How To Choose A Personal Injury Lawyer
Choosing a competent, ethical and effective personal injury attorney can literally determine whether or not you are compensated for your injury. One of the factors that insurance companies look at when evaluating an injured person’s claim is who their lawyer is. If you are represented by a lawyer the insurance company doesn’t take seriously, then the insurance company will likely seek to resolve your claim for less money.
So how do you choose? The Yellow Pages are filled with lawyer ads, all of which basically say the same thing. Many lawyers advertise as handling “serious personal injury” but, if they get such a case, actually refer it to someone else.
The internet is also full of information about attorneys, but this information may seem overwhelming, and again, the lawyer with the splashiest website may not be the best lawyer to handle your personal injury claim. Here are a few tips:
- Get a referral from an attorney you know. He or she will probably know someone who specializes in your area of need. Most of our referrals come from other attorneys or legal professionals.
- Ask about the firm’s background and philosophy. Some lawyers, in my opinion, are in it for the wrong reason- they are driven by money and see clients only in this way. Ask the lawyer you are considering hiring why they handle personal injury claims. If they don’t have a good answer, ask yourself whether this is the type of lawyer you want to handle your injury claim.
- Ask who will handle your claim. Many firms rely heavily on non-lawyer paralegals or inexperienced associate attorneys to handle the bulk of the work. We do things just the opposite. I personally handle all of the legal work that goes into prosecuting my clients’ claims. I believe that when you become my client, you become my client and get personal attention throughout your claim.
- Ask the lawyer about his credentials. Don’t be ashamed to ask about the lawyer’s credentials, including experience in actually trying cases like yours. Ask the lawyer if they have published articles like this book, “Your Rights,” or written anything that has been accepted for publication in legal journals. Ask if the lawyer has spoken at legal seminars. These are signs of respect that the legal community has for the lawyer’s skill and knowledge.
- Find out about the lawyer’s ethics. There is a reason lawyers have a bad name- many of them deserve it. Lawyers know which other lawyers are ethical and which are not. Consumers, unfortunately, may not. Some lawyers commit ethical violations yet continue to practice law. Contact the State Bar (406.442.7660 or www.montanabar.org) to find out whether the lawyer you are considering hiring has ever been subject to ethical discipline.
Copyright © 2011 by John Heenan
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Educational materials only. This publication is meant to give general information and not specific legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created through these materials.