What Should I Know About Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney?

[ Written by: Mark Wolfe, Attorney at Law. The following information is provided as general advice and without charge. Questions about specific issues or situations should be directed to an experienced personal injury attorney. A portion of the following article is reprinted, with permission, from the Summer 2004 edition of Legally Speaking. NOTE: The following material is protected by all applicable State and Federal Copyright laws. Published August 2017.]

As more and more lawyers and law firms utilize TV commercials, billboards and internet ads to attract clients, it is important for consumers to know how to select an attorney that is right for their case. Flashy TV commercials and catchy slogans promising large monetary settlements may be enticing, but the consumer who needs to hire a personal injury attorney should consider and discuss three key areas before hiring a personal injury attorney. These areas are: 1) the fee for services, 2) the attorney’s experience and knowledge with similar cases, and 3) the resources the attorney has for your claim or case.

CONTINGENCY FEES

Most people now know that attorneys who represent personal injury victims do so under a contingency fee contract. (The attorney fee is a percentage of the money recovered by the attorney.) Yet the percentage or contingency amount can vary greatly between lawyers. Also, the consumer should know exactly how the contingency fee is going to be calculated. When discussing attorney fees and representation costs, there are two areas for inquiry by the consumer. The actual fee amount to be charged and how the expenses related to the claim or case will be handled. One question for consumers to ask is whether the contingency fee is going to be charged against the property damage recovery and/or medical payments (med-pay) benefits from your own insurance carrier. Many experienced attorneys do not charge fees related to property damage claims or med-pay benefits. The second area for inquiry is the amount of expenses related to the claim and/or case.

Under Alabama law an attorney can advance expenses related to a client’s claim or case such as medical record expenses, filing fees, deposition expenses, etc. However, the client is responsible for reimbursing those expenses from their portion of the settlement proceeds. Most contingency fees for simple motor vehicle accident liability claims authorize a fee percentage of around one-third (33 1/3%) plus expenses.* It is important for the consumer to know how much the expenses will be for their particular claim and/or case. Sample questions that consumers should ask about a lawyer’s contingency fee: Does your contingency fee apply to property damage? Does your contingency fee apply to benefits recovered from my own insurance, such as med-pay benefits and/or health insurance benefits? How much do you think the expenses will be for my claim and/or case? How will the expenses be handled? Do you have a sample distribution schedule for a similar case? Will I get a copy of the fee contract? * For more complicated and expensive cases involving defective products, contingency fees generally range from 40 to 50% of the net recovery (the amount after reimbursement of expenses).

EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE

You should not be afraid to ask the lawyer about his or her trial experience in handling similar legal matters. The goal in handling a personal injury claim or case is to resolve the matter for a fair amount without having to subject the client to the stress, strain and uncertainty of a trial. While it is true that most civil claims and cases settle without a trial, trial experience is critical when hiring a personal injury attorney. Insurance adjusters know and rate the experience level of the attorney representing a claimant. This is a factor in their evaluation of a claim. Talk with people in the community about their recommendations. Many healthcare professionals who treat injury victims have knowledge about the skill and trial experience of local attorneys. Sample questions that a consumer should ask about a lawyer’s trial experience: How many cases similar to mine have you actually tried in Court? Tell me about the results of those cases. How many cases have you litigated involving this insurance company? What attorney or law firm does their insurance company use? And, how many cases have you tried against that lawyer and/or law firm?

You should also listen to the attorney as he or she explains the various issues related to your claim or you case. Does the attorney know and explain issues in a way that makes you feel confident in his or ability to handle the matter? Sample questions would include: How does the injury claim process work? What factors are important when valuing my claim or case? What can you tell me about how insurance companies use computer assisted claim evaluation programs when reviewing and evaluating claims?

RESOURCES

When hiring a personal injury attorney you should also consider the resources of that lawyer and law firm. This includes the financial resources necessary for the expenses of the claim or case and the general resources such as personnel and technology. A lawyer’s commitment to having skilled and qualified support personnel is reflective of an attorney who wants the best for his or her client. Likewise, attorneys who want to be efficient and effective for their clients utilize current technology and state of the art office equipment. Simply put, if the lawyer does not want to, or can not afford to, invest adequate resources into his or her own practice, what makes you think he or she will invest adequate resources in a claim or case? Sample questions a consumer should ask about the lawyer’s resources: Do you have the financial resources to adequately prosecute my claim or case? Who else in your office will be working on my case and what will they be doing?

