You have been injured in an accident and the last thing you need is to choose the wrong lawyer to help guide you through the process of getting compensated. Choosing the right injury lawyer for you and your situation is a major decision, and we sincerely want to help you make the right choice. The following questions are designed to help you gather the information you will need to make an informed decision about hiring a lawyer. We have taken our own experience as injury lawyers and drafted this report as if we were helping a family member through this tough
Who specifically will be the lawyer responsible for handling my case?
This question is critical because all other questions should be directed to the lawyer who has the primary responsibility for your case. Some lawyers who advertise on TV are not the actual lawyer you will meet with or deal with. In fact, some lawyers you see on TV may simply refer your case out to another lawyer immediately. Others may be from a firm out-of-state and do not see clients here in Massachusetts. You may call the number they advertise and be dispatched to another firm with a different name in another state. Absolutely insist on speaking with the lawyer who is going to handle your case. Then, ask that lawyer the questions that follow. If the firm you call can’t accommodate this reasonable request, we strongly suggest you reconsider working with that firm. If something about the lawyer you saw on TV attracted you to call them, then you should be able to meet with or at least speak with them BEFORE you make any decision as to whether to hire them.
Does the lawyer handle other areas of law in addition to Personal Injury cases?
Just like no doctor can be skilled and competent in all areas of medicine, neither can a lawyer be expected to be a jack-of-all-trades legally. With specialization comes competence over time. If the lawyer’s website indicates that he or she handles a variety of types of cases in addition to injury law (i.e. criminal law, bankruptcy, divorce, and family law) then chances are that they have limited experience handling cases like yours. Look for a lawyer who handles personal injury cases exclusively. This tells you a few things about the lawyer. One, is they have been successful enough representing just injured individuals that they do not need to take on any and all types of cases. They can sustain their practice by specializing. Second, it tells you the lawyer is committed to being an expert in one area of law. They can focus their attention on staying on top of the ever-changing body of injury law. Quite simply, they are more likely to spot and address important issues in your case than a general practitioner. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner doctor for complicated surgery, the same rationale applies when choosing a lawyer for a serious injury case.
What is the experience level of the lawyer that will be handling your case?
Often you can learn much about a lawyer’s experience level by reading their biography on their firm’s website – including their education and general work experience. If such basic information is not available we strongly suggest you ask for this information. You will want to know the following information before you make a decision to hire the
(a) How long has the attorney been practicing injury law?
(b) What type of training has the lawyer received? (I.e. did he or she apprentice under a skilled injury lawyer)
(c) Approximately how many injury cases has the attorney handled to completion in their career?
(d) Do they have courtroom experience? Have they ever tried a case? How many?
(e) Have they ever mediated and arbitrated cases?
What is the attorney’s reputation?
Today more than ever, a lawyer’s reputation in the legal community is publicly available. Through the advent of social media, client reviews can be found on sites such as Facebook, Avvo, and Google. See what other clients have to say about their experiences with the lawyer who may be handling your case. Much can be learned from client reviews about how a lawyer treats his/her clients and the type of results he or she has achieved. In addition to client reviews, see if the lawyer has been rated by an independent third-party organization such as:
- Super Lawyers: https://attorneys.superlawyers.com/
- Avvo: https://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer
Finally, assure yourself that the lawyer that will be handling your case has not had any disciplinary problems with the Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) for ethical violations.
You can search the lawyer’s name through the BBO’s website.
- BBO Website: www.massbbo.org
By doing so, you will learn whether the lawyer is licensed to practice in Massachusetts and whether he or she has ever had disciplinary action taken against them.
What type of support staff does the lawyer have to assist him or her?
Great lawyers who get great results can’t do it all by themselves. A competent team is what you want to see in place. Do they have enough staff to efficiently handle their caseload? Look for staff with experience handling injury claims, and whether or not they have any relevant prior training.
For example, have they worked in the insurance industry? Have they worked for other injury lawyers? Also, is the lawyer sufficiently staffed to provide adequate client service? Solo practitioners with little or no staff may have exceptional legal skills, but if they are understaffed, they can easily get overwhelmed with paperwork, phone calls, and court appearances. Thus client responsiveness often suffers. You want to ensure your phone calls and emails get returned promptly and, more importantly, you want to know your case is progressing as quickly as possible towards a successful resolution. Adequate staffing is essential to a positive outcome. Ask your lawyer how many cases his or
her office is currently handling and how many staff members they have. Find out what the average caseload per staff member is.
Does the lawyer have the financial resources available to aggressively and adequately prosecute your case?
Since personal injury lawyers work on a contingency-fee basis – meaning they only get paid out of settlement proceeds if they are successful – they usually do not ask for money from clients upfront. This means that the out-of-pocket expenses necessary to get your case to the finish line will be paid by the lawyer and then reimbursed – if and only if the case results in settlement or verdict in your favor.
If a lawyer does not have adequate financial resources to advance court costs, expert fees, deposition expenses, etc., your case may not get all the attention it needs. Don’t be shy about asking the lawyer how they handle these expenses. Do they finance the case of themselves? Do they have an adequate line of credit with a bank to cover large unexpected costs associated with litigation? You deserve to know your lawyer has the financial strength to put up an aggressive fight against a well-financed insurance company.
What is the average time it takes from the beginning of a case until settlement?
A number of variables impact the amount of time it takes to get a client’s case settled including the skill of the lawyer, and the experience and number of staff assisting with the process. The timing can vary greatly from one law firm to another. You want to know what the average length of time is for the cases the lawyer handles to get to the settlement stage. The key question to ask is, «How long from the time I am done with my medical care can I expect to know whether my case is likely to settle or not?» You really shouldn’t have to wait more than 45-60 days after your medical care is completed to know whether or not settlement is a likely option, or whether going to court is a
necessary next step.
Has the lawyer ever handled cases with identical or very similar facts to yours?
Many accident scenarios are very common. While it may be your first (and hopefully last) accident, an experienced injury lawyer has probably seen and worked on cases with almost identical factual scenarios. Ask what their experience was and how the cases worked out. You wouldn’t want a surgeon performing their first surgery on you and you should feel the same about a lawyer who has never handled a case very similar to yours.
Lastly, and although not actually a question, it is extremely important to gauge how well you connect with the lawyer. Remember, you may have to interact with this lawyer extensively over a period of several months or even a few years. So how you “feel” about the lawyer, and what type of connection you have been able to make during your meeting, is a very important factor to consider when making your decision on whether to hire the lawyer or not. You may interview more than one lawyer that has answered all your questions to your satisfaction – but one just didn’t “feel right”. That’s perfectly ok! Not everyone connects well with everyone else. Your case is much more likely to proceed smoothly if you are dealing with someone who you are able to make a stronger personal connection with. The decision to hire an injury lawyer is a big decision – and one you want to get right from the beginning.
We wish you the best in making the right choice and if we can answer ANY question you may have, please do not hesitate to call us or send us an email.
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