1. Hiring a Trial Lawyer: Before hiring a lawyer, the prospective client should gauge how often the lawyer is willing to take on the hard work of litigation and jury trial work that often delivers the best financial results for client. The prospective client should determine what is the record of the lawyer in trials and obtaining favorable settlements in similar cases. The prospective client should evaluate the lawyer’s peer reviewed awards and reputation in the legal community.
2. Avoiding the Settlement Law Firm: The client will want to avoid “settlement mill” lawfirms. Settlement law firms are often seen when a law firm takes on thousands of personal injury cases. One lawyer, even at a small firm, could take on hundreds of personal injury cases. In these examples, there is simply not enough time to aggressively prosecute in litigation all of the cases that the firm is handling. The reality is that the client could be under lot of pressure to settle the case in pre-litigation.
A settlement mill law firm may settle 70 to 90% of cases in pre-litigation without ever having to file lawsuit. Settlement law firms can often spend several millions of dollars on television, radio and billboard advertising to bring in thousands of personal injury cases.
The problem that occurs when cases are settled too early in pre-litigation is that many times the client does not get the best result. By engaging in the hard work of litigation, the client can possibly get a settlement that is multiples more then the offer in pre-litigation. By taking your case to litigation, it could mean tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars of more money depending on the value of your case.
In pre-litigation, the lawyer will normally investigate the case, order the medical records and prepare a demand letter. The case can then be settled with the insurance company without having to file a lawsuit.
3. Litigation is Hard Work: Litigation of personal injury cases requires a tremendous amount of lawyer work then pre-litigation work. One personal injury case that is in litigation and/or taken to trial could involve 200 to 400 hours of lawyer work or more.Thus, it is impossible for a lawyer that has 100 to 150 cases to be able to take them all to litigation. A lawyer with that sort of caseload will have to settle the vast majority of the cases in pre-litigation.
Litigation requires properly investigating the case, interviewing fact witnesses, reviewing and obtaining the needed medical records (which can be thousands of pages) and engaging in discovery and taking depositions. The client needs to be well prepared for his or her deposition. The lawyer may well need to meet with the client’s doctors, therapists and treating providers. The lawyer may want to examine potential experts including doctors, accident reconstructionists, vocational rehabilitation experts and economists for the case. The client’s case needs to be well positioned for settlement at mediation and/or to take the case to a jury trial.
The client will want to work with lawyer that has the time, energy and resources for litigation and/or to trial. It can often be beneficial for clients to work with lawyers that have a small caseload. The client should understand how the lawyer and his team will communicate with the client about the case.
4. Attorney Fees: Clients should also try to avoid hiring lawyers that charge high attorney fees. Many personal injury clients pay up to a contingency fee of up to 40% of the gross recoveryfor settlement or judgment in litigation. And, up to 35% of the gross recovery for pre-litigation settlement. Many large personal firms have to charge high attorney fee rates to pay for expensive television, radio and billboard advertising.
For example, if your case settles for $ 100,000 in pre-litigation, under a 35% retainer agreement for pre-litigation, you would then be required under the retainer agreement to pay an attorney fee of $ 35,000. In addition, the client then has to pay out of the settlement legal expenses, surgery bills, medical bills and reimburse health insurance expenses. How much money will the client be left with after paying all these expenses?
A law firm that offers discounted attorney fees can potentially save a client significant amount of money. The client may want to chat with a lawyer that offers a discounted attorney fee. Discounted attorney fee rates can be based on the value of the case and probability of success and can be set on a case by case basis. Can the lawyer agree to pre-litigation rate for a discounted attorney fee of 27% to 30% gross recovery? Or a discounted attorney fee of 30% to 33% of the gross recovery if the case is resolved in litigation?
5. Hiring a Trusted Counselor: In order to select the best litigator for your case, the client should take the time to get to know the lawyer. The prospective client should feel well assured that the lawyer will be dedicated to delivering the best possible result and has a strong track record of success in litigating personal injury cases.
The value of a large personal injury case can possibly be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. You would not make an offer to buy a home just after the first visit. So, take your time before hiring a personal injury lawyer. Talk and meet with the lawyer a few times and ask the right questions before hiring the lawyer. Determine whether you have the needed level of trust and confidence in the lawyer.
6. Law Firms with High Turnover:Many accident victims make the mistake of hiring a law firm where there is a high turnover of lawyers and paralegals. The client will want to ask how long the law firm’s associates and partners have worked at the law firm. Has the associate lawyer been around for one year or less? If there is high turnover at the firm, the prospective client may well be relegated to working with several different lawyers that have to relearn the case.
7. Be Wary of Lawyer Marketing: Many clients make the mistake of hiring a law firm based on a television or radio commercial or website. Advertisements could show clients glowing about high value settlements and judgments they obtained with the law firm. The problem with hiring a law firm based on this sort of advertisement is that the settlement or judgment is often an exceptional case. It is not representative of the hundreds to thousands of other cases that are NOT discussed in the advertisements.
The “multi-million dollar” case that is being marketed by the law firm could likely be an exceptional, one in a thousand case. For example, the case could involve a drunk driver running a red light at 50 MPH and causing a severe accident. As a result of the accident, a 35 year old brain surgeon could suffer a traumatic brain injury. The surgeon’s medical career could come to an end resulting in a financial loss of many millions of dollars of lost past, present and future income. Provided there is sufficient insurance, the value of that case could easily be worth several millions of dollars.
8. Be Wary of the “What is the Value of Your Case?” Another legal marketing ploy can be advertisements that carry the message “What is the value of your case?” The strategy is often to get clients to call the law firm so they can get an answer to this question. But, the reality is that it is often very difficult to value a personal injury case at an early stage just after the accident. Both the client and lawyer may well be unsure whether the pain, suffering and injuries are temporary or are permanent. There may well be little to no information as to the extent of medical treatment that will be required. The client may well require potential future surgeries that are unknown at the time of the initial meeting. Thus, it could likely be impossible to assess the real value of your case at the initial meeting.
9. Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer.The client can do a fair amount of due diligence by asking some important questions before hiring a personal injury lawyer. Some good questions to ask include:
- What percentage of your work is devoted to personal injury law compared to other areas of the law?
- How long have you been with the law firm? How long have most of the other lawyers been with the firm?
- Are you a lawyer or paralegal? (Some law firms send investigators and paralegals to cover intake)
- What sort of settlements have you obtained in similar cases?
- How many cases does your law firm take yearly in pre-litigation and litigation?
- What is your current case load? How many cases do you have in pre-litigation? And, litigation?
- Do you get most of your cases through advertising or from personal referrals?
- What percentage of your cases do you settle in pre-litigation? And litigation?
- What are the attorney fees that you charge? Do you offer discounted attorney fees?
- What is the budget you have for legal expenses in the case for pre- litigation? And, the legal expense budget for litigation?
- What sort of legal awards have you earned?
- What is your record in trial?