Personal injury attorneys are everywhere...on tv, on billboards, even on city buses. And of course they all claim to be the most honest, aggressive, competent, and generally the best and smartest human being that you'll ever have the honor of meeting. But obviously this can't be true about everyone. So how can you, the injured victim, really know who to trust with your serious personal injury case?
Here's what you need to know before you hire a personal injury attorney:
Always talk with more than one attorney
You should always talk with more than one attorney before you decide who to hire. You wouldn’t just buy the first car that you test drive, right? Same concept. You’ll be working with this attorney for several months, potentially years, so you should pick someone that feels like a good fit. Someone that:
- appears trustworthy and honest;
- takes the time to listen (not someone who cuts you off or appears distracted);
- has good answers to all your questions;
- doesn’t promise you something they can’t possibly know or guarantee (like “I’ll get you $50,000 dollars!”);
- AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, DOESN'T PRESSURE YOU TO SIGN A CONTRACT BEFORE YOU'RE READY.
Know who will handle your case
In our opinion, the less hands that work on your case the less chance that a mistake will be made. Before signing any attorney contract, know exactly who will be handling your case, and ask to meet with all of them (if it’s more than one person).
With most larger sized law firms, chances are your case will not be handled by the attorney whose name is on the door.
Chances are your case will be assigned to a lower-level less experienced attorney who you’ve never heard of, and who uses support staff (e.g. paralegals, legal assistants, interns, etc) to do most of the actual work. If all of these people are trustworthy, well-qualified, and great at their job, then it shouldn’t be a huge problem, but that’s a big “if.”
Also, because turnover is often higher in bigger firms, your case might be passed around to several different attorneys and staff before it's all over.
There are always potential problems with having too many ‘chefs in the kitchen,’ such as:
- things slipping through the cracks because of miscommunication or because one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing; and
- problems taking longer to resolve and the direction of your case being inconsistent because everyone on your team isn't always on the same page at the same time.
Communication / Case Load
Does the lawyer cut you off or rush you through the initial consultation? That's usually a pretty good indicator on how future communications will go. The process of a personal injury claim can be confusing and scary for people who have not been through it before, and being kept in the dark about your case only makes this worse. You want a lawyer who will always make the time to talk with you and explain how your case is progressing. Frequent client communication is also an opportunity for the lawyer to learn more about the client and the case, which is never a waste of time. The responsiveness of a personal injury lawyer usually corresponds directly with the amount of cases they are handling at any given time.
An attorney trying to handle too many cases might have very little time to properly communicate with his/her clients.
If an attorney doesn't have time to really get to know a client and their injuries (like how it's affecting their lives and personal or work relations), the attorney is not going to be an effective advocate for that client. The outcome of the case will suffer as a result.
The Right Kind of Experience
Between our father and son team, we have over 60 years of combined experience. But it’s not all about experience. After all, someone who has been doing things the wrong way for 30 years isn't much better than someone who has been doing them the right way for only a few years.
BEWARE OF THE JACK OF ALL TRADES.
An attorney with lots of experience in different areas of law might not be as familiar with the best current personal injury practices as someone who focuses entirely on personal injury cases.
Developing an 'expertise' in personal injury cases is a full-time job. Handling non-personal injury cases like landlord/tenant disputes, DUIs, divorces, contract negotiations, etc. takes away from the time an attorney can be dedicating to personal injury cases.
Keep in mind that personal injury law covers a diverse number of cases, including car and truck accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, dangerous prescription drugs and medical devices, etc.
Having Similar Objectives with Your Attorney
Do you mind waiting for as long as necessary to obtain the best results on your case or do you need it settled quickly for personal reasons? Do you want to take your case to trial because you don't believe a fair settlement is possible? Or do you want to avoid trial at all costs? These are questions you should ask yourself and then discuss them at your initial consultation with an attorney.
You want an attorney who understands and accepts your objectives, not their own.
Colorado award-winning personal injury attorneys Joe Gama and Richard Gama are more than happy to talk with you to find out if we are the right fit for your legal needs. Sometimes we are but sometimes we aren't, and that's ok. So don't hesitate to email, call, or make an appointment to stop in - we are based in Southlands Mall in Aurora but are happy to come to you wherever you live or work if that's more convenient.