CONSULTATIONS ARE FREE

So why not talk to several attorneys. Consumers should be cautious of attorneys who push too hard to have a representation agreement signed immediately. Most personal injury attorneys do not charge for consultations and this allows consumers the opportunity to talk with several different lawyers or law firms before deciding which lawyer or law firm to hire. When consulting with an attorney ask for copies of material and information they have available for potential clients. NOTE: There are situations and times when immediate legal intervention may be necessary, but the attorney should fully explain such a situation.

CONSUMER ALERT: BEWARE OF MISLEADING ADS BY TV LAWYERS!

READING THE FINE PRINT ON LAWYER TV ADS. Recently there have been numerous TV commercials for lawyers where someone brags about how much money the lawyer recovered for them. These people generally appear fine and gush about what a financial windfall the lawyer got them for their injury claim. The problem is the fine print disclaimers that accompany the commercials usually scroll across the screen so quickly, or are so small, you can’t read them. Many people don’t even see them let alone read them. Here’s a compilation of some of these disclaimers from some TV lawyer ads:

– Not an actual client testimonial or based upon a specific case.
– Dramatization: Not an actual case. Your results may vary.
– Fictionalized account for advertising purposes only
– Actor portrayal, not a real client.
– The monetary result referenced is not from an actual case.
– The monetary recoveries referenced are not typical of most injury claims and [law firm name omitted] in no way guarantees or promises similar results for specific injury claims. – Not a typical injury case recovery.
– [Lawyer name omitted] will not be the lawyer responsible handling your claim or case and the financial recoveries referenced herein are generalizations of atypical injury cases. No warranty or guarantee of a specific monetary result is made herein.
– Not a real client or real case result.
– Not an actual case result or recovery. [Law firm name omitted] processes claims and cases via a referral to an affiliate law firm. Referral law firms are solely responsible for claim and case presentation and remit a portion of the attorney fees to [law firm name omitted.]
– Actor and/or spokesperson is compensated for services and any reference to financial recoveries are of non-typical personal injury matters.
– Actual results may vary. Not licensed to practice law in Alabama.

Legal? Maybe. But doesn’t this smell of deception? A commercial runs with a “client” boasting of a huge financial recovery but hidden in the commercial is a “fine print” disclaimer stating the results are not true or not typical. Seems like the old bait and switch sales tactics used by shady salesmen of days gone by. Trust between an attorney and his or her client is critical to a good relationship. Clients must rely on and trust their attorney to help them through a difficult time. If the initial basis for that relationship is based upon deception, can the client really be confident that the attorney has the client’s best interest at heart?

False Claims Act – Whistleblower Claims

by Mark Wolfe, Attorney at Law In 1863 the U.S. Government enacted the False Claims Actscales and gavel (FCA) as a way to stop and discourage fraud by companies who were selling war supplies to the Union Army during the civil war. It authorizes private citizens with “inside information” to bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf against a person or business who has fraudulently or wrongly caused the Federal government to suffer a financial loss.

To encourage courageous individuals to step forward and report fraud the FCA provides that the individual who first comes forward and files the claim is rewarded with anywhere from 15- 30% of the government’s recovery! It also allows the person reporting the fraud or initiating the claim investigation to remain anonymous during the preliminary investigation and prevents retaliation once the action is formally started in Court.

These type of claims and cases have been increasing and in 2011, the Federal government recovered over $3 billion and paid almost $530 million to the individual whistleblowers who initiated these actions. Some examples of these type claims include:

– Billing for goods or services that were not provided or that were unnecessary.

– Falsifying certifications, test results, research data, safety reports, and/or product quality.

– Securing contracts through misrepresentation, kickbacks or bribes.

– Misuse or misappropriation of Federal grant funds.

– Duplicate or multiple billing for the same goods or services.

