We don’t like to think about it, but it happens. Someone is careless, negligent, or worse – and you (or someone you love) get hurt. Maybe quite seriously.
The elderly are as vulnerable as anyone else to falling victim to serious injury and they often experience longer lasting consequences because they don’t bounce back as quickly.
If it’s something minor, take my advice: don’t bother with a lawsuit. You don’t want the hassle of litigation for something trivial. Life is too short.
But if it’s a death or major, lasting injury, then give some serious thought to standing up for your rights. You may suffer the consequences of your loss or injury for years. Financial compensation often won’t make up for what you’ve lost but it can help ease the way.
So who do you call? Are all personal injury lawyers the same? How do you find someone who will stand up for your rights and fight to get what you deserve?
Here are my tips for finding the right PI attorney.
Expertise. Just as lawyers usually specialize in one area (criminal, bankruptcy, patents, etc.), PI lawyers often have more expertise or experience dealing with certain types of injuries. As I reflect on the PI lawyers I’ve known and referred clients to over the past 22 years, I know that there are some I would prefer to call if I were injured in an auto accident, others for medical malpractice, nursing home injury, defective products, and so on.
Some lawyers focus their practice in one area because they are particularly good at it or they’ve had success in it. For others, it’s a matter of economics. If I’m going to take a lot of medical cases, the thinking goes, I should hire a full-time nurse to review cases, which in turn means I should take more medical cases to fill up the nurse’s time.
Other times, it was simply by chance that early in a lawyer’s career a number of, say, Social Security disability cases came her way and she became known for winning them.
Whatever the reason, I think it’s wise to look for an attorney who has expertise dealing with the type of case you have.
Chemistry. Hiring a lawyer is a lot like starting any relationship. You have to have good chemistry for it to work.
Let’s say you talk to Atticus Finch about taking your case. (For trivia buffs, Atticus is the fictional lawyer featured in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.)
Do you like Atticus and feel you could get along with him? Do you trust him and feel he has integrity? Does he seem to care about you and your circumstances? Does he still have passion for what he does or do you sense the years have left him jaded or burned out?
You could be with the lawyer you hire for the months or years your case lasts and your relationship will likely be tested. It helps if you start out having a good bond.
Reputation. Picking a lawyer on the basis of reputation among peers is much more reliable than picking on the basis of, say, who has the best advertising.
Reputation not only indicates quality, but also helps in getting the best outcome. If defense lawyers and insurance companies know a lawyer is not afraid to take a case to trial, and frequently wins high awards from juries, then they are more likely to offer higher settlements to that lawyer.
You also want to look for someone who has a reputation for hanging tough in negotiations. Let’s face it – some lawyers cave in early because they just want a quick settlement or don’t want to prepare for trial. Look for someone who has a reputation for believing in their clients and not selling them short.
Referral. If you know someone who is familiar with plaintiffs’ lawyers in your area, and knows their reputations, ask for a referral. When I’m asked to make a referral, I take great care in that choice because I want the client to get the best possible outcome, and I know choosing the right lawyer is one of the best ways to do that.