10 Guidelines for Finding a Good Wrongful Death Attorney
- Ask around. Getting a referral from someone you trust can be an excellent place to start when you’re looking for a lawyer. But remember that the lawyer who did a divorce or reviewed a real estate deal for a friend probably doesn’t have experience with wrongful death cases. You don’t want to be someone’s first wrongful death client.
- Find an expert. Specialists beat generalists, so you probably want a lawyer who specifically focuses on personal injury and wrongful death. Wrongful death cases are complicated, and you do not want an attorney who is just learning about this area of law.
- Meet with all potential lawyers. Don’t sign anything until you’ve met and discussed your case with several possible attorneys. A good attorney is someone you will trust and feel comfortable with, since you’ll need to tell your lawyer everything and be completely honest. These cases can take years. Make sure you hire someone you trust.
- Take a look at the Client Bill of Rights. Many attorneys will have this written down in some form or other. Those who don’t should be able to tell you verbally. You can see an example of ours in Appendix E. Figure out which ones (if not all of them) are important to you, and make sure you only hire a lawyer who agrees to abide by them.
- Make sure your lawyer is willing to go to trial if you do not get a reasonable offer. Of course, the lawyer and the deceased’s family may not always see eye-to-eye on what constitutes a good offer, but if the offer is objectively unreasonable, your lawyer must be willing to go to trial. Few lawyers have the experience and are willing to take the time to do so.
- Have your attorney explain all fees and costs up front. You don’t want any surprises, especially unexpected fees.
- Look for a lawyer who is a member of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) and the American Association of Justice (AAJ, formerly ATLA). Membership in these organizations shows that your lawyer is proud of what he or she does, cares about justice, and is willing to put money and time towards the cause of justice in Oregon (OTLA) and the entire U.S.A. (AAJ). This shows that they are in the profession because they care about justice for all, and not just to make a buck.
- Find out about a lawyer’s caseload. If the “personal touch” is important to you, ask lawyers about how many cases they handle at a time. Wrongful death cases take a lot of time, so make sure your attorney has that time to give.
- Make sure your lawyer is interested in educating you. Some attorneys just want to take your case and never talk to you, but for most people, an attorney who will guide you through each step of the process will be a better choice.
- Make sure your lawyer has adequate malpractice insurance. Every lawyer in Oregon is required to carry at least $300,000 in malpractice insurance. A careful lawyer who takes wrongful death cases will carry much more than that. Do not be afraid to ask your lawyer how much malpractice insurance they have.