Many States, and some larger municipalities, have also enacted similar FCA laws to protect State and local governments from fraud. Alabama has not enacted FCA laws; however, if a State agency receives Federal funds it is possible a FCA claim can be maintained if the fraudulent loss is passed through the State agency back to the Federal funding. Initial reporting requirements for these type claims can be complex and tedious and may require further investigation and analysis before being presented to the Federal government for review. If you have inside knowledge or information about fraud against the Federal government and want legal help and guidance for the claim, we can help. Consultations are free and confidential. Call 433-7766 or e-mail me at mark@bfw-lawyers.com

    REQUIRED DISCLAIMERS Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the services provided by other lawyers. The Mississippi Supreme Court advises that a decision on legal services is important and should not be based solely on advertisements. Free Background information is available upon request to a Mississippi attorney. The listing of any area of practice by a Mississippi attorney does not indicate any certification of expertise therein. See Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(d), Rule 7.4(a), Rule 7.6(a) (1997). General Disclaimer: This information is posted for general information purposes to help those interested parties or persons with potential civil claims better understand their rights and potential causes of action. If readers are currently represented by an attorney on the subject matter of this post then they are encouraged to continue with said representation. No attorney-client relationship is established by this post.

Boteler, Finley & Wolfe – New office location

The Mobile, Alabama law firm of Boteler, Finley & Wolfe has recently relocated to the 65 Dauphin Medical & Financial Building on the northeast corner of the intersection of Dauphin Street and Interstate 65. Boteler, Finley & Wolfe is one on Mobile’s oldest personal injury law firms having represented injury victims since 1989. The attorneys have recovered millions of dollars in benefits for thousands of injury victims in our area. Mark Wolfe explained the firm’s decision to relocate from their long time location in the historic mid-town Burns-Sparks Building: “Since we first located in the Burns-Sparks building many years ago a lot has changed. Mobile’s population continues to expand westward and with the advent of electronic filing there is no longer a need for lawyers to be close to the Courthouse.” He said the new location is more convenient for clients and offers plenty of parking. Wolfe also said this move is just the first step in a three phase long term growth plan designed to increase their accessibility to clients, “by the end of this year or early 2017 we hope to have a small satellite office in Baldwin County and eventually a satellite office in North Mobile County.” Boteler, Finley & Wolfe law firm is well known for its advocacy for injury victims and consumers. “We will continue our mission to help injury victims and insurance claimants as well as our long standing tradition of community involvement,” said Wolfe. The attorneys at the firm serve as Board members and leaders for a number of area non-profit organizations and are active in many community improvement projects. The new firm address is: 3290 Dauphin Street, Suite 505 Mobile AL 36606. The phone number remains: 251 433-7766. Consultations on all legal matters continue to be offered at no charge.

Ovarian Cancer linked to Baby Powder!

A St. Louis jury recently returned a verdict of $72 million for a shower 2 showerwoman who developed ovarian cancer after regularly using talcum powder products for feminine hygiene. These products were made and sold by Johnson & Johnson and are called Baby Powder and Shower to Shower body powder. The verdict includes $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages. The jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of negligence, conspiracy and fraud. Internal documents introduced at trial revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew of the link between ovarian cancer and its products but hid it from the public. Testimony showed that as many as 1,500 women per year may die of ovarian cancer linked to Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. If you or someone you love has developed ovarian cancer after regularly using these products, we would welcome an opportunity to review this situation and further discuss the status of these claims and cases. Call Mark Wolfe toll free at 1 866 975-7766 or email: mark@bfw-lawyers.com. Mark Wolfe - MultiMillion Dollar Associate       REQUIRED DISCLAIMERS Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the services provided by other lawyers. The Mississippi Supreme Court advises that a decision on legal services is important and should not be based solely on advertisements. Free background information is available upon request to a Mississippi attorney. The listing of any area of practice by a Mississippi attorney does not indicate any certification of expertise therein. See Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(d), Rule 7.4(a), Rule 7.6(a) (1997). General Disclaimer: This information is posted for general information purposes to help those interested parties or persons with potential civil claims better understand their rights and potential causes of action. If readers are currently represented by an attorney on the subject matter of this post then they are encouraged to continue with said representation. No attorney-client relationship is established by this post.

