After an accident or an injury, the last thing that you want to do is put your chance at financial retribution in the hands of an attorney that just wants a paycheck and a settlement. Here are some simple tips on how to weed out the sleazy accident attorneys from the trustworthy accident attorneys.
1. Identify Your Needs
The type of case you have changes the type of attorney you need. In general, a straightforward car accident with modest injuries can be handled by most personal injury attorneys. On the other hand, complex, serious injury or death cases deserve the attention of highly experienced attorneys with strong track records.
You may not think that you need an experienced trial attorney if your goal is to settle a case. However; insurance companies often take into account what your attorney’s reputation is for going to trial when they decide how much to offer as a settlement. Attorneys who do not try cases very often or at all will likely secure less for their clients than attorneys who will go to trial for you. Ask any attorney that you have a consult with about their trial record and take that into account.
2. Ask Around
Ask friends, family and leaders in your community if they know of any trustworthy accident attorneys. Word of mouth is the best advertisement and people who care about you will be honest. If you already have an attorney for other matters; then they are the best person to ask for a referral.
3. Research Several Attorneys
First consultations are usually free, so take the time to interview more than one lawyer. Unfortunately, attorneys will seldom take a first consultation over the phone, so depending on the extent of your injuries; you may have to have a family member or friend go to the consultation for you and take notes. Send them with a small list of questions and a signed release for the attorney to speak with them combined with a copy of your driver’s license. Any trustworthy accident attorney will not speak to someone about your case without a release.
If you have a good case; it is not unheard of for an attorney to even come to the hospital or your home to meet with you after the first consultation. Once again, any trustworthy personal injury attorney will understand if you have difficulty transporting your injured self to their office to meet.
4. Don’t Be Sidetracked by Billboards, TV Ads and Flashy Websites.
I am sure that many personal injury lawyers with these flashy ads are trustworthy; however, all of that glitter and shine can often be used to cover up a sketchy business model in which an attorney’s secretaries are doing most of the work and pumping out settlements. Remember; just because they have money for all of this advertisement doesn’t necessarily mean that they made it or that they made it in an honest way.
5. Trust Your Instincts
Generally speaking; if you don’t rush into anything, you will get a feeling of whether or not this is a trustworthy accident attorney.
When you speak with the attorney do they listen closely or interrupt you and cut you off? When you ask questions do they answer them or beat around the bush? If you have a technical question are they able to confidently give you an answer or tell you what it will take to get a good answer? Do they make eye contact? It really is important for you to feel comfortable with this person.
6. Ask who will actually be working on your case
Especially in the case of larger firms, you may think that you are hiring a particular attorney but as time goes by you may find that they are not actually doing the work on your case. Often times interns, paralegals, associates, junior partners or even another partner at the firm will be working your case. Any time there is a change in the lead attorney, however, you should be getting a letter telling you as much.
It is better to ask this at the onset. Who will work on your case? What role will each person have? Some firms are set up to settle large numbers of cases. Instead of getting personal attention, your case will be treated as if on a production line. Some firms have new associates or law student interns doing much of the work. Finding out how the firm will staff your case will prevent misunderstandings in the future. Or lead you to your next attorney interview.
7. Beware of Overblown Promises
The attorney is not the insurance company or the judge. That means you should beware if when meeting them for the first time they tell you how much your claim is worth and promise to get it for you. Lawyers are held to high professional standards. Make no mistake about it, overly eager attorneys have been known to use puffery to sign clients.
8. When in Doubt Google it
You should be able to get a pretty good feel for an attorney’s reputation over the internet these days. A word of caution; there will almost always be one or two dissatisfied clients and it is likely not even the accident attorney’s fault. However; if you see a host of bad reviews; unless this is someone that everyone you know has given a good review, run away and never look back. It just is not worth the time and generally in a personal injury case; time is of the essence on filing a claim or starting an action.