Let’s be honest, no one wants to hire a lawyer. If you need a lawyer, you’re probably going through a tough time and trying to find the right lawyer just adds to the stress. There are a lot of lawyers out there to choose from. Not every attorney is right for every client, and not every client is right for every attorney.
Here are some tips on things to ask and what to look for when hiring the best lawyer for you. Since we handle personal injury cases, like car and truck crashes, slip and falls, and medical malpractice, we’ll keep these tips specific to hiring a lawyer after you’ve been injured by someone else.
Look for the right type of attorney
Not all attorneys handle injury cases. There are criminal defense attorneys, wills and trust attorneys, divorce attorneys, business attorneys (if you can think of it, there’s probably an attorney who handles it). If you’ve been injured, look for a personal injury attorney.
Just like you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor for heart surgery, you don’t want just any attorney to handle your injury case. Ask if the attorney handles personal injury lawsuits and how much of their practice is personal injury cases. Depending on the type of injury you have, you may want an attorney who has handled cases with that type of injury. This is especially true in brain injury cases, as those can be very complex. Look for a brain injury attorney who has done trials involving brain injuries.
Verdicts and settlements
Look at the attorney’s website to see if they have verdicts and settlements listed. Or ask if they have a list of their verdicts and settlements. If you have what you believe are significant injuries, look if the attorney has verdicts or settlements that might show they can handle large cases. Contrary to what you might see on TV, it’s pretty hard to get settlements or verdicts over $1 million, so see if the attorney has a history of verdicts or settlement larger than that.
Ask when was the last time the attorney went to trial
Insurance companies keep track of which attorneys go to trial, how often they go to trial, and the results they get. Attorneys who are willing to go to trial, and who go to trial frequently, see an increase in the settlement values they obtain for their clients.
Ask how many trials the attorney has been the lead trial lawyer or even how many trials they’ve done in the past 12 months. Ask if the attorney does his or her own trials or if they bring in another law firm to handle the trial for them.
Ask about car repairs
One of the first concerns people in car crashes have when going to an attorney is to get their car repaired quickly. Make sure the attorney can guide you through this process. When a car is repaired, many times it may not seem to be the same as before the crash and something just seems off. Sometimes, insurance companies and repair shops miss things or don’t fully inspect vehicles to determine the full extent of the damage. Make sure the attorney knows how to address this.
Ask about diminished value claims
Another issue that comes up when a car is damaged is that it may no longer be worth the same as it would have been had it not been damaged. For example, if you were selling two identical Ford Mustangs, but one had been in a car accident and repaired, you could not sell the repaired Mustang for as much money as you could sell the Mustang that was not damaged.
You can make a claim with the other person’s insurance company for the decrease in the value of your car. The difference in value is called the diminished value of the vehicle. Ask if the attorney knows how to handle diminished value claims.
Ask about their case load
Ask how many cases each attorney in the firm handles. Too many cases means the attorney will not be able to give each case as much attention as it may need. The most frequent complaint against lawyers is that they don’t communicate enough with clients. Too many cases is likely the cause of this. Look for an attorney who is willing to limit the number of clients he or she handles so that they may provide more attention to each client.
Consultations and costs
Ask if the attorney offers a free consultation with an attorney. In the personal injury world, it is extremely rare that an attorney would charge for a consultation. Ask if you get to meet with an attorney during the consultation or before you retain the firm.
Ask if you will ever have to pay any money to the firm if they don’t get a settlement for you. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee, where they get paid a percentage from any settlement they obtain for you. If they don’t get a settlement for you, they don’t get paid their fees or their case costs. Also ask if there are any other costs that the attorney will try to charge you even if they don’t get a settlement for you.
Contact with the Attorney & Staff
Is the attorney accessible? Will you be able to text, email, call, or video chat with your attorney or their team if you have questions? Will the attorney or staff communicate routinely with you about your case?
Often times, clients sign up and the attorney disappears and only reappears when it is time to settle the case. Make sure you feel comfortable about the attorney and staff you are hiring. If you need monthly communication, hire a law firm that is open and accessible and uses technology that allows for easy communication, like text messaging.
Many people who are injured are unsure of how or where to get medical treatment and, importantly, how they will pay for the treatment. An attorney should be able to walk you through the process and your options.
The attorney should also follow your treatment as it progresses rather than wait until you’re done treating. In an injury case, your treatment is important when it comes time to settle the case or if a lawsuit has to be filed.
You want a law firm that understands your injuries and treatment, will follow your medical treatment, can answer questions during your medical treatment, and recognize if an issue arises during your treatment and its effect on your case.
Talk About Goals
Don’t be afraid to talk about your goals for the case. This is hopefully the only time you’ll need an attorney. It can be scary and confusing. Think about what an ideal outcome would look like for you. To help with that, find an attorney you’re comfortable with and who will answer your questions in a way so you understand the legal process.
Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. It is ok if you don’t know how the process works (you’re not a lawyer and may have never gone through this before). Take your time* and find an attorney who you feel comfortable communicating with and who will make your goals a priority.
*But not too much time, as there are time limitations in which you have to file a lawsuit. In Nevada, most personal injury claims have to be filed no later than 2 years after the incident. Some cases, like medical malpractice, have a shorter time period of 1 year.
We are not simply a personal injury firm. We are trial lawyers who take on catastrophic injury, brain injury, and wrongful death cases. These cases are different than most personal injury cases and the needs of these cases cannot be met by law firms that take on just any case.
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