TV Lawyers

as seen on TVREADING THE FINE PRINT IN LAWYER TV ADS. Recently there have been numerous TV commercials for lawyers where someone brags about how much money the lawyer recovered for them. These people generally appear fine and gush about what a financial windfall the lawyer got them for their injury claim. The problem is the fine print disclaimers that accompany the commercials usually scroll across the screen so quickly, or are so small, you can’t read them. Many people don’t even see them let alone read them. Here’s a compilation of some of these disclaimers from some recent TV lawyer ads in our area: – Dramatization: Not an actual case. – Not an actual client testimonial or based upon a specific case.  – Actor portrayal, not a real client or case. – The monetary result referenced is not from an actual case.  – The monetary recoveries referenced are not typical of most injury claims and [law firm name omitted] in no way guarantees or promises similar results for specific injury claims. – Not a typical injury case recovery. – Not a real client or case result. – Not an actual case result or recovery. [Law firm name omitted] processes claims and cases via a referral to an affiliate law firm. Referral law firms are solely responsible for claim and case presentation and remit a portion of the attorney fees to [law firm name omitted.] – Actor and/or spokesperson is compensated for services and any reference to financial recoveries are of non-typical personal injury matters. – Actual results may vary. Not licensed to practice law in Alabama. Legal? Maybe. But doesn’t this smell of deception? A commercial runs with a “client” boasting of a huge financial recovery but hidden in the commercial is one of the above fine print disclaimers stating the results are not true or not typical. Seems like the old bait and switch sales tactics used by shady salesmen of days gone by. Trust between an attorney and his or her client is critical to a good relationship. Clients must rely on and trust their attorney to help them through a difficult time. There is a better way to go about hiring a personal injury attorney. Here’s a link to an article about how to hire the right personal injury attorney for your claim or case.  CLICK

False Claims Act – Whistleblower Claims

by Mark Wolfe, Attorney at Law In 1863 the U.S. Government enacted the False Claims Actscales and gavel (FCA) as a way to stop and discourage fraud by companies who were selling war supplies to the Union Army during the civil war. It authorizes private citizens with “inside information” to bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf against a person or business who has fraudulently or wrongly caused the Federal government to suffer a financial loss.

To encourage courageous individuals to step forward and report fraud the FCA provides that the individual who first comes forward and files the claim is rewarded with anywhere from 15- 30% of the government’s recovery! It also allows the person reporting the fraud or initiating the claim investigation to remain anonymous during the preliminary investigation and prevents retaliation once the action is formally started in Court.

These type of claims and cases have been increasing and in 2011, the Federal government recovered over $3 billion and paid almost $530 million to the individual whistleblowers who initiated these actions. Some examples of these type claims include:

– Billing for goods or services that were not provided or that were unnecessary.

– Falsifying certifications, test results, research data, safety reports, and/or product quality.

– Securing contracts through misrepresentation, kickbacks or bribes.

– Misuse or misappropriation of Federal grant funds.

– Duplicate or multiple billing for the same goods or services.

Many States, and some larger municipalities, have also enacted similar FCA laws to protect State and local governments from fraud. Alabama has not enacted FCA laws; however, if a State agency receives Federal funds it is possible a FCA claim can be maintained if the fraudulent loss is passed through the State agency back to the Federal funding. Initial reporting requirements for these type claims can be complex and tedious and may require further investigation and analysis before being presented to the Federal government for review. If you have inside knowledge or information about fraud against the Federal government and want legal help and guidance for the claim, we can help. Consultations are free and confidential. Call 433-7766 or e-mail me at mark@bfw-lawyers.com

    REQUIRED DISCLAIMERS Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the services provided by other lawyers. The Mississippi Supreme Court advises that a decision on legal services is important and should not be based solely on advertisements. Free Background information is available upon request to a Mississippi attorney. The listing of any area of practice by a Mississippi attorney does not indicate any certification of expertise therein. See Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(d), Rule 7.4(a), Rule 7.6(a) (1997). General Disclaimer: This information is posted for general information purposes to help those interested parties or persons with potential civil claims better understand their rights and potential causes of action. If readers are currently represented by an attorney on the subject matter of this post then they are encouraged to continue with said representation. No attorney-client relationship is established by this post.

Alabama Workers Compensation Information

Alabama Workers Compensation Information

The Mobile Alabama law firm of Boteler, Finley & Wolfe has a free publication available for injured workers who have questions about Alabama Workers Compensation laws and benefits. On the Job Injuries: A Guide for Injured Workers – Alabama edition provides detailed information about many aspects of the Workers Compensation laws in Alabama. Written by top rated personal injury attorney Mark Wolfe, the guide provides a quick and easy to read summary of Alabama workers compensation laws as well as practical pointers and suggestions. Below is an Annotated table of Contents for this free publication. To get your copy call Boteler, Finley & Wolfe toll free at 1 866 975-7766 or for a digital version complete with resource hyperlinks, e-mail Mark Wolfe at mark@bfw-lawyers.com and put Guide for Injured Workers in the subject line. FREE CONSULTATIONS ALSO AVAILABLE.

