I’ll be honest. I groaned when I saw this first question listed for our I-35 blog group. The first reaction I had to writing about this question was that it was too similar to obnoxious billboards I’ve seen for personal injury lawyers in Dallas or Houston.
But then I thought back to some of my experiences. Having done this a while, I’ve had numerous cases where I have been the second or third attorney to represent the client. The client comes to me with a myriad of complaints: their previous lawyer wouldn’t return calls; the lawyer tried to settle the case before it was ready to be settled; the lawyer wasn’t treating them fairly, etc.
And in most of those cases, I try and ask how the client found the first attorney. And the source of the first lawyer is usually something like television or yellow pages ads. I visibly groan at the responses. I know that relying on those ads is a terrible way to pick an attorney.
But most of the general public doesn’t.
In hindsight, this may be the most important question we could answer for you. If we can help you can make a good decision in hiring a lawyer — help you avoid those lawyers that are looking out for their interest and not yours, then this series is a success, in my mind.
So back to the question: After you’ve been in a wreck or accident, how do you find a good personal injury lawyer?
I think there are two parts to this question — getting names of a lawyer and then evaluating the lawyer once you have names.
How do you get names? The best way to get names of a lawyer is to ask for a referral. Specifically, ask any lawyers, friends or other professionals you know for referrals. If you know any lawyers, ask them first. Austin is a fairly small legal community, and most lawyers will know two or three good personal injury lawyers if you ask them for a referral.
But not everyone knows a lawyer. If you don’t know a lawyer, ask your friends or family members for suggestions. These people are looking out for you, and if they have had an experience with a personal injury lawyer, I think you can generally trust them to give you a good name.
If you don’t know any lawyers or have any friends or family members that have used a personal injujry lawyer, then ask other professionals. Many professionals will have worked with some attorneys and might be able to help.
Once you get a name, how do you evaluate whether the attorney will be right for you? There are several things to consider. First, make sure your attorney regularly practices personal injury law. This is important for two reasons. First, insurance adjuster keep a “book” on personal injury lawyers. They know the attorneys in Austin that regularly practice in the personal injury area, whether the lawyers are willing to file suit and pursue a case, etc. If you hire a lawyer that doesn’t regularly practice in the personal injury arena, or a lawyer who has a reputation for always settling early, then you are compromising your claim.
Additionally, personal injury is a tricky part of the law. There are a number of special rules that apply to personal injury cases that don’t apply to other areas of litigation. If the lawyer doesn’t regularly practice personal injury law, it is unlikely that the lawyer is up to date on all important areas of the law.
Next, find out who in the office will be working with you. The number one complaint against lawyers is that lawyers don’t keep clients informed about what’s going on. You need a strong commitment that the lawyer you retain will be accessible and not farm your case out to some staff member.
Finally, make sure you and your attorney get along. For a successful case, you and your attorney will need to be in regular contact with one another. A lawsuit is unpleasant enough as it is; it can be downright painful if you and your attorney don’t get along. And it’s okay not to get along. For various reasons, some people just don’t “click” with one another. If you get that feeling, tell the lawyer that and ask them to provide names of other personal injury attorneys in the Austin area. The attorney’s willingness to agree to that request may tell you a lot about that attorney too.
As I said earlier, I think this is an important question. To read more thoughts about it from the other attorneys in the group, click the links below:
Steve Lombardi, Des Moines, Iowa: Finding A Personal Injury Lawyer For An I-35 Car Accident
Thanks for reading, and I’ll update with posts from other lawyers in the group as they are written.
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