Posted in Blog on April 5, 2022
You have a personal injury case and are ready to file suit. How do you select the best attorney for you and your family? Start here.
Personal injury cases are by nature a personal affair, and you need a lawyer you can trust to be respectful, dedicated, and professional. Asking the right questions during your first consultation can let you know very quickly whether an attorney is right for you.
At Zaner Harden Law, we consider ourselves trial attorneys first and foremost, but that does not mean every case needs to go to trial. It means that we prepare fully for battle, even if the negotiations for peace are likely to work out in time. We never just assume cases will settle easily, and because our intention to go the distance is made clear to the opposing side, they often surrender satisfactorily for our clients.
If you have a personal injury claim, you deserve a fully qualified lawyer who will answer all your questions thoroughly. Keeping you informed in a timely manner is not a chore, it’s our first duty to our clients. Contact Zaner Harden Law at (720) 613-9706 if you’re ready to speak to a lawyer about representation. For more information on how to evaluate whether an attorney is right for you, read on.
These questions are a great script to start from when you’re considering the best lawyer for your situation. An attorney should answer them to your full satisfaction — otherwise, they’re not the advocate you’re looking for.
Make sure the attorney has successfully handled cases just like yours. Be specific, about the incident and the injury, when asking this question.
If you were hit by a commercial vehicle like an 18-wheeler, such a truck accident is a different case than a car-on-car collision. If you have been in a car accident, but your injury is catastrophic and could impair you with a lifelong treatment needs, then be sure and discuss this matter and life-care planning. For example, if a person’s ankle was crushed and requires extensive surgery and screws, there will be mobility issues. For someone who works on their feet or enjoys hiking, these may no longer be options.
Your attorney needs to show they can deliver the kind of settlement or verdict that you need.
Experience matters, and you want to make sure this isn’t your attorney’s first rodeo.
If the lawyer starts daydreaming about cases that don’t sound similar to yours, be specific and clear that you want to hear about cases like yours. Certain types of incidents, such as an airplane disaster or a wildfire catastrophe, may be less common. However, the firm and the other lawyers should have recent experience to satisfy your answer.
Young lawyers start building experience by assisting senior attorneys. This trains them up and helps them gain valuable knowledge, but your injury case should not be someone’s practice test. You only have one opportunity to bring a lawsuit, and your quality of life very likely will rely on the outcome. Make sure the lawyer you’re speaking with is a veteran in their field, as that will provide you with the best advocacy possible.
This is a great follow-up to question #1, and it’s important!
A verdict is different than a settlement. A verdict means the case was taken to trial and your lawyer generated a successful outcome. A settlement is an agreement between you and the other party, and is often most satisfactory when negotiated and double-checked by your own attorney instead of relying on the wording provided by the other side.
To be fair, all good lawyers will win and lose cases, but it’s okay to ask about their win/loss record. Obviously, you want to hire a lawyer who wins most of the time. You want to hire a lawyer who is confident in their trial abilities, and you will hear or see this confidence when speaking about their trial experience.
However, the deeper objective of this question is to find out the last time your lawyer was in trial, or if they even go to trial at all. Many law firms with commercials, billboards, and large advertisements simply settle cases. While the amount may seem large, your true damages and injuries may not be thoughtfully accounted for. Within the legal community, it is known that the lawyers who obtain the highest settlements are often the ones who welcome being in trial, and are ready, willing, and able to work for the highest verdicts.
Regardless of how your case is completed, settlements and the surrounding negotiations will still benefit from the assistance of a lawyer. Those who walk in with an attorney receive payouts far higher than those who go it alone — an average of 300% higher according to a survey by the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Attorneys have the experience to negotiate for the best settlement amounts, and may secure what you need without going to trial at all.
It’s not a bad thing to settle a case before taking it to trial, and in fact, you may find it preferable to get a fair settlement as quickly as possible and be done with the case. However, you also want a lawyer who is prepared to personally do whatever is necessary to secure a satisfactory outcome for you and your family. You do not want an attorney who will pawn you off on a junior associate, nor an attorney who urges you to settle for less rather than do the work required for a trial. You deserve a lawyer’s full commitment to your needs and desires.
Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer-in-chief, and had a famous quote on litigation that points out its potential to be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally taxing: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”
As long as a settlement is fair and in the best interest of the client, then settling a case is an admirable outcome. If the other side refuses to deal fairly, however, your lawyer should have no hesitation about bringing them before a judge.
Communication is important and one of the most frustrating experiences with many law firms — just look at negative reviews from law firms and you will frequently see references to poor communication.
From the beginning of contacting the firm to your consultation, you should feel like you are just one of a select few clients. Do the lawyers return phone calls promptly? How frequently do they communicate through email for status updates? These are all great follow-up questions to have for a prospective lawyer.
Be sure to ask your lawyer if you have a question for them specifically: how long do they take to provide a return call? Within 24 hours is acceptable, but responses are often sooner. If your lawyer claims they go to trial often, then usually they will work with a colleague to ensure your call is returned as soon as possible.
An honest lawyer will be careful when answering this question. The process to receive the maximum amount of compensation is rarely, if ever, fast. A lawyer that tells you the settlement is quick and provides an accelerated timeline without knowing all your facts, the medical records, or taking depositions from the insurance company, likely cannot answer this question with accuracy.
The best answer is usually a “rough estimate” and it could take at least six months and up to two years for more complex cases with severe damages or a wrongful death involved. The lawyer should be interested in resolving your case as quickly as possible, so long as it delivers you the compensation you deserve. They should be able to provide you with examples of previous case results to back up any educated guess they provide.
This should be a question your lawyer is enthusiastic to hear and answer. Your role is not to worry about the case, but to focus on healing and getting well. The sooner your life can get back to normal, the sooner the doctor visits will stop and a resolution to your case can be celebrated. Putting the matter behind you and closing this challenging chapter of your life will lead to even further emotional well-being.
As you can see in our firm testimonials and more than 200 five-star reviews, our role is to ensure you receive justice and then can go about enjoying your life.
These questions will give you a solid knowledge base from which to evaluate a lawyer before you sign on with their firm.
Your attorney should never treat you like a bother. Your satisfaction with how your case is handled is the highest priority of a lawyer. If you have questions about representation, you deserve answers, and a good attorney will make sure they’re fully addressed in a timely manner.
At Zaner Harden Law, our signature methodology is to approach every case as if it may require a full trial treatment. Because of that, we’re never caught off-guard during negotiations with individuals, insurance agents, or companies. It’s like preparing for rain even if the forecast is sunny — when you expect the unexpected, you’re far less likely to get soaked.
Reach out to Zaner Harden Law by filling out our online contact form, or by calling (720) 613-9706. We will always make time to ensure that our clients and potential clients receive the answers they need to hire us with confidence.