On the Job Injuries: A Guide for Injured Workers – Alabama edition  Annotated Table of Contents

CH I. A Quick Summary of Alabama Workers Compensation Laws. Provides a quick and easy to read summary of Alabama workers compensation laws to help injured workers get a basic understanding of the wage and medical benefits available to them after being injured on the job.

CH II. On the Job Injury – Defined. Covers the basic definition of an “on the job injury” and discusses reporting requirements for an on the job injury. This section also provides practical advice and recommendations to help report and document an on the job injury.

CH III. Benefits Available to Injured Workers. Discusses the difference between a scheduled and non-scheduled injury. Discusses the lost wage benefits available to injured workers and how benefits are calculated. It reviews the medical benefits afforded to injured workers. Also, discusses and reviews death benefits available to family members. Covers vocational retraining benefits.

CH IV. Occupational Disease, Exposure Claims and Repetitive Injury Claims. Covers the definition of occupational disease and exposure claims and which includes injuries such as repetitive motion injuries. Defines legal and medical causation for these claims.

CH V. Injured Workers Rights. Discusses some of the basic rights of injured workers under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.

CH VI. Hiring an Attorney. Discusses factors for injured workers to consider such as when to consult with an attorney and when to consider hiring an attorney to assist with a workers compensation claim. Also covers the prescribed contingency fees authorized for attorneys under the Alabama Workers Compensation Act.

CH VII. Practical Pointers and Suggestions. Provides injured workers with some practical suggestions related to workers compensation claims.

CH VIII. Resources and References. Provides injured workers with helpful resources and references related to a job related injury claim.

To get your copy call Boteler, Finley & Wolfe toll free at 1 866 975-7766 or for a digital version complete with resource hyperlinks, e-mail Mark Wolfe at mark@bfw-lawyers.com and put Guide for Injured Workers in the subject line. FREE CONSULTATIONS ALSO AVAILABLE.

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Required Disclaimers:

Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the services provided by other lawyers. General Disclaimer: This information is posted for general information purposes to help those interested parties or persons with potential civil claims better understand their rights and potential causes of action. If readers are currently represented by an attorney on the subject matter of this post then they are encouraged to continue with said representation. No attorney-client relationship is established by this post.

Is Your Homeowners Insurance Company Really on Your Side?

When you purchase a homeowners insurance policy, you make a substantial financial commitment to your insurer. In return, you expect it to hold up its end of the bargain and provide coverage for certain types of damage to your home. Sadly, homeowners insurance companies often act against their policyholders’ interests. Here are just a few recent examples: Hurricane Katrina In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of policyholders’ claims were denied on the premise that their homes were exclusively damaged by water. Since flood damage isn’t covered by many policies, this was enough to ruin many hardworking homeowners. In cases that clearly involved wind damage, insurers went even further and argued that standard homeowners policies were insufficient to cover “dual damages.” Many residents successfully sued to have these decisions reversed. Hurricane Sandy While standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, homeowners who had supplemental flood insurance policies were sure that they’d be covered after Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of claims in New York and New Jersey were denied on the basis that flood-related damage was caused by groundwater rather than surface floods. Many policyholders who sought advice from licensed attorneys in the wake of the storm were able to challenge these questionable denials of coverage. Northridge Earthquake In some cases, insurers resort to outright fraud. After a major earthquake in the Los Angeles area, some policy issuers simply forged homeowners’ signatures on coverage waivers to avoid paying claims. Needless to say, this was not an acceptable maneuver. Many homeowners who enlisted the help of trained legal professionals were able to mount successful court challenges to their insurers’ underhanded tactics. “Mundane” Denials In all of the situations that we described above, insurance companies were motivated by the threat of heavy financial losses to disregard their policyholders and deny legitimate claims. Unfortunately, the same principles apply to individual claims. Since burst pipes, tree damage and other “mundane” issues don’t make headlines, insurance companies might actually be more inclined to deny individual homeowners’ claims on such matters. Homeowners insurance companies deny all manner of claims, but the most commonly ignored include water damage and structural problems like roof deterioration or “settling.” For water-related claims, insurance companies often attempt to argue that the source of a damaging inundation is external and thus isn’t covered by traditional homeowner’s insurance. For structural problems caused by storms or faulty construction, insurers may point to the policy’s vaguely defined “wear and tear” clause. If you’re fed up with homeowner’s insurance companies that don’t respect their policyholders, you need an experienced attorney who knows the insurance business through and through. Learn more about your options at our website or call us at 866-975-7766.

