The Best Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me – What Factors to Consider
By James Dore, Jr., Esq.
If you or a family member has been severely injured by someone else and a personal injury lawyer is being sought, it will be in your best interest to consider a number of factors before making a decision on which lawyer and law firm to retain. The following are a list of these factors.
What Lawyer Will be Handling Your Case? Who Will Be on Your Team? Who Will You Talk To When You Call the Law Firm?
While a lawyer must ultimately be involved in all cases, many lawyers delegate substantial work to paralegals, while others are much more hands-on. Similarly, lawyers have differing approaches concerning case management, which, in turn, affects who a client will speak to about their matter when they call the law firm.
At the outset when retaining an attorney, we encourage prospective clients to have an honest conversation with the attorney about these matters, particularly as according to the state bar, attorney/client communication is often the leading complaint that clients have with lawyers.
It’s essential for clients to understand how an attorney and law firm will staff a case, and who will likely be communicating with them when they call the firm – the attorney or someone else. A conflict that often arises is when a client believes that they will be working primarily with the attorney, and the attorney employs a different approach (using a paralegal to be a primary contact point with a client).
What is the Lawyer’s Caseload Like? Taking Note of Who is in the Office.
An important factor in securing the best result for your case is how much time your lawyer has to devote to your case.
Some lawyers – including me – are careful to limit the number of cases accepted. This allows the lawyer to be able to invest the time and resources that are necessary in fully advancing a client’s case, and to be available to speak to clients when they have questions about their matter.
When a lawyer accepts a large number of cases, the lawyer’s time on each case will necessarily be much more limited than if the lawyer had fewer cases.
When meeting with an attorney to discuss your case, I suggest taking note of the office atmosphere and who is working there. Does it seem like there are four, five, or even more paralegals and staff for every attorney? Does it seem like the attorney(s) have sufficient time available for each client? Your impressions regarding these matters may well help you determine if a particular lawyer is the right lawyer for your case.
What is the Attorney’s Strategy for Handling a Case?
Ask the attorney how he or she will proceed with your case if hired.
In general, there are two basic strategies.
The first approach involves postponing much of the difficult and tedious work of case development unless a settlement is not reached, and a trial appears imminent. This approach is more focused on working to achieve a quick resolution of a matter, if possible, and seeing how quickly settlement negotiations can be undertaken before significant work is undertaken.
The second approach utilizes the opposite approach, and is focused more on advancing a case through intensive discovery, including witness interviews, depositions, serving interrogatories (questions that the other side must answer under oath), retaining experts, researching case law, and engaging in other case-specific matters. This approach is focused on developing a strong case for a client through evidence before serious settlement negotiations take place.
The view of this second approach is that injury clients will be in a much better position to demand full and fair compensation in settlement negotiations if the defendants know exactly what they are likely to face at trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached. This puts more pressure on defendants to settle, as they know that they may have to pay significantly more if they leave it to a jury to determine the outcome.
In cases involving significant damages, I believe that clients are much better served by this second approach.
Despite our general notions of fairness and accepting responsibility, in cases involving significant injury and costs, defendants, their attorneys, and their insurance companies can be expected to vigorously contest liability and damages – no matter how clear liability may appear to an average person. The defense in these cases will often seek to shift blame to others – including the person injured – and to minimize damages.
In my experience, without investing substantial time and resources prior to settlement negotiations, the defendants (and their insurors – who will often be at risk for paying damages) will simply not pay a fair amount. Conversely, when a strong case for liability and damages has been established prior to settlement negotiations, then serious negotiations can be productive, as defendants will know full well what they will be facing at trial if they do not pay a fair settlement. A result, I know how crucial it is to build a client’s case before settlement negotiations in order to obtain full and fair value.
Does the Attorney Have a Proven Record of Taking Cases to Trial?
Any personal injury lawyer who accepts a case should be ready to try the case. As the majority of personal injury cases today are settled prior to trial, many personal injury lawyers – even those who have been practicing a number of years – have never tried a case. Just as some lawyers have gained a solid reputation as great trial lawyers through trying many cases, other lawyers have gained a reputation for not going to trial (or of having no trial experience).
In considering whether to make a settlement offer (and how much to offer), defendants and their counsel must make an assessment as to what the likely outcome is to be at trial, which, in part, may be based upon their assessment of the abilities and experience of plaintiff’s counsel.
As a veteran trial attorney, I believe that the more times a lawyer has successfully tried cases the more that this experience helps in getting clients better settlements, as defense counsel knows that if a fair settlement cannot be reached, the plaintiff’s attorney will not hesitate to take a case to trial.
Does the Lawyer Have Substantial Experience in the Area of Your Matter?
Personal injury matters can involve many different substantive backgrounds. Car crashes and dog bites, for example, are typically much less complex than medical malpractice cases (which often involve learning, understanding, and proving negligence in very complicated areas, and showing how physicians and other medical professionals failed to meet the required standard of conduct).
If your case involves a complex area like medical malpractice, you very well may be best suited to retain an attorney who is highly experienced in such areas. At Dore Law Group, I have significant experience in medical malpractice cases, as well as those involving head trauma and other significant injuries.
Does Your Attorney Seem Like He or She Will Be Tenacious in Seeking Full Compensation for You?
Seeking full compensation requires tenacity, diligence, and a full commitment to a client. In many situations, the defense will make a settlement offer that is at (or just above) what we in the legal field refer to as “nuisance value”. Often this offer may be made not too long after litigation commences.
At this decision point, it is imperative for a client to have a lawyer who will not only advise a client of what settlement range the lawyer believes to be fair (as well as the risks inherent in rejecting a settlement offer), but also a lawyer who is ready and willing to take on this additional work (as opposed to receiving an immediate fee if the settlement would have been accepted without having to undertake significant additional work).
A lawyer should always work in a client’s best interest – even if the client’s best interest is opposed to the financial interests of the lawyer. A good lawyer will never make a settlement recommendation to a client based upon the lawyer’s financial interest. A personal injury lawyer should always be willing to go the full distance for a client – which means being willing to go to trial, even in situations where a client wants to reject a settlement that the lawyer feels is fair.
If you are hiring a lawyer, it is first and foremost your case. You – and not the lawyer – are the one to make all settlement decisions. It’s important to retain an attorney who is willing to go the distance with you and for you in your case.
Finally – Don’t Choose a Lawyer Because of the Lawyer’s Name Recognition Through Advertising
Being a great lawyer has nothing to do with how much money is spent on billboards, bus and bus benches, and other advertising. In fact, many of the best lawyers do little or no advertising.
I hope that these suggestions prove helpful.
As always, if you or a family member has been injured, or if a family member has died, I would invite you to call our firm to learn how we can help. We offer a free consultation so that we may learn about your case. We advance litigation costs so clients do not have to come out of pocket for costs while their case is proceeding, and there is no fee for our efforts unless and until we are successful in securing compensation for our clients.