10 Things to Consider When Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Hiring a personal injury attorney is not a decision to take lightly. The need for a personal injury attorney often comes during a very stressful time in one’s life; you have been injured or grieving the sudden death of a loved one. Hiring the right attorney can make the process much less stressful and ensure a larger recovery of your damages. The best personal injury attorney is the one that fits your individual needs and whom you trust. Before you hire anyone, here are some important things to consider.
1. Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer: Ask your family and friends for their recommendations, they may know of a personal injury attorney. If so ask what they thought of the services the attorney provided them. Another excellent source of information is the internet, search online for attorney reviews or to see if the attorney has had any grievances filed against him or her.
Solicitation by an attorney is illegal in Michigan. If you are contacted by an attorney after you have suffered an accident, you should immediately contact the Professional Ethic Committee of the Michigan Bar.
2. The Lawyer’s Experience: Personal injury law is broad in scope. Types of personal injury cases include automobile accidents, bicycle accidents, products liability, worker's compensation, slip-and-fall, maritime injuries, etc. A specific area of law may have unique issues which could potentially effect the outcome of your case. Hiring a personal injury attorney with lack of experience in your specific types of matter could potentially affect your case.
Ways to determine a lawyer’s level of experience is to research their background. Look to see if the lawyer has been published or has spoken on the relevant area of law. Check to see if the attorney is a member of any professional organizations or is designated as an expert in a particular field. For example, experienced maritime attorneys who meet specific requirements are designated “Proctors in Admiralty” by the Maritime Law Association of the United States.
3. References: Potential lawyers will proudly display positive reviews for a job well done. Ask if the lawyer could give you a list of past clients so you can call them as references. When speaking with references ask if they will briefly talk to you about their case and how the attorney helped them. Ask the reference what they liked and did not like about the attorney, the more questions and information gathered the better. At a minimum, look for reviews on social media or professional sites such as Avvo.
4. Statute of Limitations: Statute of limitations limit the amount of time that an injured person can bring a lawsuit. Depending on the type of case you may have little time to file suit to recover for your damages. If the statute of limitations has passed on your case you may be forever barred from seeking recovery for your injuries. It is important that if you are injured you seek the advice of counsel immediately.
5. Contingency Fee Agreement: Depending on the value of the case most personal attorneys provide representation on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no legal fees without a monetary recover in your case either through settlement or trial. Typical contingency fee agreements are negotiable but often range from 25% to 33%. It is important to determine whether the contingency fee will be calculated before or after expenses.
Another consideration is a tiered contingency fee agreement. A tiered contingency fee agreement could be following: 25% if the case is settled before the complaint is filed; 33.3% if the complaint is filed. Talk to the attorney and discuss what contingency fee options are available to you.
6. Cost of Litigation: Depending on the type of personal injury matter, the costs to prove your case could be very high. Types of costs include expert witnesses, filing fees, depositions, and travel expenses. Talk to the attorney about who will be responsible for these costs should you lose the case.
Another consideration is whether the attorney can financially support your case. Products liability and medical malpractice cases can be very expensive depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. You want to ensure that the lawyer you hire is financially prepared to handle these costs.
7. Communication Between You and The Attorney: Lawyers have a duty to maintain communication with their clients. You do not want an attorney who does not return phone calls, does not keep you updated regarding your case, or lets you know major case events last minute. It is important to understand how often you and your attorney will communicate and by what method; email or telephone. Have an understanding as to what is the best way to contact your attorney should you have a question.
8. Who Will Handle Your Case?: Depending on the size or organizational structure of the law firm, the attorney you are initially meeting with may not be the attorney who is handling your case should it go to trial. Many law firms have practice groups which focus on client intakes and pre-suit matters before a complaint is filed. On other occasions you may meet initially with a partner but your case is later assigned to their associate. It is important that you talk to the attorney you are meeting with so that you understand who will be handling your case so you can make a determination that you are comfortable with that attorney. If you are unsure ask to meet with the attorney briefly so you can get a better feeling for them.
9. Meeting the Lawyer: Perhaps the most important part to consider when choosing a potential lawyer to represent you is the initial client meeting. The initial client meeting gives you the opportunity to meet the lawyer, their staff and see their office. Take note of how you are treated by the attorney and their staff, did they ask you whether you needed anything, were you waiting long, is the office organized or a cluttered mess, did the staff talk about cases openly in front of you. These observations will give you an indication of how your case will be treated within the firm.
During the meeting with the lawyer, observe whether the lawyer focuses on you and your case or were giving you their resume and they only focused on signing you on as another client. You want an attorney to focus on you, who you are and how they can best represent you as their client. During the attorney meeting ask any questions that you may have. Listen to the attorney’s answers and if you do not like them do not hire them. Be wary of false promises such as quick settlements or high initial case evaluations.
10. Trust Your Gut: If something feels off, meet with another attorney. The attorney/client relationship needs to be built on trust and understanding. You must be completely comfortable speaking openly to your attorney so they know everything about you and your case, good and bad. If something does not feel right, look somewhere else.
The experienced personal injury lawyers at Biggs & Gunst P.C. will fight to protect your legal rights and pursue all available forms of compensation for the injuries you sustained as quickly as possible. To speak with an attorney about your case, call 734-263-2320 to arrange a free consultation.