I traveled to Las Vegas last week for a work conference. On the way out of town, I was amazed by the number of billboards advertising personal injury lawyers. It was literally billboard after billboard after billboard. Here in San Diego, we don’t have quite as many billboards. I do, however, see lots of television ads with catchy phone numbers, and lots of personal injury lawyers on the internet. All of this makes me wonder how regular people go about picking a lawyer when they or someone they care about suffers harm through no fault of their own.
While most people don’t know it, who they choose to represent them will make a huge difference in the outcome of their case. There is a very small group of personal injury lawyers that defendants and insurance companies actually fear. I would estimate that number to be 5% or less. Defendants and insurance companies will pay the clients of that small group significantly more in settlement dollars because of fear. When I say significantly more, I literally mean more than twice as much in most cases. They know that small group of lawyers is both willing and able to obtain a favorable jury verdict if they don’t pay what is fair.
There is a very small group of personal injury lawyers that defendants and insurance companies actually fear.
So how should a regular person go about making sure they have one of those lawyers that will get them paid more money in every single case? I would ask some questions. First question: “What are the last 5 cases that your firm tried to a jury verdict?” If the lawyer can’t answer that question, hasn’t tried 5 cases to verdict ever, or they have to go years back in time to get to 5, that is not the right lawyer for you. That means that lawyer does not have an active trial practice. Defendants and insurers know that. They will not pay that lawyer top dollar for your injuries.
“What are the last 5 cases that your firm tried to a jury verdict?”
Second question: “Tell me about cases you have handled similar to mine.” Every case is different. You want to ensure that the lawyer you choose has the particular background and experience to handle your specific case. And you want to ensure they have done well in cases similar to yours. A brain injury case is a great example. Those cases require very particular and focused knowledge. They are expensive and complex to litigate. If you or someone you care about is dealing with a brain injury, you want a brain injury expert on your team.
Third question: “Can I talk to some former clients to ask them about their experiences working with your firm?” The relationship you have with your attorney is hugely important. Litigating a personal injury case can be stressful, confusing and revealing all at once. You want to work with a lawyer that cares about his or her clients personally. Talking to someone that has been through the process before with this lawyer will provide you invaluable information.
…do I like this lawyer and feel comfortable with the idea of him or her telling my story?
What else would I want to know? 1. How long have you been practicing law and how long has this firm been in existence? 2. What are the firm’s results in both verdicts and settlements? Can I have a list? 3. What professional awards and recognitions have you received from peers? 4. Will your firm advance all costs? 5. Will you allow me to decide whether to try or settle my case? 6. Does your firm have written core values or guiding principles? What are they? 7. What is your cell phone number and can I call any time? And finally, do I like this personal injury lawyer and feel comfortable with the idea of him or her telling my story?
Here’s the bottom line. Choosing the right personal injury lawyer is enormously important to anyone that has suffered injury because of the fault of someone else. The financial and human harm of an injury can literally last a lifetime and you get only one chance to get paid what you truly deserve. Choosing a personal injury lawyer quickly and without asking the right questions can literally cut your recovery in half. Ask the hard questions up front. A truly qualified lawyer will be very happy to answer each of them and appreciative of how informed you are. If, on the other hand, some lawyer is unwilling to answer your questions, or doesn’t have good answers for you, that lawyer is not the right lawyer for you.