I think I need a lawyer for a liability case (Detroit area)
April 30, 2012 5:58 PM   Subscribe

How can I determine the best way to find a lawyer to work on a consumer liability case that is not the stereotypical ambulance chaser, slip and fall guy? All I want is what is fair. I am in the Detroit (Northern) suburbs.
posted by Drasher to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Generally the two options to find a lawyer are to pay hourly costs (usually with a retainer) and take the risk on yourself, or find a lawyer who thinks your odds are good enough, and the potential payout high enough, to take you on as a client on a contingency fee basis. Do you know which type of arrangement you're looking for?

Without knowing more about the case, it's hard to say where to turn. But Martindale.com might be a good place to start looking for an attorney.
posted by iamscott at 6:04 PM on April 30, 2012

Response by poster: Yes, I should have specified that they work on contingency.
posted by Drasher at 6:15 PM on April 30, 2012

I second looking on Martindale. You could also call the local bar association and see if they have a referral service.
posted by reenum at 6:33 PM on April 30, 2012

Do you know any lawyers at all? If you do, ask for a referral.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:43 PM on April 30, 2012

Best answer: Do you know any other lawyers? When we needed a personal injury attorney I asked a friend that is a traffic defense lawyer. Interestedly, he referred me to a firm that I perceived to be ambulance chasers. They turned out to be 100% professional and easy to work with. So don't rule out perceived ambulance chasers without going to talk to them. The initial consultation will be free.
posted by COD at 6:45 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding COD. You need to drop the 'ambulance chaser' perspective because it's not giving you anything helpful and will simply serve to undermine your trust in your representative.

Claimant PI lawyers are, as a rule, providing a social good, namely access to justice. Particularly where they bear the economic risk by working under conditional fee arrangements They are not popular with business groups as their success comes straight out of the bottom line but claimant PI lawyers are one of the more effective ways to hold corporate entities to account.

None of this is to say that there aren't excesses everywhere but if you work for somebody rather than employ people, then they are on your side.

I'm going to assume you don't know any lawyers to ask for a referral but this really is the best way to find someone who you can work with. Failing that, consult your legal directory and look for PI practitioners. Start at the top of the list and work your way down until you start to firm firms willing to consider a no win no fee. Audition half a dozen and go with the outfit that you have the most confidence in. Unless you are talking serious injury and/ or big money do not expect a very great deal of time and attention to be lavished on you or your claim. Best of luck.
posted by dmt at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: dmt - I will take that as constructively as it was meant. I had misgivings about the chaser label. I think the only reason I added it is because of the local TV ads that I have seen. I did not mean to cast a wide label. You are quite right and all I want is fairness.

I do not think it is prudent to discuss any particulars.
posted by Drasher at 7:50 PM on April 30, 2012

Best answer: Ask an expert. I found the lawyer I use for my construction contract dispute case via an expert construction inspector. So say you got bit by a dog. I'd google "dog bite expert witness Detroit," and call those folks to ask.
posted by slidell at 9:00 PM on April 30, 2012

This is from the perspective of someone who did defense-side civil cases for several years, including a few consumer fraud cases. (My law firm did all the legal work for a local company, so as the VERY junior associate I wound up handling the company's very small docket of consumer fraud cases.)

In a market like Detroit, it's very likely that the BEST lawyers who take PI-type cases on contingency are very choosy about the kind of cases they'll accept. Other local lawyers are very likely to know who these big hitters are. But their intake processes might be more designed to weed out undesirable cases rather than convincing you to hire them.

The stereotypical plaintiff's side practice often has too many cases, with the individual lawyer not having enough time to devote to individual cases. Contingency work is, in many respects, a volume business. So as a consumer of legal services, you want someone who is competent enough to handle your case, but who isn't so busy that they're overwhelmed. It is also very helpful that both the lawyer and client set expectations regarding communication and explanation and such.

The type of lawyer who would get a good outcome, both in terms of substantive result (settlement/judgment) and client communication, is going to depend on what kind of case you have. Wrongful death versus a few thousand dollars, deceptive advertising versus novel legal theory, need for expert witnesses, etc....You're dealing with a broad spectrum and there are slightly different skill sets and business models across that spectrum.

That is why personal referrals, especially from other lawyers practicing in the area, really are your best bet.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2012

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