Hiring a personal injury lawyer can be a daunting task. Not only are you forced to cope with the perils associated with your accident and injuries, but you have to hire an individual who you not only trust, but also feel confident in their abilities. For most people who have never had to go through the litigation process, they simply do not know where to start. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take before hiring your attorney that can help you rest assured in the decision making process.
You have to remember that civil lawsuits often take years to settle. For better or worse, you will be connected to your attorney for the better part of this time. Although it is always possible to sub out an existing attorney, it is always better to make the right decision the first time. Below is a list of checkpoints to consider before hiring a personal injury attorney
1. Ask to meet with the attorney face-to-face. In today’s fast pace world, attorneys are often found and signed without even an in person exchange. While this can be successful, you are better off meeting with your attorney in their office in order to get a better idea of who you are hiring.
2. What have they done in the past? Past victories do not always portend to future success, but it certainly can be an indication of how well they have done. It is important to see not only how much the attorney was able to procure in past settlements, but also whether or not he or she has handled a similar case in the past. Some attorneys specialize in only certain types of personal injury, such as medical malpractice or dog bites. Make sure you find one that knows your case well.
3. Communicate. Far and away, the number one complaint client have about their attorneys is the failure to communicate. Within this failure are two types of complaints: (1) failure to respond or return phone calls and (2) failure to update the client on the progress of the case. This can be extremely frustrating for clients, as they are often left in the dark. Before you hire your attorney, call their office. Do you get connected directly to the attorney, or are you simply going back and forth with a secretary. Attorneys are busy, dealing with deadlines, court appearances and other issues, therefore they cannot always respond to your questions right away. However, they should be able to return your call within a short period of time.
4. Look at reviews. Online reviews can be misleading. Often, the reviews are done by someone hired by the attorney to give them positive feedback (this is highly unethical, but undoubtedly done nonetheless). However, sometimes it is possible to decipher between a genuine review and one artificially manufactured. Look to see what people have to say.
5. Read the retainer. Society in general has a bad habit of signing contracts without reading them first. Many attorneys will charge hidden fees, leaving there clients in the cold once the settlement is disbursed. Make sure this does not happen to you.
6. Ask questions. Lastly, ask as many questions to your attorney as necessary to make you feel comfortable. For example, you should ask:
- How much are your fees?
- Why should I hire you?
- What is your background? What are your special credentials?
Who is primarily responsible for handling my case?
- Can I have your cell phone number?
- Will you update me on my case?
Ultimately, there is no sure way to ensure that you will hire the best possible attorney to handle your case. But by doing your due diligence, you can at least minimize the risk.