A personal injury case is the biggest legal matter the average person is ever likely to get involved with. That makes choosing a personal injury lawyer one of the biggest decisions you’re ever likely to make.
An injury case can’t even settle until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI. That’s because it’s impossible to guess what kind of care you may need in the future or what the grand total of your current medical bills will be until that point. That means you could be with your personal injury lawyer for a year or more. If you’re uncomfortable and unhappy you can always find a new lawyer, but damage done to your case often can’t be undone.
Switching lawyers can also be an involved process that you don’t need while you’re trying to heal.
In short, it’s a good idea to get this right the first time. You can do that by watching out for the following big red flags.
#1) The lawyer makes concrete promises.
Past success is no indicator of how your case will go. Legal cases are unpredictable. Small but damaging facts can come to light halfway through the case. The defense lawyers may choose to dig in their heels where anyone else would settle. Juries and judges can be capricious.
We can tell you what we think your case is worth and we can tell you if we think it’s a strong one. We can’t promise you money because that’s impossible. All we can do is tell you that we will fight our hardest to win you your best shot at bringing your case to a successful resolution.
#2) The lawyer wants you to exaggerate your injuries or the impact they’re having on your life.
No lawyer should ever counsel you to lie. It’s an extreme ethical violation and it can come back to bite you later. If your perjury is revealed it could be the end of your case. If the other party feels they have been damaged by your perjury they can sue you. The Crown can also choose to prosecute.
Usually lawsuits and prosecution don’t happen: the loss of your case is punishment enough. Perjury may be hard to prove, but that doesn’t mean any lawyer should ever encourage it.
#3) The lawyer doesn’t have much experience, and has no experienced lawyers to supervise their work.
Everyone’s got to start somewhere. Having a young associate on your case shouldn’t be a deal breaker, as long as you’re satisfied that there is a supervising, experienced lawyer keeping a close watch on everything that’s happening.
Having a young, inexperienced lawyer who hung a shingle before gathering enough courtroom experience should be, though. It’s very easy to make mistakes in a personal injury case. A young lawyer shouldn’t be learning their craft at your expense.
#4) The lawyer doesn’t return calls.
A lack of responsiveness is, without a doubt, one of the most common complaints clients make about lawyers.
Of course, you won’t know if a lawyer is going to stop returning your calls until you start working with them. Not from personal experience, anyway. You can investigate that lawyer’s reviews online though, and see if this is something that comes up.
Law firms sometimes have trouble gathering reviews, though, so this can’t be your only guide. Often, people are somewhat reluctant to put their legal issues out on the internet. You can, however, gauge whether the lawyer is rude or condescending to you during your consultation. If they’re dismissive while they’re trying to earn your business then they’ll be dismissive when they’re working your case.
#5) The lawyer demands a retainer.
An lawyer who demands a retainer isn’t confident about winning, or sees you only as a dollar sign. Most personal injury lawyers get paid on contingency. Losing cases and walking away with nothing is just part of the job.
When you agree to retain a personal injury lawyer you should sign a document wherein the lawyer explains their fee structure. Then, that’s it. You shouldn’t be paying a retainer or hourly fees. You’ve got enough financial problems to deal with because you’re dealing with the aftermath of your accident.
A lawyer is supposed to help with that, not make things worse by demanding money up front.
Doing your research makes all the difference.
Once you’ve done that you can feel confident hiring a lawyer that you like, because that lawyer has already met the criteria for earning your trust.
From there you can sit back, relax, and focus on what matters: your healing.