We all know the stereotypes. Pop culture has formed a less-than-flattering image of some lawyers that only look out for easy cases to make a quick buck. That reputation hurts the vast majority of the profession, who actually do have their clients’ best interests at heart.
If you are in the unfortunate position of looking for a personal injury lawyer, be prepared to ask him or her questions. The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of who to hire and more importantly, who not to hire.
- How long have you been working as a personal injury lawyer? Just because you have been practicing real estate law for 30 years doesn’t mean you know a lot about personal injury. Experience matters. During my nearly 20 years of legal experience, I’ve witnessed attorneys of all ages who think they can take on a personal injury case. And unfortunately for their clients, I’ve also seen the results.
- What percentage of your law firm’s business is dedicated to representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases? If the answer is anything less than 100%, beware. A personal injury practice is very different from other areas of the law. Would you go see an orthopedic surgeon for a dental procedure? Of course not.
- Has your license ever been suspended or revoked? This is a red flag. If so, what caused it and what was the end result?
- How many court and jury trials have you handled? What are your results? The insurance companies know which personal injury lawyers do not try cases. And you can imagine how that will impact the value they assign to your case. Experience truly matters. If your attorney is either inexperienced or hasn’t tried cases, this will negatively impact your case value.
- Will you personally handle my case? The first red flag is who is meeting with you? If its not the attorney you contacted, ask yourself why? Is your case not important enough to that attorney? Will you only speak with a paralegal or an assistant? This is also a good indication of whether the attorney will take your case seriously.
- How are you rated by your peers? You want your attorney to be great and respected in the legal community. Ask if he or she is AV rated. Do your research. I guarantee if the attorney is highly rated, it will be on his or her website. If it is not, look elsewhere.
- Are you an active member (not just paying dues) to any trial lawyer associations? Specifically, in Kentucky, ask if the attorney is an active member of the Kentucky Justice Association. This is an association of the top trial lawyers in the state. Have they served in leadership in any bar associations? Again being a leader in the legal community commands respect from opposing attorneys and insurance companies, which usually equates to a better result for you.
- What are your legal fees? And are their any additional fees? While most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee contract, not all contracts are the same. For example, many of the TV advertising firms charge well above the customary 33% fee. And on top of that some charge for interest to advance your costs, and some even have an administrative fee on top of the contingency fee. Read the contract carefully. Ask questions.
Christopher W. Goode, is a national recognized trial attorney and founder of Goode Law Office PLC. While his practice is diverse, he is committed to only representing injured individuals from automobile collisions to nursing home neglect and abuse to product liability claims. He is a past president of the Fayette County Bar Association and is a frequent speaker on legal topics. Chris currently serves as a District Vice President for the Kentucky Justice Association. He can be reached at [email protected] or www.goodelawyers.com.