You are probably here and reading this because you are coping with the immediate aftermath of an accident or injury and you need legal help. And so our first bit of advice might ultimately be the most important to you—at least right now: Slow down.
Nothing is going to change within the next 20 minutes or so. And during that time, we can tell you a lot that will help you feel better and be more in control of your situation—no matter how complicated or life-changing things might seem at the moment and no matter what law firm you ultimately choose to help you.
First, as you probably suspect, there are many very talented personal injury attorneys in your area who can help you with your situation. The question you are suddenly facing is how and why do you choose one over the other?
Certainly not by their advertising.
If you are like most people soon after an accident, you have begun listening to legal-service radio and television ads where you previously ignored them, and much of that advertising seems callous and disconnected from what you are seeking emotionally and intellectually right now—even if you cannot describe precisely what that is, and especially if you or a loved one is coping with an injury.
Trying the most…winning the most…getting the most…are probably good indicators of something. But what? You do not feel warm about people who brag that way. In fact, you avoid them. So what to do? How to proceed? Where to get help?
What follows are some Q&As that we hope will help you. Among them:
What should a personal injury attorney do for you?
What objective criteria should you consider when selecting a personal injury attorney?
What “soft criteria” should you consider when selecting a personal injury lawyer?
What is a solicitation letter?
What is a “rush to settlement?”
How do you get references for a good personal injury lawyer?
How do you cull a list of potential lawyers to hire?
What is an initial consultation?
How involved do you have to be in the personal injury claim process?
How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?
1. What should a personal injury attorney do for you?
From our 20+ years of experience nationwide as a law firm, we know that winning the most cases, achieving the largest compensations, or getting the fastest settlements are not what you need or want to hear about right now.
You are seeking a personal advocate—not a hired gun: someone who will not merely be “legal counsel,” but a legal counselor in the truest sense of the word. Someone who will among other things:
Provide a roadmap of what to expect and how to react as things unfold
Advise you about what you should and shouldn’t do within the next 24 hours, next week, next month, and further down the road
Explain to you what are your rights and responsibilities
Notice how different that is from other large legal firms and the manner in which they promote themselves.
You are first and foremost a “case” to them. One of many—and they brag about who does more than the other. If they “win,” you’ll be another notch on their victory belt. But how you define “victory” can be very different from how they do.
2. What objective criteria should you consider when selecting a personal injury attorney?
Some criteria you might want to apply when compiling a list of possible lawyers to engage include:
The type of injuries you have sustained. Some lawyers concentrate on car, motorcycle, and truck accidents. Others on slip-and-fall mishaps, workplace injuries, professional malpractice, animal attacks, catastrophic accidents, wrongful death, etc.
The size of the law firm. A firm with a reasonable number of attorneys will naturally have more resources and collective experience to offer you than a single lawyer working out of a storefront. They will also have administrative and paralegal staff to monitor and facilitate the claims process, which will be of great benefit to you.
Payment methods. Personal injury lawyers rarely charge an hourly rate but instead work on a contingency basis. This means that the law firm’s fees will be a percentage of the final settlement or verdict you receive for your claim. In almost all cases this is preferable to hourly rates or “upfront” fees, because if your attorney loses or is unable to obtain money on your behalf, you pay nothing to the law firm.
Credentials. Each state regulates the practice of law within its jurisdiction. You can confirm that an attorney is licensed to practice law in a particular state by contacting the agency that grants the bar license. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the agency publishes the database online. Although we provide services in many states, the main offices of Galindo Law are located in Texas, California, Colorado, Arizona, and Washington, so we have provided those database sites for your convenience:
✓ California: State Bar of California - Attorney Search
✓ Washington: Washington State Bar Association - Attorney Directory
3. What “soft criteria” should you consider when selecting a personal injury lawyer?
To answer this question, consider a metaphor:
If your child had pneumonia, of course, you would be glad to know that the attending pediatrician is a foremost expert on juvenile respiratory diseases and that this is just one of the hundreds of cases she successfully diagnoses and cures in a year.
Glad—but not comforted.
Comfort only comes when she demonstrates an appreciation that this is your child—not merely one of the hundreds of “cases” whom she sees during a year; that your child’s pneumonia is terrifying to you—even though it is a workaday thing to her; and that your fears come from not knowing what to do or expect, which she can ease with good communication.
It is the same when choosing an attorney in the aftermath of a personal injury. Aside from uncommon expertise, what distinguishes an outstanding attorney from one who is merely adequate is the ability to step outside of his or her own self and imagine your situation from your perspective. He or she must be aware and considerate of:
What emotions you are dealing with now
How those emotions can affect your judgment and decisions
What information and misinformation you might be acting upon
How trustworthy he or she appears to you
4. What is a solicitation letter?
Be careful about lawyers who send “solicitation” letters to your home following an accident.
