You might expect, with this website being the firm’s electronic brochure, that we would simply scream “Choose us!”
But you would be wrong. Choose us if you want, but if you live in Chicago and your accident was in Chicago you probably wouldn’t need a New York lawyer. So here are six general guidelines on what to look for in making your decision, regardless of where you live. (And five very important things to avoid):
Six Things To Look For In Finding a Personal Injury Attorney
- A first hand recommendation. Nothing beats talking to someone who has actually engaged the services of an attorney and come away with a positive experience. Ask a few friends or relatives. Remember, you want a personal recommendation, not the name of someone your cousin saw on a TV commercial.
- Ask a lawyer. Even if they don’t do this type of law, other attorneys might still be helpful. By way of example, we don’t do wills or criminal law, but we know people who do and can point folks in the right direction. Most reputable lawyers recommend attorneys outside their practice areas as a simple courtesy. There’s a pretty good chance that your friend/neighbor/cousin knows a lawyer for some reason or other. Give a call. Get a recommendation.
- Make sure that lawyer actually does personal injury law. It’s possible that the lawyer that was suggested to you does many different things, making them Jacks/Janes-of-all-trades. Is that what you want? Make sure the firm has taken verdicts in personal injury cases and has examples for you to see. Would you want a firm that devotes 95% of its time to matrimonial or immigratation law to handle your child’s medical malpractice birth injury suit?
- Big firm / small firm? Will your case get individual attention, or be one of thousands of injury cases that the firm handles, assembly-line style? Some people like small firms with personal attention, and others like larger firms. This is simply a matter of personal preference. Try to decide which one is right for you. (Read more)
- Is the office in your area? If the office is far from your home you may wish to look closer. The concern is that a distant firm — particularly in another state — won’t actually handle your case. Rather, it might simply shop it around to another lawyer who you’ve never met. And then take a referral fee for itself. Visit the office and talk to the attorney that will handle your case. If you feel you’re being rushed and not given enough time to discuss the matter, hire someone else.
- Website. If you have run out of options because you can’t get a recommendation from someone you know, then you can start looking at lawyer websites. Just be careful to find an actual trial lawyer — someone with real experience standing in the well of the courtroom trying cases — and not some search company that does marketing to generate “leads” for others. You are not a lead in someone’s marketing program; you’re a real person with a real problem. Or you wouldn’t have read this far.
Five things to avoid in looking for a personal injury attorney:
- Stay away from attorney search services like the plague! These are not law firms. They are merely advertising portals for firms that paid to be listed. That’s it. If you see a name on the top of the list, it isn’t because the firm is good, but because they paid for the listing. This tells you nothing about the firm, but much about their advertising budget.
- Stay away from websites that ask you to provide details of your accident or injury. There’s a good chance that information will be available to a great many people — all strangers to you. Why give sensitive and privileged information to a total stranger? That information should only be given directly to a live human who works for an actual law firm and is responsible for guarding your privileged information.
- Stay away from “national” personal injury firms. A “national” firm advertising on the internet is a toll free number to anywhere. The “firm” might not even have an attorney admitted to practice in New York. Such a business is likely to sign clients up, and then shop the case around to others in exchange for a share of the legal fee. This is marketing, not lawyering.
- Stay away from people that directly solicit you, your family or friends at the hospital or your home right after an accident. These people, in fact, should be immediately reported to the District Attorney or the local disciplinary committee. This “ambulance chasing” is unethical and embarrassing to the profession. It has been the subject of both statewide criminal prosecution and federal prosecution. If they know about your injuries then someone has already violated your medical privacy rights. And if unethical conduct takes place at the start of representation, it will be impossible to trust the attorneys later to do the right thing when you seek advice on how to proceed. If they are unethical at the start, they will not magically change. You should look elsewhere, or if you have already hired them, change attorneys as soon as possible.
- Avoid firms that promise quick settlements. If a firm is known for that — and if a firm advertises like that then they will be known for it — then an insurance company will offer pennies on the dollar. This is not in the best interests of the injured client.