Hiring a lawyer is stressful—some of this is because of the inconveniences associated with doing anything unpleasant, and some of it is because the reason for needing a lawyer (an on-the-job injury, an auto accident, etc….) creates a significant amount of disruption and problems.
In Part I, we discussed five factors to consider when hiring a lawyer:
- Continuing Legal Education
- Avoid General Practitioners
- Similar Cases
- Referral Mills
- Meeting the Lawyer Handling Your Case
Now, we’ll give you the rest of the list. Here are five more considerations:
- How Will You Pay? The majority of personal injury lawyers handle cases using something called the contingency fee. Basically, the client will not pay the lawyer if the case is lost, and will not pay the lawyer any money up front. Instead, the client pays the lawyer a percentage of the final settlement or verdict. The exact percentage often depends on when the case resolves—for example, the lawyer will often charge a lower fee if the case settles before a lawsuit is filed. Importantly, no personal injury lawyer should ever charge you a “consultation fee.” If you have to pay to meet with a lawyer, you are probably meeting with the wrong lawyer.
- Has Your Lawyer Been Rated? There are a number of rating systems out there. They all need to be taken with a grain of salt—some are better than others, and some are simply lawyer popularity contests. That said, there are a few very worthwhile services, among them Martindale-Hubbel.
- Trial Lawyers versus Settlement Lawyers: Insurance companies keep careful track of lawyers. They know which lawyers will demand full settlement value for cases, and which lawyers will cave and accept low settlement offers. Some lawyers are inexperienced, afraid of trials, or simply lazy. If you want maximum value for your case, you are better off hiring a lawyer who regularly goes to trial. Those trial lawyers have the respect of the insurance companies. Not only are they willing to go to trial for their clients, but they receive higher settlement offers than other lawyers. When you meet with your lawyer, ask him or her how many trials the firm has had in the past year.
- Lawyer Discipline: The legal profession is self-regulating, which means that there is an internal system to keep an eye on lawyer behavior, competence and ethics. It can be cumbersome to check, but in Maryland lawyer discipline can be searched through the Attorney Grievance Commission, and in West Virginia it can be checked through the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The fact that a lawyer has made a mistake in the past is not necessarily proof that they won’t do a good job (in fact, the hope is that the lawyer learned a lesson and will do a better job). The real red flags include stealing from clients and other acts of dishonesty.
- A Candid Discussion About Your Case: Especially at the beginning of your case, but also at regular intervals, your lawyer should talk with you honestly about your case. You should know about the pros and cons of your case. Your lawyer should be honest with you about his or her opinion of the value of your case. Your lawyer should be willing to help you with any problems you have, whether taking care of property damage and medical treatment in a car accident, or getting lost wages paid quickly in a workers’ compensation case. If your lawyer isn’t willing to talk to you in-depth, it’s a red flag that he or she does not know the facts of your case.
Our personal injury lawyers can answer any questions you have about auto accidents, workers’ compensation cases and other personal injury cases in Maryland and West Virginia. Call us at 1-800-776-4529, or send us some brief information about your case to us through our online portal.