judgement. You won’t necessarily need to go to trial, but your attorney’s trial reputation can make a huge impact on how opposition views you and the outcome of you case.
#3 ACTIVE AND RESPECTED in their field and in their community
Is your prospective personal injury firm active in the community? Are they members of the local and state bar associations? Do they volunteer locally and have the respect of their town, their peers, and their families? What professional associations are they active members of? Believe it or not, these things can tell you a lot about the integrity and value of a prospective attorney or law firm.
#4 HAS A HISTORY of favorable settlements and judgements
We’ve already stated the value of experience when selecting an attorney for your injury or wrongful death case, and this experience should be tangible. It should be evident by a history of favorable settlements and judgements that the attorney or law firm has been able to produce for their clients. Big or small does not always tell the whole story, ask about times the attorney has had to overcome unusual obstacles or challenges and yet come out on top. This will give you an idea of how they tackle problems, face obstacles, and still win.
#5 Is NOT A “JERK”
There is a misconception that to be a good lawyer you can’t be a nice person; that’s not necessarily the truth. While you do want to choose an attorney who is not afraid to “mix it up” if it comes to that, more often than not, you need someone who is diplomatic, smart, and is able to get all sides to work together. You will want to make sure your lawyer will listen to you when it comes to explaining your case and situation. You also want to make sure your law firm will be willing to take the time to explain your options, and the situations arising in your case, clearly and patiently. Being tough is good – being a jerk is unacceptable.
Clearly, this is not a complete list. But, by using the criteria listed above to select your personal injury or accident attorney, you will be miles ahead of the the victim who merely selects their attorney from a billboard, TV commercial, or bus ad. Take your time and ask questions. You’ll be glad you did.