Selecting A Personal Injury Attorney
Selecting an attorney is a very important decision. Hopefully you will never need a personal injury attorney but, if you do you must choose wisely. In this day and age, many attorneys do not rest on their reputation but, hire people to scour newspapers and police reports looking for people who may have been injured. This is unprofessional at best and Black, Lyle & Habberfield, LLP will never take part in that.
Unfortunately, sometimes things do not go as planned and if you are injured and would like to speak to an attorney, you should ask whomever you choose to speak with the following questions:
1) Have you ever tried a case to verdict?
Believe it or not, there are many attorneys who have never successfully tried a case in front of a jury. Some of the attorneys you see on television have never actually tried a case. Many times, these firms are located out of state and merely have a switchboard operator route your call to an attorney. In addition, if an attorney has no trial or courtroom experience, the insurance companies know this because they maintain files on all attorneys. This severely lowers the bargaining power of that attorney when settlement is discussed. All of the attorneys at Black, Lyle & Habberfield, LLP, have extensive trial, appellate and courtroom experience.
2) Have you ever been found in violation of any ethics involving the practice of law?
There are many attorneys who have been suspended for paying money to clients, sometimes called maintenance or champerty, or having clients use companies and organizations that they make profits from, often referred to as “kickbacks.” Some attorneys have been sanctioned for signing clients to retainers while they are heavily medicated or otherwise under some sort of disability. Also, some attorneys have been sanctioned for mishandling client files and funds or making claims in their advertising that simply were untrue or were repulsive to the legal profession. Anytime you hire an attorney, check to see if they have been sanctioned by the Attorney Grievance Committee. You can find information on New York or Pennsylvania attorneys at: www.nycourts.gov/courts/ad4/AG/AG-index.htm or www.padisciplinaryboard.org/pa_attorney_search.php.
3) Will you be the only attorney who handles my case?
Some law firms are like factories; attorneys come in and go out at a regular pace. When you hire an attorney they should be the only person you deal with to make sure that they get to know you, your case and can provide you with the best representation possible. At Black, Lyle & Habberfield, LLP, we promise that you will have one attorney handle your case, from start to finish.
4) If I call you, will you call me back?
What good is an attorney you never meet or speak to? An attorney should communicate with their clients to apprise them of their case and answer any questions they have. At Black, Lyle & Habberfield, LLP, we promise to call our clients back within 24 hours of being called unless there is an emergency or circumstances out of our control. If we cannot speak to you for some reason, one of our other attorneys or staff will do our best to help you until your attorney can speak with you. In short, we will treat you like a person, not just another case.
5) Do you limit your practice to injury cases?
Similar to the medical field, gone are the days when your lawyer handled all areas of your legal work. In today’s complex litigation you cannot take a one size fits all approach. Personal injury law is full of pitfalls for the inexperienced practitioner. Find out about your attorney’s experience with personal injury cases before you sign a retainer. At Black, Lyle & Habberfield, LLP, we limit our practice solely to personal injury cases.
6) Have you or other attorneys in your law firm ever been sued for legal malpractice?
As the saying goes – “we all make mistakes” however no lawyer should make such an obvious mistake or error in handling a client’s case that they end up being sued by a former client. Obviously not every case turns out as a client wishes it did – that is life and the practice of law. It is a rare instance where a client will feel so wronged by their lawyer that they will actually sue them so ask if this has ever happened to any prospective attorney.
The Bottom Line
Just because a law firm has a large advertising budget and is involved in a media blitz does not mean they are the right attorney for you. When selecting an attorney, do so with care as it can mean a large difference between success and failure in your journey for justice. The lawyers at Black, Lyle & Habberfield, LLP do not advertise on television or billboards and never will.