How to Choose a Personal Injury Attorney
PERSONAL SERVICE FOR YOUR ACCIDENTS AND PERSONAL INJURIES
A personal injury lawyer should provide personal service. You should hire a law firm where a lawyer handles your case, not a paralegal, case manager, or legal assistant. In some law firms, especially high volume law firms that advertise on television, personal injury cases are handled by paralegals, case managers and secretaries from start to finish. Why even hire a lawyer if your case is not going to be handled personally by that lawyer. If you find that you are in a situation where the only person you ever speak with at your lawyers office is a legal assistant, and you never actually talk to a lawyer, then your lawyer is not providing personal service, and is probably not handling the case himself. You should know that paralegals, case managers, and legal secretaries by law are not allowed to answer any legal questions, or give you any advice.
AVOID FIRMS THAT EMPLOY CONTRACT RUNNERS
When you hire a lawyer to represent you, we believe that you are entitled to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case and sign a contract for legal representation. You should be able to sit down face to face with the lawyer you are hiring to discuss your case and sign the contract for representation. This meeting is perhaps the most important meeting you will have with your lawyer. However some high volume law firms employ contract runners, but may call them "investigators". These are usually non-lawyers, anyone with a drivers license, that will come out to your home or hospital room, sometimes in the middle of the night, with a contract for legal representation. You should not agree to meet with a contract runner, and avoid hiring this type of firm. You should insist that you meet with the lawyer you are hiring. Unless the contract runner (investigator) is also a lawyer, that person is not allowed by law to answer any legal questions you might have about the contract or about the representation.
SHOULD YOU USE A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY REFERRAL SERVICE?
There are occasions when a St. Petersburg lawyer referral service is a good idea, such as when you need a lawyer that focuses on a very limited practice area such as Admiralty, or Patent Law. In these cases, the Florida Bar and many local bar associations offer lawyer referral services for free. In addition Martindale Hubbell and Lawyers.com are excellent referral services to find a lawyer in another state. For most legal matters however, the best referrals come from friends, family members, and physicians. Your local chiropractor or medical doctor can provide you with the name of a lawyer that he trusts and in which he has confidence as a result of working with that lawyer over the years. Former clients of a lawyer also provide a good referral source, because they have first hand knowledge of how a particular lawyer handled their case.
SHOULD I HIRE A LAWYER BECAUSE HE IS ON TELEVISION?
Lawyers that advertise on television may be relying on new business from their advertising rather than repeat business from satisfied former clients. Some law firms spend in excess of $20 million per year on advertising. Further, firms that advertise on television may be high volume law firms, and your case may be handled by a paralegal, case manager, or legal secretary, rather than a lawyer. Lawyers that advertise on television often utilize contract runners due to the volume of incoming cases, but remember contract runners are not lawyers, and they cannot answer your questions or give you any advice. Lawyers that do not advertise typically have been in practice long enough to have developed a large number of satisfied former clients, and do not rely on advertising for new personal injury clients.
EXPERIENCE AND REPUTATION COUNTS
It is important to ask your lawyer how many years they have been handling personal injury cases, and how long they have been a member of their state bar association. Handling of a personal injury claim requires knowledge and experience. The insurance companies know if they are dealing with a lawyer on the telephone, or if their law firm routinely has case managers and secretaries speaking with them. Your lawyers ethical standards and ratings by their peers are also important. You can check with your State Bar association and find out if there have been complaints filed against your lawyer in the past. Further there are peer review ratings available from Avvo, Martindale Hubbell, and others.
SHOULD I RELY ON A REFERRAL FROM A HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM WORKER
It is illegal for anyone working in an emergency room to hand you a lawyers business card or otherwise refer you to a lawyer. This is called solicitation and is illegal and the lawyer should be reported to the Florida Bar Association. Further any lawyer that calls you on the telephone after your accident, without you first calling him, is violating the law and should be reported to the Florida Bar Association.
A NICE GUY TOOK PICTURES OF MY ACCIDENT AND WANTS ME TO HAVE THEM
If another driver happens to be driving by your accident scene and offers to take pictures for you, be aware that he may be working for a lawyer and is attempting to indirectly solicit your auto accident case. These individuals listen to police scanners for information about auto accidents, then send a photographer out to the scene who will generously offer to take pictures of the accident scene. You should politely decline any such offer and keep a disposable or inexpensive digital camera in your glove box and take your own accident photos.
Important questions to ask before hiring your new Personal Injury Attorney
ASK YOUR LAWYER IF THEY HANDLE YOUR PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIM FOR FREE
If your case involves a property damage claim (damage to your vehicle) you should ask your lawyer if they will handle your property damage claim for free, assist you with getting a rental vehicle, and deal with the insurance company that is paying for the repairs or total loss of your vehicle.
ASK YOUR LAWYER IF THEY WILL NEGOTIATE YOUR MEDICAL BILLS AN D LIENS
A personal injury lawyer should assist you with getting your medical bills paid through PIP, health insurance, medicare, or medicaid, and seek reductions on your behalf when necessary. You should not be left with substantial unpaid medical bills at the end of your case. In addition your lawyer should assist you with the resolution of all subrogation liens related to medicare, medicaid, health insurance, and any other collateral source that paid your medical bills.
ASK YOUR PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER IF THEY HAVE A BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A REFERRAL SERVICE OR MEDICAL CLINIC
Some lawyers engage in substantial business with lawyer referral services, and/or certain medical providers or clinics. If your lawyer refers you to a particular medical provider after your injury or accident, you should ask whether your lawyer has any type of business relationship with that medical provider. Further when a lawyer suggests that you go to only one medical provider, you should insist that they give you the names of no less than three medical providers, that you can choose from. If you are already under the care of a doctor or chiropractor, and your lawyer insists that you stop seeing that physician, and that you change to another medical clinic, you should insist that the lawyer explain why, and explain whether he has a business relationship with the clinic or clinic owner. If you are satisfied with your current doctor, or chiropractor there is no reason that you should be expected to change doctors.