The vast majority of our clients never expected needing to hire an attorney. Who really spends time envisioning themselves becoming injured by another’s negligence while biking, driving, running, or swimming? And on the other side of this dilemma, we’ve found most people don’t think they could ever be accused of something like causing a collision, recklessly driving, or perhaps, having one too many drinks before getting behind the wheel. While we don’t wish any RTB members circumstances that lead them to needing an injury or criminal defense attorney, here’s a short source for helping you shop should you need one.
If you have been injured, the road ahead is complicated and you most likely need an attorney to navigate timing your claim, negotiating the claim, potentially filing suit, and figuring out who is owed what from the ultimate settlement (repaying medical expenses, etc.). If a person faces a criminal charge, that needs to be taken seriously too. Not only should you hire an attorney, but you should hire the right attorney for you and for your case. There’s more to hiring the right attorney than simply googling personal injury attorneys or criminal defense lawyers. In fact, that’s why most good attorneys offer free consultations – we want to make sure we are the right fit for you. When you meet with your potential attorney, at a minimum, make sure you ask these four questions.
1. Have you handled cases similar to mine? Injury cases can vary. Most injury attorneys handle auto accidents. Very few have actually handed pedestrian, runner, cycling, and swimming/boating injuries. Criminal charges can vary significantly as well – from misdemeanors, to felonies, to sex crimes to federal charges. Each type of charge is handled very differently. You want an attorney who has experience handling similar charges to the one you are facing. If the attorney is experienced in handling murder charges, but rarely handled DUI cases, you probably should look elsewhere for a DUI attorney and vice versa.
2. Have you practiced in this jurisdiction before? While the criminal charge is the same throughout the state (or country, if it’s a federal charge), each court system handles things a little bit differently. The procedure may be different because each court may have local rules that are specific just to that court. If your attorney is unfamiliar with local procedure, it’s possible that deadlines could be missed or documents could be incorrectly filed that could seriously hurt your case. Injury attorneys don’t seem to limit the counties in which they practice – if the case involves a significant enough potential financial outcome. Our firm has handled cases throughout the state, and elsewhere. But if, for example, there is a collision in a faraway county, and the treatment involved in recovering is minimal, and the client is back to “normal” in short time, the client might be better off with an experienced local attorney who will not have to imagine travelling while prepping the case for court for things like interviewing local doctors and treatment providers, and first responders.
3. How often and how will we communicate? You know yourself best. If you need an attorney who will communicate with you weekly – find that. On the other hand, you may be content going through some quiet times and not need as frequent communication. Similarly, if you process things better through writing, you’ll want an attorney who communicates through written forms of communication more frequently than phone calls. Same idea if you need to speak in person to fully understand what is going on. Whatever your communication style is, find an attorney who mirrors that. Otherwise, you’ll be in for a long road of miscommunication and anxiety.
4. How often do your cases go to trial? It is fair to say most injury cases do not even get filed in court, much less go to trial. Many criminal cases don’t make it all the way to trial and instead result in a plea bargain. A good attorney evaluates each case individually and guides their client towards the best result. That being said, if you feel strongly about going to trial rather than accepting a settlement offer in an injury case, you’ll want to be sure that your mindset does not clash with the experience and philosophy of your attorney. The same can be said for criminal case negotiations. There is no one right answer to this question but it will help you better understand how this attorney handles cases and whether he/she is the right fit for you.
While our firm practices in the areas of personal injury and criminal defense, every attorney in our firm knows dozens of attorneys who practice in all sorts of other disciplines – family law, wills and estates, business planning, commercial litigation, school law, and appeals, to name a handful. If your needs are in an area outside of our normal practice area, we would love to take your call and recommend others who might be of assistance.
There may be other questions you want to ask an attorney at your initial consultation but these 4 will help you get an idea of whether you want to hire that attorney. While hiring an attorney quickly is important, it may be more important to hire the right attorney.