Hiring the right lawyer to handle your personal injury claim is an important decision that requires thorough consideration. How should you go about choosing a personal injury lawyer? What questions should you ask of a potential lawyer so that you can make an informed decision?
Paying to have their names plastered across billboards, on television, or on the back of buses can make certain personal injury lawyers well known but these ads do not provide any useful information about the lawyers themselves. At Mann Lawyers LLP we count on word-of-mouth recommendations and references from past and existing clients which are far more meaningful than anything we could put in an advertisement.
Asking friends, family members or other professionals who have hired a personal injury lawyer or have an established relationship with a lawyer can give you some insight into their capabilities but be mindful of the fact that getting a reference for a good lawyer is not the same thing as getting a reference for a good personal injury lawyer. Personal injury is a specialized area of law. When choosing a personal injury lawyer, look for someone who has experience and expertise in this area, and a proven track record.
The only way for you to decide if a particular law firm or lawyer is right for you is to get to know them yourself. Once you identify a potential lawyer or law firm, you still need to be sure that you will be comfortable working with them. You need to ensure that they have your best interests at heart as your case winds its way through the civil legal process. To assist you in selecting a personal injury lawyer who will best serve your interests, I suggest that you ask the following questions:
What is your experience in handling this type of case?
All lawyers start their professional careers without any practical experience handling personal injury cases. Personal injury is not part of the law school curriculum. So we all learn on the job. The more personal injury cases we handle, the more experience and expertise we develop. Ask any potential personal injury lawyer how long they have been practicing in this area of the law and what experience they have in cases similar to yours, i.e., traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, chronic pain syndrome, etc. Junior lawyers working under the direct supervision of an experienced personal injury lawyer can provide excellent service in appropriate cases.
Who will be responsible for my case?
Make sure that you meet with the lawyer(s) who will be working on your case. It is important that you are comfortable with these individuals. You will want to ensure that they are familiar with the kind of personal injury case you have. You should always meet a lawyer before you decide if you will entrust your case to them. It is important that you will be able to work well together.
Do I have a case? And, if so, what will I get?
It is not possible to state the value of a case in the early investigative phase. It is, however, possible to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of a case. This type of honest discussion is necessary so that you have realistic expectations about the potential value of your claim. The lawyer should be able to give you some understanding of the types of damages you can expect to recover and how they may be evaluated or assessed. If you are told that your case is worth a lot of money during an early meeting, before all of the facts and circumstances are known, then that lawyer is trying to impress you in order to get the file. This is not someone who is truly interested in advancing your best interests.
If my case does not settle, will you take it to trial? What will I be charged for the trial?
Most personal injury clients enter into a contingency fee retainer which means that they will only be paid at the end of the case, when they will receive an agreed upon percentage of the damages the client recovers. You need to know if this percentage will change if your case does not settle and requires a trial. As a trial requires significantly more work, it is reasonable for the percentage to increase if a trial is necessary. This should be clearly set out in your written contingency fee retainer.
Do the lawyer’s “Awards” stand up to review?
Some lawyers publish “awards” or “honours” they have received. Some of these so called “signs of recognition” are offered for sale to any lawyer willing to pay a fee, either to be “nominated” or to “receive” the award. Many of them come with an impressive certificate or “seal of approval” that can be prominently displayed on social media and websites. These awards are of no value and are misleading. If a lawyer claims to have won awards or other forms of recognition, ask who they are from. Do some research into the organization that bestowed the honour. Only those that are the result of a legitimate vetting process and not a popularity contest or paid application are of any value.
How is your chemistry with the lawyer?
In selecting a personal injury lawyer it is a good idea to meet more than one before making a final decision. Make a list of the lawyers that you are considering and interview them. The questions set out above will assist you in knowing what to ask during the interview. Even if all of the lawyers on your list have the experience and expertise to handle your case, your comfort level with them as individuals may be the best indication of whether or not they are the right lawyer for you.
If you have done your due diligence as outlined in this article, and the lawyer you feel most comfortable with is qualified to handle your particular kind of case, then they will be the right choice for you.
At Mann Lawyers LLP we hope that you never need a personal injury lawyer but, if you do, asking the kinds of questions set out above will assist you in your search for one who will represent your interests well and engage you in a way that gives you confidence and a feeling of comfort that your best interests are being served.
This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Personal Injury team. He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.