How to find a good injury lawyer?
February 16, 2007 1:12 AM   Subscribe

How does one "shop" for a personal injury lawyer? What are features of a good injury lawyer?

I was doored by a careless driver and flew off my bike, breaking my kneecap. I will likely be in for surgery and want to make sure all my angles are covered so that I'm not stuck with huge bills.

I've never had the need to employ a lawyer's services before. What should I look for one?

My friend sent me to Martindale to locate lawyers in my area (Philadelphia). From this how would I guage which are good and which are bad? Are there better search services?
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Law & Government (8 answers total)
 
Here's an explanation of Martindale's rating system. Note that all lawyers will have ratings. With a younger lawyer, it's most likely because they haven't been added yet. With more experienced ones, an absent rating may mean many things, but you should be aware that it's possible the attorney in question either asked to have it removed or didn't make it to "c" level.

Once you've picked out a few likely choices from Martindale, you can call the Bar Association to check up and find out about their disciplinary records.

You can also look at this directory from Philadelphia Magazine.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:51 AM on February 16, 2007


Your case is small. I would stay away from some of the guys who advertise on TV etc. as it will just be staffed by low level associates, although perhaps not. A good solo or small firm might be your best bet.

Are you sure you really want a lawyer? Will insurance pay your bills? Are you being screwed? An attorney will take about 30% of everything. Do you want to share? Sharing is great when they increase the pie by more than half, not so great otherwise. You are going to have to sue for pain and suffering to pay for the lawyer.
posted by caddis at 4:43 AM on February 16, 2007


Dooood, so sorry to hear that, Alex. My lady's father is a solo attorney, I will ask him if he knows anyone.
posted by The Straightener at 6:34 AM on February 16, 2007


Yeah, kind of with caddis here. First, realize that the point of a PI lawyer is to get more money out of the plaintiff (or, likely his insurance) than they would just offer you upfront. They may offer to pay all of your medical bills just in order to avoid litigation; ask yourself if anything beyond that is worth the trouble.

If yes, then there are still 2 ways to win: either you go all-out in court, litigate it to the end, and get a favorable jury verdict, or your attorney browbeats the insurance company and you settle before trial. In either case, no matter what you're awarded, the lawyer will take 25-30%. So, yes, they have to increase the size of the pie by about 50% for it to even be worthwhile.

In your initial meeting with whatever lawyer (I guess I wouldn't hesitate to call someone from the yellow pages, but Martindale's fine too), you should be able to find out what percentage of their cases they take to trial, what percentage of those that they win, what their average settlement size is, and what they estimate your case could settle for. This should all be included in a free consultation or at the very worst a fixed-fee (maybe $100) meeting; they should not insist that you sign on with them before providing info like this.
posted by rkent at 7:05 AM on February 16, 2007


Here's a recent thread along similar lines. My answer here applies to you as well.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:25 AM on February 16, 2007


Check with other lawyers. By far the best way.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:55 AM on February 16, 2007


Saucy's words in the linked thread above are worth reading.

If you don't "lawyer up" and instead contact the insurance company, they'll likely lowball you. Worse, the initial settlement offer could be reasonable, but subsequent complications could stem from your surgery. Shoudl this this happen you'll likely have no recourse as any settlement w/ the insurance company will likely come with a waiver of all future claims.

Be very wary of those attorneys who advertise on tv. Generally, they practice a numbers game, not law. If they don't think your case will easily settle for X they won't take it; and they won't pursue more than X because that takes time, and opens them up to the possibility that they won't get the higher ammount should they run into an unfavorable judgment. In short, they're a step above going it alone, but not by much.
posted by herc at 8:32 AM on February 16, 2007


Thanks, Jeff, I appreciate it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:15 AM on February 16, 2007


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