Use these tips when doing research on hiring an attorney – if you are seriously hurt in an automobile accident, the lawyer you hire will be one of the most important decisions you will ever make
Channel 7 news just ran an expose on lawyer ambulance chasing in Michigan. It sheds the public spotlight on an ugly problem that I have been writing about for years on this auto law blog.
But ambulance chasing would not exist if it didn’t work. And it wouldn’t work if more people put the same thought into hiring a lawyer to help them after an auto accident as they did when buying something like a cellphone plan or a kitchen appliance.
You replace your cellphone every year or so, and toasters you can get for free if you open an account at a bank (at least you used to), but hiring the right lawyer to help you and your family may be one of the most important decisions in your life. In the event of a very serious personal injury, your lawsuit result can mean the difference between having the money necessary to protect you and your family from incredible hardship … or not.
Tips on hiring the right attorney
The good news is that you most likely already know how to do this. The same way that some people research for a product – by reading online reviews and comparison-shopping among stores – is the way most people would be better served hiring a personal injury attorney.
Ambulance chasing lawyers – especially those lawyers who say they litigate car accidents and truck accidents – have reached new lows in Michigan. These lawyers may pull police reports and illegally contact people that the police report shows were injured in car accidents (which is how most auto accident victims in cities like Detroit are illegally contacted these days) because they have to in order to get business.
But it doesn’t mean you have to hire one, just because they contact you.
The ambulance chasing problem exists and will continue for exist as long as many people take the “talk to one attorney and you’re done” approach to hiring a lawyer. There is no effort to find the best lawyer in Michigan to help them and their family after a tragedy has struck. There is no inquiring about, let alone comparing a lawyer’s qualifications, legal experience and credentials based on the verdicts and injury settlements he or she has reached for actual clients based on similar cases.
In previous blog posts in this series about how automobile accident victims can truly find the best attorney, I’ve shared my 9-point “best lawyer” test for helping you choose the best lawyer for you and the questions you need to ask to find the “best” accident and injury lawyer for you.
Here are some tips that you can use when researching and comparing attorneys to help you:
- The lawyer’s biography and Practice area: The attorney should have a focused legal practice and the legal experience and a track record in the area of law that you need help with. If you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury from an auto accident, for example, how many traumatic brain injury cases has your prospective attorney litigated, and what are the settlements and trial results of these cases? The insurance company already knows this – shouldn’t you, too?
- Verdicts and settlements: Find verifiable information about the accident lawyer’s record of success by looking at the lawyer’s settlements and jury verdicts. These can usually be located in local third-party legal publications, or on the attorneys’ website (though you will want sourcing if the verdicts and settlements information is on the lawyer’s website – to be sure they’re real).
- In the news: The attorney should have news articles written about him or her and those that feature him or her as a legal expert. A simple Google search will show you if this is the case.
- Informational resources: Is the attorney a subject-matter expert? The attorney should provide answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and other informational features like books to help accident victims and other lawyers. This can be found in the search engines and also on the attorney’s website.
- Legal Leadership: A lawyer should be actively involved with relevant legal associations related to your area of need. And ideally the lawyer should not just as a member, but be a legal leader and acknowledged expert in the legal community. A quick review of an attorney’s online biography should let you know.
- Legal presentations: The lawyer should be a speaker at legal seminars, an author of publications and a panel expert on your accident and injury type. Googling and navigating the attorney’s website will, again, give you these answers.
- An attorney in good standing: Contact the State Bar of Michigan and Martindale-Hubbell to find out if the accident lawyer is in good standing. Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Rating is the highest mark for legal ability and ethics.
- Third-party verification: You can seek third-party verification of the lawyer and his or her reputation by checking legal publications (such as Michigan Lawyers Weekly or the Detroit Legal News) for publicity about the attorney and the cases he or she has handled. Also, third-party websites such as AVVO have a score that consumers can use that reflects the attorney’s legal ability, ethics, success and peer recognition (personal disclosure: I have been a speaker at the Avvo Lawyernomics seminar in the past, and this has included financial reimbursement for my airfare and hotel).
- Testimonials and reviews from happy clients: The most important thing perhaps of all of these factors. Legal mills that do tons of television advertising can’t “buy” reviews, and a law firm should have a website that provides useful and understandable information to help you, as well as written and video testimonials from clients (including the clients’ real full names and the cities in which they reside). Our own law firm, Michigan Auto Law, has nearly 500 real client reviews, by full names and cities they live in, that you can read.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll review several red flags you want to look out for when choosing an attorney.
For more information now, you can order our free guide: “How to Choose the Right Lawyer: Breaking through the sea of legal advertising to find the best answers,” or visit our special Michigan Auto Law website section on Finding a Lawyer.