What to Look for in Your Personal Injury Attorney
When someone’s negligent actions seriously injure you, it can derail your life. A good Florida personal injury lawyer can help. Unfortunately, your situation can seem hopeless if you feel that your lawyer isn’t good enough to handle your case. You shouldn’t feel bad if you second guess your attorney choice. You only get one chance to recover the damages you need to improve your life. You must make the most of it.
When a person or company commits a negligent act, you can’t always avoid serious and catastrophic injuries. You can’t go back in time and change the event or the adverse effect it’s had on your life. The only power you have to change your circumstances comes through your personal injury attorney. A good personal injury attorney can make negligent parties pay for the damages they caused. They can help you get your life back on track.
You Need a Good Personal Injury Attorney
When you are seriously or catastrophically injured, you have a lot at stake. You deserve to have the best possible personal injury attorney working on your behalf. If you already have an attorney, you need to feel confident that he or she is performing optimally. If you don’t believe your attorney is the best person to handle your injury claim, you should consider making a change.
You live with a widening confidence gap when you realize that you didn’t properly screen or evaluate your attorney. You can remedy that by revisiting your selection process. You can determine if your attorney is good enough to handle your case by looking at the factors you may have overlooked when you made your original attorney choice.
Evaluate Your Attorney’s Performance
Appraising an attorney you already have is similar to your annual on-the-job employee evaluation. In this situation, you’re in charge. You get to evaluate your attorney’s performance the way your boss evaluates your performance each year.
You can take the opportunity to look at what you thought your attorney should have accomplished versus what they’ve actually accomplished. Then you get to make a decision. Do you want to keep your current attorney or find one who better meets your requirements?
You Need an Evaluation Strategy
It’s a good idea to have a framework for evaluating your attorney’s performance and tracking your results. Set up a structure that works for you. Use a computer-generated graph, a spiral-bound notebook, or a legal tablet to document your results the way you choose. Use these evaluation categories and add a few your own. Evaluate your personal injury attorney based on the performance categories that are most important to you and your case.
- Type of attorney
- Track record
- Awards and recognitions
Expectations for Your Attorney
A good personal injury lawyer can’t give you everything you want, but they should help you manage your expectations. If your attorney didn’t explain the general nature of injury cases, you could feel as though he or she may not doing a good job.
- Unpredictability: You might be disappointed if you anticipated an easy resolution to a complicated case. The more complex an injury case, the more unpredictable it becomes.
- Timeframe: If your case is legally complicated with complex liability issues, it could take years to resolve. If you anticipated a quick resolution, it could be a matter of high expectations.
- Injury value: It’s disappointing when your attorney comes to you with a defendant’s offer that’s way below what you anticipated. This could be the attorney’s issue if he promised you an unrealistic settlement.
- Legal fees: Personal injury attorneys handle cases on a contingency basis. If your attorney didn’t explain the concept, it can be eye-opening when you learn what that means.
- Comparative negligence: At some point, your attorney should have explained that insurance companies and courts often reduce settlements and judgments based on the injured person’s negligence.
Type of Attorney
If you’re having problems with your attorney because he’s often tied up in family court or criminal court or working on a real estate deal, you chose the wrong type of attorney. You might have assumed that all attorneys were the same. Most attorneys work according to a practice specialty, while some others handle any case that walks in the door. When you’re seriously injured in an accident, you need an attorney who deliberately chose to handle personal injury cases only and developed their skills accordingly.
All attorneys receive a comprehensive education in law school, but at some point, they gravitate to a practice specialty. While some attorneys focus on corporate, family, criminal, real estate, and other legal areas, others choose personal injury law. After law students graduate, they often join existing firms that focus on their chosen practice area. They work with cases that help them develop expertise and a working knowledge of business or real estate or whatever area of law they chose.
Attorneys know more about their chosen specialty than any other practice area. That’s how personal injury attorneys become good at what they do. While your real estate attorney may be energetic, smart, and a really nice lady, the best thing she can do for you is to refer you to a colleague who’s highly experienced in personal injury.
Personal Injury Attorney Experience
Whether you were injured due to an auto, premises, or product accident, or some other accidental occurrence, an experienced personal injury lawyer knows best how to protect your interests. They have expertise gained from careers that focused on personal injury cases only. They’ve relied on their expertise to review their clients’ cases and identify the best paths to recovery.
Lawyers in a personal injury law firm handle injury cases confidently because they don’t have a learning curve. They don’t have to figure out the laws, issues, and processes step-by-step. When injury victims tell their stories, a personal injury attorney interprets the facts based on insight gained through experience. They easily identify important facts, issues, and information that require further investigation.
