One of the first questions you should ask when looking for a lawyer for your personal injury case is: do you practice exclusively in the area of personal injury? You never want to pick a lawyer to handle personal injury case unless that is his speciality. Many lawyers may say they do personal injury but also do real estate, criminal law, wills, etc. Do not pick this type of lawyer to handle your case. Only specialists in this area of law (personal injury law) should be chosen to handle your case. You would not go to a family doctor to operate on your heart, you would go to a cardiologist. You would not go to a podiatrist or foot doctor if you have a broken arm. It is the same with law. General lawyers may lead you to think they can handle your case and may be great people, but it is difficult to keep up with the law in one area and general lawyers do not usually have the experience to handle personal injury cases and all the different issues that can arise, like subrogation, liens, different medical coding and practices, choosing the right doctor for your injuries, etc.
I have more than 20 years of experience only handling personal injury cases. I have never practiced anything but personal injury law so I am considered a “specialist” in this area of law. When I first started practicing law in Hawaii, my first job out of law school was with an insurance defense firm. Representing insurance companies for many years gave me the knowledge of how insurance companies defend personal injury claims and how they evaluate claims. As good criminal lawyers may start out in the prosecutor’s office, many very good personal injury lawyers first start practicing law from the insurance defense side. Of course, insurance companies deserve to be defended just as everyone should. but I found that my true passion was helping those who were injured and not trying to deny their claims or lessen the value of their cases. I have some good friends that are insurance defense attorneys but it is not for me! I prefer to be on the side of the injured victim and help those who are truly injured and truly have suffered loss in their life. Insurance companies owe people like you compensation when their insured’s are at fault or cause an accident. That is why we all buy insurance, for protection when we are at fault or when we are “liable” for causing injury to others.
Once you have found a specialist in personal injury, like myself, you need to ask how long they have been practicing personal injury law. You do not want a junior attorney who is recently out of law school handling your case as they just do not have the experience yet. I am not trying to put down young attorneys because I was once a young attorney, but saying that you do not want a young attorney “practicing” with your case and learning the ropes. At the same time, you don’t want someone who is retiring and does not care about their clients anymore. In my case, I have loads of experience in different states and bring that knowledge to Colorado. I have learned by handling more than 1,600 cases and I personally handle every single case and client. I really do care about my clients as if they were part of my family and use my experience to get higher settlements than personal injury attorneys you see on TV. The problem with TV attorneys is that their business model is to get you in as a client, turn you over to a paralegal or legal assistant and never talk to you again. Who negotiates your case in these large, TV type law firms? Usually, in these large firms, the paralegals and new, young attorneys would be handling your case from start to finish. Why? Economics is the straight answer. With so much money being paid on TV and website advertising, these lawyers have to get you in and out as fast as they can. These type of lawyers are highly motivated and compelled to settle your case as quickly as possible and usually do not get you “top dollar” for your injuries. It is a shame that most injured victims immediately call those lawyers they see advertising heavily on televison as these are normally the lawyers you want to stay away from.
Again, please stay away from lawyers who heavily advertise and those who do not specialize in personal injury law. I work very hard, personally for each and every one of my clients and treat them as I would my own family. The other question you should ask is how much does the lawyer charge to handle your case from start to finish? Just like most personal injury specialists, I charge a percentage of the recovery. Most personal injury attorneys charge 1/3 of the total recovery and 40% if a lawsuit is necessary. For example, if your case is settled with the at-fault person’s insurance company for $21,000, then the attorney would take 1/3 of that, or $7,000. This called a contingency fee. It is contingent on a recovery. So, if a lawyer recovers nothing from the insurance company, then you should pay them nothing. Some lawyers try to charge more than 1/3 to settle your case! Stay away from these lawyers as there is no reason that a lawyer should charge you more than these standard percentages. The only reason a lawyer who specializes in personal injury would charge more than these standard fees is to recoup more money for advertising or marketing and this is a cost that should not be passed on to the client, in my opinion. Finally, ask the lawyer what costs will be involved in your case. Costs are separate from a lawyer’s fee and an example of a cost would be postage, copying, paying a doctor for an impairment rating or opinion on your case, etc. Many times if a case is settled pre-suit, there are very little costs, just costs for copying, postage, etc. But, if a case has to go into court or litigation, then the costs can be much more, for expert witnesses, court reporters, and so on.