Some personal injury law firms hire people to obtain police accident reports, combing through them to find the names and addresses of accident victims. Doing so, after you have an accident, they will send you a letter about how ready, willing, and able they are to represent you. Some will even continue to pester you after their initial letter, sending you follow-up mailings and/or telephoning you.
Usually, law firms that do this operate on a “high volume, quick turnover” basis, and the quality of their work reflects this, with “rush to settlement” being a particular problem (see 5).
Many states have laws that restrict solicitation letters. E.g., in one state, an injury attorney must wait 30 days to contact someone by written communication after death, injury, or accident. Solicitation letters must have the words “advertising material” on the outside of the envelope as well as both at the beginning and end of the letter itself. This also applies to
brochures, postcards, pamphlets, etc.
5. What is “rush to settlement?”
Some unscrupulous law firms do a very profitable business “rushing to settlement” by brokering deals that are very attractive to the at-fault party and then foisting that settlement upon you as the best deal you could have possibly gotten.
Rushing-to-settlement results in a smaller award for you and less profit to the law firm. But there is a huge compensation for the law firm: by doing lots and lots of cases this way, they realize large profits over time, in effect “making it up in volume.” It is a great business strategy for them. But it is very hostile to your best interests, as your compensation winds up being much less than it should.
6. How do you get references for a good personal injury lawyer?
There is a good chance that you have friends, relatives, or business associates who have had occasion to work with a personal injury lawyer. Ask them about their respective experiences. For example, did the lawyer:
Provide a roadmap of what to expect and how to react as things unfold.
Advise them about what they should and should not do as the claim process progressed.
Explain what are their rights and responsibilities.
Listen to their concerns.
If the case went to trial, how was their experience?
And ultimately, were they satisfied with the outcome of their case?
Also, if you know an attorney who practices in some area of law other than personal injury, you might ask to whom he or she makes referrals when a client needs a personal injury lawyer. As in any field, the professionals working in it usually know who is good and who is not. If a large part of an attorney’s practice comes from peer referrals, that is a very good sign.
If you do not know anyone who has experience with a personal injury attorney—or even if you do—you should consult websites that provide peer-reviewed ratings that can help you understand how reputable and skilled a prospective lawyer might be. Some of these are:
Yelp—a publisher of crowd-sourced reviews
Avvo— posts lawyer profiles that include client reviews, disciplinary actions, peer endorsements, etc.
Best Lawyers in America—lists attorneys selected by their peers for being “best” in 57 specialties, including personal injury and medical malpractice law
Superlawyers— an annual listing of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.
7. How do you cull a list of potential lawyers to hire?
Have a list of four or five personal injury law firms that you consider likely candidates. It is important to have options because, depending on your kind of case and its complexity, not every lawyer will have the availability or capacity to take it on. Nonetheless, you do not want your list of potential attorneys to be too long. This is because you will likely have to visit with each (by phone or personally) for an initial consultation (see 8).
8. What is an initial consultation?
At your first meeting, a personal injury attorney will ask you to explain your case, provide details regarding whatever led to your injury, and other important information. This is called the “initial consultation,” wherein the lawyer interviews you to determine whether your case is one with which he or she can help. Most often, this meeting is at no cost to you.
To facilitate the initial consultation, you should bring any and all documentation you have to date relative to your case so that the attorney can review it with you.
In order to get a good sense of an attorney’s methods and experience—as well as how dedicated he or she might be to your case—it is important that you ask good questions and spend adequate time discussing your claim during the initial consultation. You should choose an attorney who listens—not just talks.
After an initial consultation, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to tell you how likely it is that your claim will be successful, how long it might take to be resolved, and how much it is roughly worth.
Other things to look out for during the course of an initial consultation are:
Level of attention. It is a good sign if an attorney affords you full attention for the duration of your initial consultation. Conversely, if the conversation is frequently interrupted by phone calls or other intrusions, he or she might not give adequate time to your case.
Communication. You need a lawyer who will promptly return calls and answer questions during the course of your case. Consider how quickly and easily you were able to reach one for an initial consultation. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. If you had trouble connecting with a lawyer for a first-time meeting, it portends trouble down the road with communication.
Organization. If a lawyer’s office or deportment seems unorganized or chaotic, there is a good chance it reflects the way he or she handles cases. Do not go there. A clean, orderly, well-run office is a hallmark of good legal practice—as is a demeanor that suggests good planning, organization, and forethought.
9. How involved do you have to be in the personal injury claim process?
To help ensure a good client-attorney relationship, you should discuss with any potential lawyer the degree of involvement with which you would be comfortable. Do you want to be informed at every juncture and consulted as frequently as possible? Or do you want to focus solely on recovering from your injuries, letting your lawyer handle all legal proceedings, with minimal involvement on your part?
10. How much does it cost to hire a personal injury lawyer?
Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the settlement we are able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.
Remember, when it comes to a personal injury claim, you are not asking for charity. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your loss
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