How To Choose A Personal Injury Lawyer Article by liwenting


									                         E. Marcus Davis
        Davis, Zipperman, Kirschenbaum & Lotito, L.L.P.
                  918 Ponce De Leon Ave., N.E.
                     Atlanta, Georgia 30306
                      Phone: (404) 688-2000
                     Facsimile: (404) 872-1622

                                    ~    ~    ~    ~   ~

                 How To Choose A Personal Injury Lawyer

       With the advent of lawyer advertising, the criteria by which clients pick personal

injury lawyers can have little or nothing to do with the skill, knowledge, or expertise of the

lawyer they choose. A lawyer who has never seen the inside of a courtroom can promote

himself or herself as an expert in the field of personal injury through the clever use of

marketing. For example in the Atlanta area, an attorney, who seems to have leased most

of the billboards on the interstates in the city, claims that he has one 28,000 cases in 28

years. To the injured client who has never had a personal injury claim, such an assertion

seems to mean that the lawyer is vastly experienced and has won thousands of cases.

Looking at the assertion on its face, however, consider that there are 250 working days in

the year. If the lawyer has been practicing law for 28 years then he has won 1,000 personal

injury cases per year for 28 years. If there are 250 working days in a year, this means that

he has “won” 4 cases a day. How much work do you think it takes to adequately, much less

expertly and professionally, prepare and try a personal injury case? Medical records must

be ordered, received, reviewed and organized. Exhibits must be created illustrating the

injuries. Depositions must be taken of the police officer, fact witnesses and doctors for use

at trial. Negotiations must occur between plaintiffs lawyer and the insurance adjuster or

the plaintiffs lawyer and the defense counsel. Mediations usually occur. In addition, trials

are extremely complex events, which require skilled, seasoned attorneys who have trial

experience. Such experience takes years of study, practice and actually trying cases to hone

ones skills to perfection. What the advertiser is actually telegraphing to the public is that

he is running a high volume, high turnover personal injury factory. His money is made by

turning the cases quickly. The insurance companies are smart enough to know that in

dealing with such a law firm they can settle cases for a fraction of what the case would be

settled for with a serious trial lawyer.

         An alternative approach for the client in the day of lawyer advertising, is to conduct

some simple research. Research the lawyer on the internet. By using the internet, you can

access the lawyers Martindale-Hubbell rating1. Excellent lawyers and law firms may have

a “preeminent” rating with Martindale-Hubbell. The highest attorney rating is an AV. The

majority of lawyers are rated AV and if the lawyer doesn’t have such a rating, this should

be a red flag. Go somewhere else. You can also conduct research for a personal injury

attorney on On the AVVO website, you can read about the lawyers one to

ten rating scale as well as comments and ratings by former clients and colleagues.

         Once you have narrowed your search and decided on a few select individuals, you

should take the time to conduct further research on their websites.                               The attorney’s

educational background will be present for you to determine if the lawyer has a solid

academic background, any additional certifications or board certifications or belongs to any

           Martindale-Hubbell is a website that provides ratings for attorneys and allows the prospective client to
search for attorneys in various fields of law.

other professional organizations or specialty organizations.         Such certifications and

memberships indicate an ongoing interest in continuing to keep their legal skills current,

and specialty memberships indicate special knowledge and expertise in the field that the

organization represents. You should also be able to determine if the lawyer has published

any papers in the field of law having to do with personal injury. You may also be able to

find out if the lawyer has performed any teaching. Frequently, law schools and continuing

legal education organizations will invite skilled advocates to teach other lawyers how to

handle or try cases. Also, lawyers who are well respected within the legal community are

usually asked to speak at legal seminars or chair legal seminars. If the lawyer is one who

has participated in or chaired such seminars, it is a pretty safe bet that he or she is skilled

and experienced in the field in which they are presenting. Another good idea is to check

with the State Bar Association to determine if the lawyer you are wishing to hire has ever

been sanctioned. If so, this can be a red flag.

       The attorney’s website may also demonstrate that he or she has served on boards of

organizations which focus on certain types of injuries or disabilities. This not only indicates

a willingness to assist fellow members of the community, but it also is indicative of a level

of expertise. Along those same lines, you may wish to find out if the lawyer engages in any

charitable activities. While giving to charity is a personal choice, it is also a characteristic

of someone who is caring and compassionate. Such an individual may also demonstrate

this same level of caring and compassion toward you.

       After you are satisfied with your level of research, contact your chosen lawyer and

ask further questions. Be blunt. Ask him or her, “how many cases have you actually tried

to a jury? Tell me some of the highlights of your career in terms of your trials? What is your

case load? Will I be one of a thousand cases, or will I be one of 15 cases?” Decide for

yourself how much time the lawyer will have to spend with you and your case. Another

good indication of the attentiveness of a lawyer is if he or she is willing return your phone

calls in a prompt manner, or if you will always be speaking to only the paralegal or

secretary. It is important to be able to speak with your lawyer directly. In addition,

determine if the lawyer will copy you on all of the correspondence and pleadings

automatically. Also, ask questions about possible settlement in terms of under what

circumstances the lawyer will attempt to settle the case before filing suit, or if the lawyer

thinks it is appropriate to file suit from the very beginning. Determine for yourself if the

explanation makes any sense. Some cases can be settled pre-suit, while others require

litigation to fully appraise the strength and weaknesses of the case to obtain the optimal


          Another suggestion in order to find a competent attorney, is to ask your friends and

relatives for a referral. Even if your friends and relatives only know of an attorney in a

different field of law other than the one you are seeking, call their referral. Frequently,

lawyers who specialize in a different area of the law are familiar with the successful and

skilled personal injury advocates in the Atlanta Metro area or the state.

          Finally, be wary of any lawyer that tries to hook you with some silly jingle or catchy

phrase. Use common sense. Is this how a professional markets their skills and abilities, if

they are really good at what they do? There are many skilled trial lawyers in Georgia. Be

sure you hire a real trial lawyer and not just a great marketer who is presenting you with an

image and no substance. Your case is important. It may be your only experience with the

legal system. If you have been catastrophically injured and are disabled you will only have

one chance at obtaining the best results.

      I hope that his advice will be helpful to you and good luck in your search for the best

personal injury attorney.


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