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Hiring a personal injury attorney may be the most important decision you will make regarding your motor vehicle accident case. People choose an attorney for many reasons: the attorney is close to their home; they have used the attorney before for a real estate purchase; divorce or some other legal matter; they are friends with the attorney or they have a friend in common.
If you have suffered a serious personal injury, the attorney you hire may make the difference between hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars. Most attorneys want to handle personal injury cases because the right case can be very lucrative. But, without the proper background and experience, the attorney may find they are quickly in over their head. They may either try and bluff their way through or bring in an attorney qualified to handle the matter to assist. The problem here is that if your case gets off to the wrong start, it may be difficult or even impossible to right the ship. Much of the groundwork for a personal injury case is laid in the first few months. So, you should find the best attorney for your particular case right from the get-go.
The good news is that in today’s information age it is easier than ever to do your research and find the right attorney for you. I would first recommend that you assess your own personal needs to see what is important to you. Some people want to find the most aggressive attorney for their case. Others are looking for an attorney with a great bedside manner. While others just want someone they trust.
You should be looking for all these things in a personal injury attorney. I believe that you should seek an attorney that will get you the most compensation, in as little amount of time as possible and with as little stress as possible. But, no matter what your goals are, there is a sure-fire method to find the attorney right for you. It just requires some work. But, believe me, in the end, the effort you put into your search will pay off.
First, ask family members, friends, and acquaintances if they have a recommendation for an attorney that focuses on personal injury. Compile a list. Once you have a list do your own research. The best place to start is with Google.
Search for car accident attorneys in your jurisdiction. This is important. You do not want to hire an attorney from outside the area where you live. So, if your case is in Suffolk County, find an attorney in Suffolk County. If your case is in Westchester County, look for an attorney in Westchester County. Although it’s not impossible for an attorney from outside your area to handle a personal injury case effectively, a local attorney will usually have developed a reputation and relationship with judges, court personnel and local defense attorneys in the area. This may prove beneficial when push comes to shove in settlement negotiations, court proceedings and/or trials.
I will never forget a recent trial I did with an outside attorney in front of a particularly difficult judge. He had excessive court rules including the way his name was written on all submissions. If you failed to put his full middle name on a submission, he rejected the papers. If you failed to address him without standing, he would dress you down in front of the jury. Knowing this, I was able to not only avoid any confrontation with the judge but was treated with great respect. Each slight misstep that my adversary made led to some very hostile exchanges from the judge. The hostility that developed between the two men was picked up by the jury. Although the jury may not have known exactly why it seemed as though the judge was unhappy with my adversary, it worked to my favor. I believe many of the jurors thought the judge was favorable to my case. That wasn’t necessarily true but worked to my advantage in receiving a sizable verdict.
Once you’ve compiled a list of potential attorneys visit their websites and see how they describe their approach to personal injury and their on-site reviews and case results page. While most attorneys cherry-pick on-site reviews, you can often get a feel for what types of attributes they have. For example, are the reviews discussing how friendly the attorney was? Do they discuss his verdicts? Or, do they focus on how quick the case was resolved?
Also, attorneys must comply with strict guidelines regarding posting case results. I doubt any attorney would put up a false result. So, see if the attorney has obtained the types of results that are impressive. Does the attorney have any jury verdicts or is every result a settlement? That may be a clue to the attorney’s aggressiveness.
Also, read the attorney’s profile and see where they were educated. Does the attorney have any awards? Is the attorney active in community service and pro bono work?
Once you’ve read the website thoroughly, go off site to read reviews from prior clients. A good attorney should have many offsite reviews. Those reviews are likely to be the most accurate because they’re not cherry-picked by the attorney. Google reviews are very thorough in screening reviewers and is a good place to start. There are also many sites that review attorney performance that can be enlightening, such as Avvo, Justia, and Lawyers.com. But be careful on these sites because attorneys can pay for sponsored spots that may make their profile look more appealing than a more qualified attorney that does not pay for a sponsored profile.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of attorneys, it’s a good idea to meet a few of the ones you like the most. Nothing is better than actually meeting the attorney face to face. The first thing I would caution is to make sure you are actually meeting the attorney you read about. A lot of firms will shuffle potential clients off on Junior Partners and Associates.
When meeting the attorney, ask them to explain your case and ask for their
take on it, their strategy and feelings about success and their plan for handling it. Remember, attorneys usually work on a contingency basis. So not every attorney will be willing to take every case.
I personally will only get involved in cases where the prospective client has suffered significant injuries. My practice focuses on maintaining a manageable caseload and this way I can provide personal attention to each case. There was a time in my career where I was handling over two hundred cases at a time. I found this to be stressful and felt I was losing the ability to get to personally know each client. I’ve since opted to limit my practice to less than 100 cases at any one time. Now I know each client personally and enjoy representing them!
Finding an attorney is like any other significant purchase you make. In the end, you must rely on your gut a little. But, if you’ve done your due diligence you will likely find the right attorney for your case.