Questions to ask when choosing a personal injury lawyer.
Personal injury law is probably the only area of the law in which most clients find a lawyer without the recommendation of a friend or the referral of another lawyer. Accident victims generally find a new injury attorney in three ways: 1. the internet, 2. TV or other advertisements, and 3. through illegal solicitation. (Do not ever hire a lawyer suggested by a stranger or somebody just met while getting medical care.).
When you research personal injury attorneys on the internet and contact them about handling your case, here are some basic but important questions you can ask to determine if he or she is really qualified to handle your case. Remember, an attorney does not need any experience at all to claim that they are a personal injury attorney. These questions will help you establish whether they have the qualifications and experience you deserve.
- When did you become licensed as an attorney? A newly licensed lawyer may be very bright but they usually are not capable of handling a serious personal injury case. Anybody with a law license can create a
website or advertise as a personal injury lawyer even with absolutely no experience at all.
- How long have you handled personal injury cases? Make sure they have been been handling these cases for a long time. Some lawyers change their practice area depending upon the economy or other factors. For instance, an oil and gas lawyer or banking lawyer may decide to start practicing personal injury law if there is a downturn in the financial or energy markets. So, even if the lawyer has been licensed for many years, it is important to know how long they have been handling personal injury cases.
- Have you ever handled personal injury jury trials? You need to find a lawyer that is prepared to take your case to trial if necessary. Sometimes, insurance companies do not settle and they need to know that your lawyer can handle a trial if a proper settlement is not offered. Believe it or not, there are many personal injury lawyers that advertise and take on many clients but never go to the courthouse – they settle every case. Find out how many jury trials the lawyer has actually handled.
- Are you board certified as a specialist in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization? Only 2% of the lawyers in Texas have gone through the rigorous procedure to be recognized as a specialist by the State Bar of Texas. It is proof of competence by the State of Texas. By law, only lawyers that have proven to the state that they are specialists can make that claim. To become board certified, a lawyer must have practiced personal injury law for at least five years, have handled numerous personal injury jury trials, must be recommended by actual judges and other lawyers and be evaluated by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Even after passing that extensive review, successful applicants must pass a rigorous examination at the TBLS headquarters in Austin. Board certification is probably your best way of ensuring that a lawyer is competent in personal injury trial law. If a potential lawyer is not board certified, ask yourself, “Why not?”
- Are you A/V Rated by Martindale-Hubbell? This highest rating means that other lawyers have evaluated them as being the best in their fields of law. Martindale-Hubbell is one of the oldest lawyer directories in the world. For over a hundred years, this company has provided ratings of attorneys. The ratings are done by other lawyers that practice in the same jurisdiction as the evaluated lawyer and who have had cases with or against them. The highest rating is A/V which means the lawyer has preeminent abilities.
- Have you been selected as a Texas SuperLawyer? Also an evaluation by other lawyers. Ratings that are done by other lawyers are a pretty good sign as they are an evaluation by the lawyers peers and can say a lot about how they handle personal injury cases.
- Have you been inducted into the American Board of Trial Advocates? This organization only invites members to join if they can prove that they have significant experience in personal injury jury trials. Newly licensed attorneys and those who have not really practiced personal injury law are not eligible for membership in this prestigious organization.
There are many other criteria you could use to evaluate the lawyer but these 7 qualifications are a good start. You should certainly be wary of any attorney that has been licensed for a short period of time or cannot respond “yes” to the other questions. Now, even if your potential lawyer meets all of the above attributes, you should still meet with him or her in person and determine if you are comfortable with them handling your important legal affairs. If you have a bad feeling, don’t hire them – interview other lawyers.
Michael P. Fleming meets these and many other stringent criteria. Call him today if you need any further information regarding the qualifications of personal injury lawyers.