DO NOT … select an attorney who is does not have specific experience with personal injury cases. An attorney who does wills, trusts, bankruptcy or real estate will in all likelihood have no experience with personal injury cases. Personal injury law is complicated and involves many rules and practices unique to the subject. You are risking the value of your claim if you choose an attorney without experience and specialization in personal injury law.
DO NOT select an attorney who does not go to trials, arbitrations, or mediations. Most attorneys who advertise that they handle personal injury cases have never seen the inside of a courtroom. Having the ability to see a case to trial is important because insurance companies are aggressively trying to save money and their goal is to force a settlement. If the insurance company is aware that your attorney never goes to trial, they will take advantage of this and make very low offers to settle your case. An attorney without trial experience is known to be bluffing, which allows the insurance companies to see his bluff. The attorney without trial experience will pressure you to accept less once she determines the insurance company is not going to increase its low offer. If your attorney is unable or unwilling to push the case to trial, and the insurance company is aware of this, it will harm the value of your case.
Even the best attorney cannot make an insurance company settle for more money than they are willing to pay. Some insurance companies as a matter of policy never pay fair value until they are “at the courthouse steps”. This is partly because they want to hold onto their money and collect interest on it until the very last minute. An attorney can prepare the case well and if the insurance company is still making an unreasonable offer to settle the attorney can recommend that the client go forward with litigation (file a lawsuit in court) in hopes that a more rational actor in the form of the insurance defense attorney or a more senior adjuster will become involved in the case. Ultimately, its always the juries that determines the real value of the case, not the insurance companies.
DO NOT select an attorney without verifying his track record. If you have serious injuries it is imperative that you know your attorney can deliver a substantial verdict or settlement. Ask your attorney how many times he has been awarded million dollar verdicts or reached million dollar settlements. Ask if he or she is a member of the Million Dollar Forum, which is an association of lawyers that have resolved cases for a million dollars or more. Not every case is that valuable, but if you have a good case, do your research to ensure your attorney has experience with high-dollar cases.
DO NOT hire an attorney who is not a member of national and local trial lawyer groups such as the Consumer Attorneys of California and the American Association for Justice. Successful personal injury attorneys associate with and share information with other top-tier personal injury attorneys. Insurance companies today have created a very difficult environment. They are not opposed to using cheap tricks and nefarious methods to make injured people appear greedy and like they are out for a quick buck. In such an environment, it is critical to share current information regarding the insurance companies’ latest tactics.
DO NOT hire an attorney without adequate resources to properly pursue your case. When you interview an attorney, take notice of his or her office space… does it look like they are doing well financially? Another question to ask is whether the attorney has a sufficient line of credit or assets necessary to properly prepare your case – a large case, handled well, is often expensive to pursue. Expert witness testimony is required to prepare a case property. Doctors may have their depositions taken and later appear in court. The expense in taking a large case to mediation, arbitration or trial can often exceed $100,000. Make sure your attorney has the financial resources to compete with the insurance companies’ deep pockets. If your attorney is not willing to spend money on properly pursuing your case, it would be prudent to look elsewhere.
DO NOT hire an attorney that does not urge you to speak with his or her prior clients. If an attorney is skilled and comes highly recommended why would there be any problem allowing you to communicate with his or her past clients?