Things You Need To Know Before
You Choose An Attorney
While reading or listening to attorney advertisements, it is important to ask critical questions to insure you are choosing the right attorney for you and your case. After all, these flashy television commercials and large colorful Yellow Pages ads are filled with attorneys claiming expertise in personal injury cases. Remember, claiming proficiency is not the same as actually possessing it. By knowing the right questions to ask and the right places to look for information you can better select the right attorney for your case.
Since 1950 Byrd, Byrd, McMahon & Denton has successfully represented individual citizens against large corporations and insurance companies. Because attorneys are allowed to advertise, we have seen an increase in the number of law firms from other areas sending out solicitations. We have always put our clients first and know it is important to be as informed as possible when seeking legal assistance.
To help you select the right attorney for you, we have put together a list of questions you should ask while deciding to hire a personal injury attorney.
Please take a moment and review these questions and points that are very pertinent to insuring you select the right attorney for your case. Never hesitate to call us anytime we can help with these or other questions you may have. Remember, at Byrd, Byrd, McMahon & Denton, you will speak directly with a licensed attorney who is a partner in our firm. Our consultations are free.
Does the attorney who will be handling my case have sufficient experience and competence in the trial of injury cases?
Personal injury and insurance law is complicated and ever changing. Attorneys who lack experience in the trial of these cases can be at a disadvantage in dealing with insurance companies and their defense counsel. Be sure to ask attorneys you are considering to answer the following questions:
- What is the name of the licensed attorney who will be primarily handling my case, and how long have they been licensed?
- How many injury cases have they actually tried in a courtroom?
- Will that attorney provide a local reference, or is anyone else in your community (including local courtroom personnel) familiar with their work? If so, what is their impression of the attorney’s abilities?
- Has the attorney lectured or taught other attorneys in the area of personal injury or insurance law or had articles published in continuing legal education materials or law journals?
- What is the attorney’s rating with Martindale-Hubbell or other peer review organizations?
You can find out a lot of valuable information about attorneys from the on-line, free Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. Go to www.Martindale.com. You can find ratings of an attorney’s legal ability and professional ethics made from the confidential opinions of the people who frequently work with them, particularly other attorneys and judges.
Will the attorney who will be handling my case be available to meet and confer with me or will my case be delegated to non-attorney staff members?
In some law firms a lot of the contact with clients in injury claims is delegated to staff that are not lawyers. Sometimes this is done to maximize the volume of cases they can handle with the fewest number of licensed attorneys. This means you could have little or no contact with a licensed attorney during representation. It is important to ask the attorney about the firm’s policies on solicitation of cases and delegation of work to non-lawyers so you can decide whether you feel comfortable with the amount of personal attention the attorney will devote to your case.
Also, some firms solicit injury cases over a large geographic area. This means that the attorneys may live and regularly work at an office in a community many miles away from yours. In order for you to decide whether the attorney will be reasonably available to confer with you, it is important to ask where the attorney lives and keeps regular office hours. During your attorney interviews, ask the following questions:
- Will the attorney (rather than a paralegal) agree to meet with you face-to-face and answer your questions before you hire them?
- Does that attorney regularly work at an office convenient to your community?
- Where does the firm solicit injury cases?
What is the fee for settling a case before a lawsuit is filed?
Most attorneys who handle injury cases charge a contingent fee - which is a percentage of the amount recovered. However, there can be a difference in the percentage charged. Some firms charge a contingent fee of one-third of the gross recovery even if the case is settled before a lawsuit is filed.
On the other hand, many attorneys have customarily appeared in personal injury cases using a two-tiered payment structure. If the case can be settled before a lawsuit has to be filed, you pay only one-fourth of the gross recovery. If a lawsuit is filed, the fee typically increases to one-third. Under this fee structure, the amount you pay would be less if the case is settled before a lawsuit is filed.
Neither of the above contingent fee structures are necessarily unreasonable so it is up to you to decide whether the attorney who charges the higher fee is the right one for your case. Before deciding you should ask:
- Will the attorney explain specifically how the contingent fee is calculated?
- How does the contingent fee compare with that customarily charged by other attorneys in your area?
Do I feel I can trust this attorney to act in my best interest after meeting with the attorney and researching their reputation from other people and sources?
The attorney-client relationship requires the utmost trust. On both sides. Most of the decisions all of us make about any person’s character and integrity are based upon:
A) What we learn from others who have had contact with them, and;
B) What we learn from our own personal contact with them.
The decision to hire an attorney should be made on the same basis as you use to evaluate a person’s trustworthiness in everyday life.
- Are there other people in your community who are familiar with and can vouch for the trustworthiness of the attorney or law firm?
- What are your own impressions from your personal contact with the attorney?
You should hire an attorney only after a face-to-face meeting during which you satisfy yourself that the attorney answered your questions candidly and honestly, that you felt comfortable with the relationship personally, that you were satisfied that the attorney had sufficient experience and competence for you and your particular case, and that they would be sufficiently available to you.