You've survived the collision, only to be bombarded with offensive direct mail letters and videos from “aggressive" attorneys who will “fight for you. " Between those shameless business pitches, and an endless sea of “shouting louder" TV ads, how do sort through all the clutter and select a competent and trustworthy attorney to handle your injury claim?
More than any other factor, you will be best served by an attorney or firm that has courtroom experience litigating cases from beginning to end, including trying cases to juries. There are many attorneys who rarely ever file lawsuits on their clients’ behalf if the insurance company makes an unreasonable settlement offer, and even fewer who are committed to taking the case all the way to trial. Sadly, many attorneys have little to no jury trial experience, despite advertising as “personal injury" attorneys. It takes a big commitment of time, effort, and money to prepare a case for trial - a commitment some attorneys are just not willing to make.
You can be sure that insurance companies know full well which attorneys are willing to take the fight to court in the right case, and which attorneys will always convince their clients to simply take the highest lowball offer and walk away. Attorneys who have extensive jury trial or litigation experience are less likely to “fold the tent" on your claim for fear of going to court.
So how do you know whether your attorney has the necessary litigation experience if a lawsuit is necessary due to the insurance company's unreasonableness? Simple. Ask the attorney to provide you with specific examples of cases he or she has handled, including past and recent jury verdicts. Ask the attorney to provide you with examples of depositions he or she has taken of treating physicians, physical therapists or nurses, accident reconstructionists, engineers, biomechanical engineers, investigating police officers, trucking company safety managers, accident witnesses, private investigators, vocational rehabilitation experts, and economists. These witnesses are frequently utilized in a personal injury case and any attorney who has litigation experience should be able to provide you with numerous deposition excerpts from these experts.
Another good question to ask a prospective attorney is: “Have you litigated or tried cases to a jury other than auto collision cases?" For example, large truck /auto crash cases, medical malpractice, and products liability cases are significantly more complex than a simple two car collision case. If your attorney has litigated many of these cases, it may be a sign that he or she has the necessary experience to handle your auto claim.
Equally important is to ask your prospective attorney: “Are you a frequent lecturer or instructor at legal seminars for fellow attorneys on various personal injury topics?" (again, ask for examples of presentations). Similarly, has the attorney written any legal or other articles that have been published in legal or even medical journals? Frequent lecturing or teaching or contributing to legal literature is a sign that the attorney is staying abreast of the latest legal developments, and is committed to sharing them with colleagues for the good of all attorneys who represent accident victims.
A Word About Attorney Rating Services.
There are numerous “rating services" that rate the skill level and experience of attorneys, including personal injury attorneys. A few that come to mind are Avvo.com, SuperLawyer.com, Lawyer.com and Martindale Hubbell. These rating services utilize a combination of peer review ratings by fellow attorneys and independent research. They are generally reliable, but should never be taken as the sole indicator of an attorney's competence or expertise. I personally know quite a few “super lawyers" whom I have the utmost respect for, who have not been formally nominated as such by any publications.
Again, more than anything else, a good attorney should be able to provide specific examples of his or her expertise. When interviewing prospective attorneys, the Missourian “show me" mindset is a good one to employ. The more substantive information (and not all the “puffery" or “bragging" materials) you can gather, the more likely you can conclude that your attorney is competent to handle your case, and will give it the attention it deserves.
Brian R. Wilson is a partner in Nicodemo and Wilson in Canton, Ohio and has represented clients injured due to the carelessness of others for over twenty years. He is the author of two books “Your Ohio Accident. . . And How You Can Level The Playing Field" and “How To Buy Car Insurance In Ohio To Protect Your Family. " He has also written numerous articles for legal and medical journals.