What to Look for in a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have decided to hire a lawyer, how do you find a good one? We can offer a few hard and fast rules, and a few guidelines.
Hard and Fast Rules
Rule #1: Meet with the lawyer before you sign anything. If you have a bad feeling about the lawyer, trust your gut instinct, and go elsewhere. You will have to tell your lawyer everything and be completely honest with someone you do not trust.
Rule #2: Make sure your lawyer is willing to go to trial. If you do not get a reasonable offer, your lawyer needs to be able to tell you that, and then be able to do something about it.
Rule #3: Make sure your lawyer explains all fees up front. You do not want any surprises.
Rule #4: Make sure your lawyer has adequate malpractice insurance. Even the best lawyers in the world are human, and anyone can make a mistake. One mark of a good lawyer is that he or she is prepared; a lawyer’s mistake should not become the client’s problem.
Legal malpractice insurance is meant to protect clients like you. If an attorney makes a mistake, and loses the client money to which they are entitled, this type of insurance will help to compensate the client for the loss. In other words, if the attorney messes up, the client can make a claim against the attorney and get some of the money the attorney lost them.
Every lawyer in Oregon is required to carry at least $300,000 in malpractice insurance. A careful lawyer will carry more than that. If your case is worth more than $300,000, you should be sure that your lawyer has enough malpractice insurance to cover you. Do not be afraid to ask your lawyer how much malpractice insurance he or she has.
Guideline #1: Specialists beat generalists. If your lawyer writes wills, secures adoptions, and does divorces, he or she may not understand the intricacies of injury law.
Guideline #2: Your lawyer should be member of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) and the American Association of Justice (AAJ). 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 toward the cause of justice.
Guideline #3: Ask around. If you can get a referral from someone you trust, that is an excellent place to start. But be aware, a lawyer who did a divorce or reviews a real estate deal for a friend may not be the right lawyer for an injury case.
Guideline #4: If you want the personal touch, ask the lawyers you call how many cases they handle at a time.
Guideline #5: If you have a smaller case, educate yourself about ORS 20.080.
Guideline #6: Your lawyer should be licensed to practice in Oregon. An out-of-state lawyer will not be familiar with Oregon law. Out-of-state lawyers can try to settle Oregon cases, but if they have to file a lawsuit, they will probably have to join up with an Oregon lawyer, and they won’t know Oregon law.
Guideline #7: Your attorney should educate you.
Guideline #8: Interview more than one attorney before you hire anyone.
Guideline #9: Beware of an attorney who rushes you into signing. Your lawyer should encourage you to take your time and make an informed decision.