A: Because of the blogging we do, we often get calls from out-of-state from people who want to know, “How do I find an injury attorney near me?” So, I thought it would be appropriate to write a blog about the best way to find a qualified personal injury attorney “near me.”
First of all, it’s extremely important to recognize that choosing an attorney wisely can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case, and could make a huge difference in your life. For instance, we recently had a client hire us who was previously represented by another attorney. His previous attorney tried to pressure him to settle for a fraction of the value of his case. In short order, we were able to get our client more than 20 times the amount for which the other attorney wanted him to settle the case. This type of thing happens more often than you might expect.
Here’s what I recommend for anyone looking for an attorney:
- Never hire an attorney without talking with the attorney first. There are a lot of law firms out there who will sign people up as clients before the client even talks to the attorney who is going to represent her. In fact, many people who are represented by the big law firms never talk to their attorney even one time during the entire representation; they deal with paralegals the entire time. There is no way you can evaluate the effectiveness of your attorney if you don’t talk to him! You need to know how well your attorney communicates. Does the attorney show compassion for your situation? Does the attorney appear to know what he or she is talking about?
- Ask hard questions to your potential attorney. How many cases do you handle at a time? In my firm, we like each attorney to handle no more than 75 cases at a time. Any more than that and we start to notice a decline in customer service.
- Ask the attorney how many paralegals he/she has. In our firm, we like to have a one attorney/one paralegal ratio, because we want to make sure the attorneys are handling the cases with paralegal support- not the other way around. There are law firms out there with six paralegals to every attorney. Those law firms are trying to save money by having paralegals do most of the work. Paralegals cost less than lawyers, so it’s cost effective for those law firms and allows them to make more money…at the expense of the client, who doesn’t get the full attention of a qualified attorney.
- Ask the attorney what ratio of his/her cases are litigated as opposed to settled without litigation. Litigation is what happens when your attorney files a lawsuit with the court. A case that settles without a lawsuit is considered pre-suit. Most cases settle pre-suit, but it’s very important for your attorney to have cases in litigation. The insurance companies know if your attorney doesn’t litigate cases. They keep track of who litigates and who doesn’t, and they pay less money to attorneys who don’t litigate. In our firm, we litigate approximately 1/3 of our cases. Over the years, we have learned that this is a good balance for making sure we maximize the value of every case. Many lawyers never litigate cases. Even the ones who litigate often only litigate 10% of their cases. It’s hard to present a credible threat to insurance companies for pre-suit negotiations if they know you are hesitant to take them to court.
- Ask your attorney how many jury trials he or she has had. Many people are surprised to find out that a lot of personal injury attorneys have never tried a case. Some have only tried one or two and lost, and decided to stick to settling every case. You can’t maximize the value of your cases with the insurance companies if they don’t think you’ll take them to trial. In my firm, we make it a point to try cases, and the result is that we get taken seriously by the insurance companies who defend these cases. Some firms have attorneys who work as settlement negotiators and others who work as trial lawyers, and that’s fine, as long as the firm has a system set up for adequately trying cases. Bottom line, never hire a personal injury attorney unless you know that the Law Firm is willing and able to try your case.
- After talking to your attorney and asking the hard questions, do your research online. You can often find reviews which are helpful in giving insight, but more importantly, you can usually go to your local court’s website and look up the cases your potential attorney is currently litigating. That will give you an idea of how much the attorney is willing to fight for his/her clients. It will also give you an idea about the attorney’s sincerity. If the attorney tells you he is litigating a bunch of cases but you don’t see it on the court’s website, that’s a red flag.
I hope this proves helpful for anyone looking for an attorney. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to call me.