It doesn’t matter if your case is a “tiny” automobile accident fender bender or a massive multi-million dollar birth injury medical malpractice case—you should hire the best lawyer possible. You can take the path of least resistance by randomly selecting one of several dozen identical ads in the phone book, but it is important to remember that marketing is not an indication of quality or legal ability. Here are ten things to ask or look into when hiring a personal injury lawyer.
- Continuing Legal Education: The law school that a lawyer went is often not a good indication of the quality of the lawyer, especially for older lawyers who have been out of school for a long time. A graduate of the University of Baltimore can be equally or even more competent than someone who attended Harvard Law. Additionally, law schools generally do a poor job of preparing lawyers for specific types of law—historically, there are few classes that deal with the ins-and-outs of personal injury law. It is important to find a lawyer who is a craftsman. Unlike medical professionals, there is no requirement for lawyers to take continuing legal education. You’ll find many lawyers skip these classes, and rely only on outdated training. Ask your lawyer how often he or she attends seminars on issues specific to your case. Those are the lawyers who are going to be able to fully and fairly represent you in your case.
- Avoid General Practitioners: Some lawyers claim to be able to do a little bit everything. Their websites might suggest that they handle traffic citations, contract work, personal injury, and wills and estates law. In this day and age of concentration, it is very difficult to stay abreast of the law in so many areas. It is far better to have a lawyer who does one thing, but does it well. At our firm, for example, we only handle personal injury cases. If you need a will written, you should hire a lawyer who only handles estates. Your lawyers’ focus will likely improve your representation.
- Similar Cases: Even within a specific type of law, you should find out if your potential lawyer has ever handled a case similar to yours. Personal injury cases, for example, include automobile accidents, semi-truck accidents, medical malpractice (including birth injuries), workers’ compensation and product liability. These cases all share many similarities, but even within each category there are different types of cases, all with unique issues. When speaking with a lawyer, find out whether he or she has experience with cases similar to yours.
- Referral Mills: Some law firms, particularly those who do a great deal of television advertising, send most of their cases to other law firms in exchange for fat referral fees. Those referring firms don’t actually handle your case, which means that the lawyer you met with in the beginning will likely have nothing to do with your case after the day you sign up. We all know that first impressions are important, but your impression of the “signing” lawyer will have little meaning when a different lawyer from another firm is handling your case. Be careful—find out if your case will be referred out, and whether you’ll have the opportunity to meet your lawyer before the case is transferred.
- The Lawyer Handling Your Case: To the extent possible, you should meet with the lawyer who is handling your case. You should be comfortable with that lawyer, and you should be comfortable with his or her communication policy. Will you have access to the lawyer’s e-mail address and cell phone? Are there limitations on calling or coming into the office? Will most of your communication be with an associate or a paralegal? There are many different ways to set up a law firm, and you should be comfortable with how you are expected to interact with the firm that represents you.
Coming Soon In Part II of Ten Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Personal Injury Lawyer:
- How will you pay your lawyer?
- Has your lawyer been rated?
- Trial lawyers versus settlement lawyers
- Lawyer discipline
- A candid discussion about your case
If you have questions after a personal injury accident in Maryland or West Virginia, contact our attorneys at 1-800-776-4529, or send us some brief information about your case through our online portal. We’ll put our expertise to work for you right away.