There are several types of lawyers, even though we all go through the same basic legal training. So, you probably are wondering what makes a good personal injury lawyer? This is what I would look for, if my family members were in an accident:
Are they a litigator or a transaction lawyer?
A good personal injury lawyer is a litigator not a transactional lawyer.
There are basically two types of lawyers; lawyers who work in courts, and lawyers who do paperwork. The lawyers who work in courts are called litigators or trial lawyers while the people who draft a will or create a contract or handle a merger and acquisition are called transactional lawyers. There’s nothing wrong with a transactional lawyer, they just simply don’t work in the courtroom very often. There are some lawyers who do both, but if I were looking for a personal injury lawyer I would be looking for somebody who’s primarily a litigator.
Are they a trial lawyer?
A good personal injury lawyer is a trial lawyer.
A trial lawyer is a type of litigator. All litigators handle cases that are happening in court; they file pleadings and motions and handle cases on a day-to-day basis. But when somebody refers to a “trial lawyer” what they’re usually referring to is somebody who actually puts on a case in front of a judge or a jury. All trial lawyers are litigators but not all litigators are trial lawyers. And to be fair, most of the work that it takes to get a case to trial is done at the litigator stage. So a good litigator who isn’t also a good trial lawyer can still handle the majority of the case. So why would I insist on having a trial lawyer for my personal injury lawyer? Because the defense attorneys and the insurance companies all know which lawyers will take the case to trial and which lawyers won’t. If you get the reputation as a guy who will take a case all the way up to trial but then fold right when you have to call a jury, you can be pushed a little more than the guy who’s very comfortable putting on a case in front of a judge or jury. That it helps increase your value of your case.
Do they handle injury cases?
A good personal injury lawyer handles injury cases.
There are good lawyers who handle all types of cases. Patent lawyers, contract lawyers, employment lawyers, and injury lawyers, just to name a few. And if they’re all litigators and all trial lawyers that means they all know how to handle themselves in the courtroom which is a skill set that is common to any type of trial. However, lawyers who routinely handle injury cases understand the human component to damages in a way that a patent lawyer may not and therefore make better personal injury lawyers. Also, just like any other industry, the people who work on injury cases get very use to understanding medical terminology and injury terminology. So for instance when I’m talking to a doctor, or chiropractor I usually understand most of what they’re telling me about. I don’t need them to translate what I left anterior ligament is or a suture or contusion. I’ve handle enough cases that I can talk with medical staff on their terms. That’s important because it cuts out some of the learning curve and it also helps them understand how to position their case.
How many cases do they actually take to trial?
A good personal injury lawyer takes cases to trial.
I really discussed how I want to make sure that I have a trial lawyer for my injury case. But you also want to know how many cases they take to trial usually as a percentage of the total cases they handle. They may think that the guy that takes every single case to trial is the one that you would want to have as your attorney. I disagree. A personal injury lawyer who has to take every single case to trial might be reckless or not preparing their cases at an early stage like they should. I say that because statistically somewhere between 70 and 90% of all cases nationwide settle before trial. Now to be sure, a trial lawyer will take on much greater percentage of his cases to trial than a litigator. A litigator will almost never go to trial while a trial lawyer may take two or three or four cases to trial every year. But if a guy has 10 cases and he takes and nine of them to trial I think I would be very concerned with that ratio because many cases should settle if you know what you’re doing. So I would look for a trial attorney who takes a couple of cases to trial every year but probably no more than 10 or 20% of his cases should go to trial.
Do they handle the cases as a team, or do the paralegals do all the work?
A good personal injury lawyer handles the case from beginning to end.
As a broad generalization there are two types of law firms: firms where the lawyers do most of the work and the support staff just supports the lawyers or law firms where the support staff does 90% of the work and the lawyers only attend court hearings and depositions. Both types of law firms can provide competent legal services to people. But, for my family members I would be looking for a law firm which has personal injury lawyers working as a team with their support staff throughout the entire case process. I don’t want nonlegal or paralegal staff members handling all the prep work and then simply handing off the case to a personal injury lawyer when you have to have a lawyer in court. I think that lawyers who work the cases from beginning to and gain a greater insight into each of their cases, they’re usually more selective of the types of cases they take, and in my opinion they usually get a better result for their clients.
So that’s my list for what I would be looking for in a lawyer or law firm if my family member was injured in an accident.