- Complex liability issues
- Triggering events
- Relevant laws
- Negligent parties
- Damage severity
- Defective products
If your general practice attorney doesn’t sound as sharp and responsive as you think he should, he probably has to consult with a personal injury colleague to figure out what to do next.
Personal Injury Attorney Track Record
If you didn’t check out your attorney’s track record before he took your case, you should do that now. You don’t have to examine all of his cases. You just need to see some information on some of his past accomplishments. You don’t need to see a perfect record. A good personal injury attorney isn’t good because he’s perfect but his history should include a good mix of strong victories and positive outcomes.
When an attorney has a brag-worthy track record, it’s usually because he’s willing to do the hard work it takes to succeed. Personal injury attorneys often begin their careers handling simple cases. While some attorneys never move beyond this simple stage, the good ones increase their expertise, knowledge, and firm resources. They move up to tougher cases with complex liability issues and catastrophic injuries. Their case histories often reflect that they’re flexible enough to negotiate and mediate cases. They also show an ability and willingness to go to trial.
When a personal injury lawyer can’t or won’t share his track record, it’s a sign that they probably have few noteworthy accomplishments. You should also accept it as a sign that they might not be good enough to handle your injury case.
If you still want to know more about an attorney who won’t share past results, you’ll probably find enough online ratings to satisfy your curiosity. Google, Yelp, and other user rating sites allow clients to post star ratings and written reviews of their experiences with law firms. You can also search for information on attorney review and rating sites such as AVVO.
Communication With Your Attorney
You can judge a personal injury attorney by their commitment to client communication. When you ask a question, a good personal injury attorney responds as soon as possible. When you want a case status they give something more personal than a form letter.
It’s maddening when a personal injury attorney won’t return your calls or respond to your emails or letters. That occurs for several reasons. Either they’re too overwhelmed with work, they have no support staff, or they don’t have a good answer to your question. It doesn’t matter why your attorney won’t respond. What matters is that a lack of response leaves you feeling unimportant and overlooked.
Location of the Personal Injury Attorney
If your attorney’s location seems to be a challenging issue that prevents him from handling your injury claim properly, that shouldn’t be the case. As long as your attorney is within driving distance of your jurisdiction, their location should never be critical to their performance.
A good personal injury attorney won’t take your case if they can’t give you the conscientious service you deserve. They put forth the effort to understand the laws, the local courts, and the and legal complications inherent to the areas they serve. A good personal injury law firm can move your case forward even if their office isn’t as close to your jurisdiction as you’d prefer. Most important case activity occurs online, on the phone, and during scheduled discovery.
If you are seriously or catastrophically injured, impaired or have transportation or mobility issues, attorneys can accommodate you. To eliminate location as an issue, some attorneys will come to your hospital room or your home for an initial consultation. Some law firms also give clients access to technology that makes it easy to connect remotely. They have online consultation requests, conference calls, and apps for case submission and follow up.
Your Attorney’s Personality
When you’re re-evaluating your personal injury attorney, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover. If you don’t like your attorney’s voice, mannerisms, or even the way he or she dresses, you should probably consider finding a new legal representative.
First impressions are important. You must connect with a personal injury attorney to establish a good working relationship. It’s meaningful when you don’t like the person who will play such an important role in your life for the next few months or the next few years.
When you don’t like your attorney’s looks or personality, it’s not just about being too particular or too choosey. Your attorney represents you. If there’s something about their personality or looks that you just don’t like, those looks could have that same effect on a jury or a judge. An annoying, poorly groomed, or sloppy lawyer might unwittingly sabotage settlement negotiations, mediations, trials, and cooperation among parties.
Personal Injury Attorney Awards and Recognition
When you visit your attorney’s web page, scroll to the bottom and look for awards and national and local recognition. For attorneys, acknowledgments from organizations such as AVVO, Florida Legal Elite, and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates acknowledge their consistent legal accomplishments. Attorneys receive peer awards from fellow attorneys who’ve grown to respect their work.
Community awards and scholarship contributions reflect a law firm’s commitment to the areas they serve. If your personal injury attorney has no sign of recognition or awards, he or she probably hasn’t earned any.
Seek an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney
If you complete your evaluation and you’re satisfied that you have a good personal injury attorney on your side, great! If you identified problems, it’s up to you how you choose to follow through. You can sit down to have a talk with your attorney to address what you’ve found. If your attorney is unresponsive to your concerns, you should consider contacting another personal injury attorney who’s willing to address your needs. If you decide to search for a replacement, use this framework to evaluate new personal injury attorney candidates.
Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd.
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900 Fax: (727) 451-6907