Five Tips to Selecting A Lawyer For a Serious Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim
FIRST: Interview the lawyer and the law office. Ask to meet with the lawyer at his or her office, for a short period of time, not necessarily for legal advice, but merely to see if you are comfortable with that person and office. When you meet, is your meeting with one of the named principles of the office, or are you meeting with a lawyer that is not featured in the firm’s literature, possibly a lawyer you never heard of and did not expect to meet with? At some firms you might not even meet with a lawyer at all, but may meet with a paralegal or secretary on your first or even subsequent visits. While at the office, ask to take a look around. Does the office appear neat and organized, or are there files stacked haphazardly around? However, even if you meet with a lawyer who you like and he or she has a very efficient and impressive office, you still need to know much more.
SECOND: Find out about the specific jury trial experience the firm has had in the past. Ask the lawyer about the specific jury trial experience of the firm you are interviewing. Remember, if the insurance company does not make a fair and reasonable settlement offer in connection with your claim, you have no choice but to present the case for trial. Almost all serious personal injury and wrongful death cases which are not settled involve jury trials. Even if you do not request a jury trial it is likely the insurance company will. You may be well advised to ask the lawyer: (a) the case number; (b) the county of filing; and (c) the dollar amount of the jury verdict of a few of the larger jury verdicts the firm has obtained in the past. This information is rarely private or privileged. In fact, all the above information is a matter of public record at the court house where the trial took place. If the lawyer does not give you direct answers to your inquires in this regard, the reason may well be that the lawyer has little jury trial experience in civil cases, or has had very little success with his or her civil jury trials in the past.
THIRD: Find out specifically which lawyer will be handling your file. Ask the lawyer whether he or she will be personally handling your claim, or will it be handled by someone else in the firm? Remember, there is little benefit in meeting a principal attorney on the first visit if some other lawyer you have never met will ultimately be assigned your file. If you want a specific lawyer to handle your claim, insist on including that as a part of your written contract before you agree to sign.
FOURTH: Beware of assembly-line “Settlement Mills”. Some lawyers and law firms who advertise that they concentrate in injury, death, and workers’ compensation cases may actually have a surprising lack of successful trial experience. These “Settlement Mills” often will sign you up in the hopes they will be able to settle your case without a trial. If they are able to receive fair and reasonable compensation for you by virtue of a settlement and without a trial, it is obviously a great benefit to all involved. However, if the insurance company does not make a reasonable settlement offer, it is possible you may end up going to trial with a lawyer at your side who has very little trial experience (or very little successful trial experience). Our office has actually received calls in the past from folks claiming to have been dropped by one or more of these “Settlement Mills” after it became obvious the insurance company was not going to make a reasonable settlement offer. You can help insure you are not signing up with a “Settlement Mill” by following these five tips for selecting a lawyer for a serious personal injury or wrongful death claim.
FIFTH: Remember, because Illinois does not recognize legal specialties, the fact that a lawyer may be listed as concentrating his or her practice in personal injury or wrongful death claims may be of little, or no, significance. You should be knowledgeable and comfortable with the personality, background, experience and office policies of the lawyer and firm before selecting a lawyer to handle your claim.
For a free no obligation consultation about your injury or wrongful death claim, please call Wolter, Beeman, Lynch & Londrigan at 217-753-4220. When we meet you will be meeting with one of us and one of us will be the principal attorney who is working on your file, not someone you never heard of!