How To Choose A Lawyer To Help With Your Personal Injury Case?
The first contact an individual likely has following an accident is a police officer or medical professional. Without question, the next person to contact should be an attorney. In law school lawyers learn that many trials are won by selecting the right jury. The same is true for clients: your case can be won or lost by selecting the right attorney. Below are a few considerations and concerns every person with a personal injury claim should know when selecting counsel.
Specialty And Experience With Personal Injury
It may come as a surprise, but all attorneys complete nearly identical educational requirements regardless of their practice. Thus, it takes time for an attorney to become familiar with an area of law and how that type of lawsuit works in a specific state. Personal injury is no exception. Experience with personal injuries cases ensures that the lawyer knows what to do, when to do it, and how to correctly value a claim. Being unfamiliar or uncomfortable with any of these can result in disaster. So how can a potential client be sure an attorney has such experience?
The advent of technology has made gathering information about a lawyer easier than ever before. Consulting an attorney’s website is a great place to begin. The website should describe the attorney or firm, what areas of practices they regular work in, and provide helpful additional information. Looking at the nature of the practice is very insightful. A law firm offers multiple attorneys and support staff to litigate your claim, likely minimizing the risk of missing a deadline or being unfamiliar with an area of the law. This is even stronger in a firm where the attorneys work closely together, rather than in units or sections that large firms often employ. Also, information that describes the firm’s areas of practice are useful tools. Read through some of this material, and decide if the firm appears to know its craft.
A website alone shouldn’t be the basis for selecting counsel, however. Arranging a meeting or telephone conference should also be done. This allows for the individual to talk directly with a representative of the firm. Kansas Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 requires that an attorney have “competence” in the area of law representing a client covers. A potential client should not be embarrassed to ask if a lawyer has such competence through experience or by some other means. Asking about strengths and weaknesses of the individual’s claim is also a good way to assess a lawyer’s knowledge of the area of law.
Perhaps one of the most important skills for a personal injury lawyer is that of trial experience. Trials require an incredible amount of preparation and ability to act quickly. Much of this know-how can only be acquired through actual trial practice. Thus, the experience an attorney has trying cases should be a factor to consider in selecting counsel. Trial results are an obvious way to measure this strength, but settlements an attorney or firm has obtained should also be considered. The ability to successfully try cases will generally result in opposing counsel being more willing to settle claims, meaning larger settlements as well as verdicts. Thus, this single skill can be a great advantage in achieving a settlement, as well as prevailing at trial.
Communication is another key skill for a personal injury attorney. An attorney should be available to his or her clients, and able to communicate clearly to them. You can gain a strong indication of an attorney’s communication skills by simple interactions. First, checking the firm’s website can give you a strong indication of the ability of the attorneys to communicate. If the information on the website is difficult to follow, read, or understand, the communication skills of the attorney are suspect. Also consider the meeting or conference call with the attorney. Were they able to answer all your questions and make you feel comfortable and confident in the answers given? These same communications skills are what allow attorneys to persuade a judge to make rulings in his or her favor and to convince a jury to trust the witnesses and evidence presented at trial. One final consideration should be the lines of communication. If the attorney gives you a business card, does it have an email address and phone number? Multiple lines of communication indicate that the attorney will be available when needed, rather than absentee when a client has a pressing question or concern.
A final consideration when selecting an attorney is likely the most obvious: costs. Some attorneys operate by billing per hour. However, confident trial attorneys tend to use contingency fee agreements. These agreements allow a client to pay the attorney from the recovery the client gets. Thus, the bigger the recovery the more the client and the attorney make. Contingency fees vary based on the complexity of cases, but any fee that yields 45% or more to an attorney is generally considered high. A contingency fee agreement should be a straight-forward, easily-understood contract. Fees (which result from various costs, such a filing a case with the court or hiring an expert) should be taken out of the recovery. A contingency fee is the ultimate statement of confidence by a lawyer in his or her skills, because without a recovery the attorney’s time will be uncompensated. Clients rightfully prefer this arraignment over hourly fees in personal injury litigation. It shows confidence on the part of the attorney and is the easiest means of paying for legal services.
For more information on the next step of the Personal Injury Trial Process, please see the below link.
Get your questions answered - call me for your free, 20-minute phone consultation (913) 451-9500.