How Do You Know If Your Attorney Is Giving You Good Advice?
Not all personal injury attorneys are equal. Good lawyers put their client’s interests before their own. Others think about themselves first, their client second. Good personal injury lawyers know how to value a case. They study jury verdicts in their jurisdiction to learn more about case value. They are involved in lawyer groups who can help them put an accurate value on a case. They know how to try a case, and are willing to go to trial if the insurance carrier is being unreasonable. The best personal injury attorneys know how to use the leverage of litigation to maximize the value of a case. It’s absolutely amazing how many lawyers who call themselves trial lawyers, or call themselves personal injury lawyers, have never tried a case. Some of the biggest advertisers have never faced a jury in a courtroom. Insurance carriers know who tries cases, and who doesn’t, and they pay more money to the client whose lawyer tries cases.
So, how do you know if your lawyer is giving you good advice? First, do your research about whether your lawyer is willing and able to try a case. Find out your lawyer’s track record for trying cases. Ask for specifics, such as the case style, the venue, and the ultimate outcome. In many cases, young lawyers might not have experience trying cases, and that’s O.K., as long as they have an experienced senior attorney in the firm who is willing to try the case if it doesn’t settle. Avoid personal injury firms which are considered settlement mills, where nobody in the firm has ever successfully tried a case. If your lawyer doesn’t have the resources, ability, or the will to try a case, you are most likely getting bad advice.
Second, ask your lawyer for jury verdict research. Valuing a personal injury case is a lot like placing a value on a house. You look for comparable cases and see what kind of results they produced. Your lawyer should be able to easily do jury verdict research and, in most cases, can find cases with similar facts, injuries, and circumstances to your case. Venue is one of the most important factors in evaluating a case. A personal injury case in Jacksonville is going to have a different value than a similar case in Orlando or Tallahassee. For that reason, Jacksonville personal injury lawyers have a different idea about case value than Orlando personal injury lawyers. The amount of medical bills is another factor, past and future, as well as the type of injury involved. Ask your lawyer to produce to you the results of the jury verdict research in writing, so you can see it with your own eyes. Most lawyers won’t do this unless you ask them. I highly recommend that you ask.
Third, make sure your personal injury lawyer is taking into consideration all of your damages, such as past medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain, suffering, inconvenience, and lost capacity for the enjoyment of life. Likewise, if there is questionable liability in the case, your lawyer needs to take the risk of losing the case into consideration when determining the case value. For instance, if there is a 50% chance of losing the case, the case value is 50% of your total damages. Equally as important, the lawyer should take into consideration the possibility of a comparative negligence verdict. In Florida, for instance, personal injury law requires the Court to reduce any damages verdict by the amount of fault that is attributable to the plaintiff. So, if you are partially at fault for the incident which caused your injuries, your lawyer should advise you of that.
The worst thing a personal injury client can do is get advice from friends of family who have little or no experience in personal injury law. If your lawyer has a track record for trying personal injury cases (specifically), is able to provide jury verdict research to back up his or her advice, and takes into consideration all aspects of your damages as well as the liability issues, he or she is probably giving you good advice. You are also entitled to seek out a second opinion from another experienced personal injury attorney. Good luck with your case.