Choosing the right personal injury attorney may be the most important decision an injured person makes in the presentation of a bodily injury claim following an car accident, or any other personal or bodily injury claim, such as motorcycle, pedestrian, truck or bike accidents.
Unfortunately, there are very little legal rules in place to guarantee that a lawyer holding themselves out as an expert in personal injury litigation is in fact qualified in the field. California does not have a specialization requirement for personal injury attorneys, and sadly, the law permits any licensed attorney to accept and handle cases for personal injuries, no matter how complex or involved!
This is true even if they have never handled, or only occasionally have handled, an accident injury case previously.
Incredibly, it is also true even if the attorney has had a historic lack of success in settling or winning at trial liability injury lawsuits! The success of the lawyer in handling prior cases is not monitored at all, and even an attorney who has poorly handled or unsuccessfully handled prior personal injury cases is still able to hold themselves out as qualified or an expert in the personal injury field. There are huge differences in the knowledge needed to handle different types of accidents. An accident involving two or more automobiles, compared to an accident involving a truck, bicycle, or a pedestrian involve very different types of investigation and legal analysis! Proving liability or responsibility for accidents involving big rig trucks is quite different than proving liability in a more common car or motor vehicle accident. A pedestrian case creates different and significant issues.
There are several questions that you should ask of the attorney you are considering hiring to handle your personal injury case. Some of these questions are as follows:
1. How many personal injury cases has the attorney actually handled?
2. How many personal injury cases has the lawyer actually taken to trial? How many of these cases did the attorney actually win?
3. How does the attorney evaluate the case for the purposes of arriving at a dollar value?
4. Is the attorney familiar with what the insurance company on the other side does in terms of handling a bodily injury claim? Insurance companies have some very unique characteristics in how they handle claims, and an experienced injury lawyer will be able to predict some of the tactics and schemes that the insurance company will use against the injured client. This knowledge on the part of the attorney should always be true for the major insurance companies and almost always true for even the smaller, substandard insurance companies if the attorney is really experienced and an expert in the field. The level of knowledge the attorney has in this area is a very good indication of how much experience the attorney actually has, since a lawyer with experience in a large number of cases will have developed knowledge about each insurance company’s habits and ways to get out of paying what it owes.
Perhaps the most important admonition for an injured person to be concerned with is the attorney who inflates the value of the case in the first interview, and who assures the client that there is little to be concerned about with the case. This is an all too common practice on the part of attorneys because they think that inflating the value of the case will make the client want to hire them, and then later when there are problems, it is often perceived too late for the client to make a different choice. Insurance companies have a wide range of sophisticated tactics and schemes to minimize or defeat the most valid of cases, and unfortunately, because the judges and courts, as well as the politicians, have been heavily influenced by insurance companies, the laws have changed in the last couple of decades to take away the rights of the injured victim, and give insurance companies many legal advantages, all to the detriment of the injured victim.