How Can an Honest Disability Claim Be Denied?

If you become unable to work due to a mental or physical health condition, you may be entitled to file a disability claim online or at your nearest Social Security Administration office. There’s a tremendous amount of publicly available literature about the filing process, but ensuring that your honest disability claim is accepted might not be as easy as it sounds. We’ll discuss why some honest claims are denied and offer some friendly advice about fighting for your right to disability insurance. What Are the Basic Criteria for a Legitimate Disability Claim? While claims for disability insurance are always evaluated on a case-by-case basis, there are a few key criteria that applicants are expected to meet. These usually include: •    An inability to perform Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) or earn more than $1,040 per month at a regular job •    A qualifying medical condition that prevents reasonable work activity •    Doctor-prescribed restrictions on physical activity, including limitations on standing, lifting or walking •    An inability to fulfill the duties of the applicant’s most recent job Why Some Claims Are Denied Honest disability claims can be denied for a variety of reasons. In far too many cases, applicants simply aren’t aware that they have to file specific pieces of paperwork or meet specified deadlines. In others, they change residences and can’t be reached by Social Security Administration employees. Other common reasons include: •    Past criminal convictions •    Missing or incomplete records •    Misunderstandings that result in a failure to meet therapy guidelines •    A disability that’s determined to be temporary If your disability claim has been denied for any of these reasons, a trained legal professional can help you navigate the treacherous waters of the appeals process. How to Appeal Appealing a denied disability claim is much easier with proper representation. You’ll need to inform the proper authorities of your desire to appeal within 60 days of receiving your denial. Additionally, you’ll need to attend a special hearing and speak directly with a judge. If your initial appeal is denied, you can lodge another appeal with the state’s Appeals Council or take the matter to federal court. Success Rates and the Benefits of Professional Representation In Alabama, just 30% of initial disability claims are approved. Upon appeal, approval rates roughly double. This underscores the importance of hiring a legal professional to guide you through the claims and appeals processes. Our team of disability insurance specialists knows the ins and outs of Alabama’s confusing legal framework and is proud to fight for their clients’ rights. For more information about contesting a denied disability claim or any of the other services that our Mobile, AL law firm offers, visit our homepage or call 866-975-7766.

Hiring the Right Personal Injury Attorney

Hiring the Right Personal Injury Attorney: Recently in our local TV market a personal injury lawyer began running a somewhat controversial TV ad. Some people liked it and others hated it. Many of my peers in the bar thought it was demeaning to our profession. The ad also sparked lots of comments on facebook and one post in particular caught my attention. In response to a critical comment, one person responded, “For those of you critical of this commercial, please tell me how I am supposed to go about selecting a personal injury attorney. I’m new to the area and don’t know any lawyers. I think I’d rather hire a lawyer based upon his TV commercial rather than just randomly selecting a lawyer from the telephone book or the internet.”

 Before I move into some suggestions on how to hire the right personal injury lawyer for your situation, let me first share some observations and concerns about some of the TV ads being run by personal injury attorneys. Let me also share that our law firm has run ads on TV and we use numerous informational publications as marketing tools. I understand that lawyers and law firms need to market their services to the public and I recognize that television still remains one of the easiest ways to mass market a product or service. However, with that said I do have great concern because in my opinion many TV ads run by personal injury lawyers are misleading and some are downright deceptive. Understand in our State we have very little regulation over the content of a lawyer’s TV ad and this lends itself to some extreme exaggerations regarding a lawyer’s ability and the results he or she has obtained for clients. Just because an actor in a TV commercial says that Lawyer X got him “1.75 million dollars” for his car accident injuries, that alleged result is not a fair representation of typical results for auto-injury victims. Or just because the lawyer films his or her commercial inside a Courtroom does not mean that lawyer has ever actually tried a case in Court. Add in the fact that from a business context personal injury law is considered one of the most competitive business environments and you can see how competition among personal injury lawyers can easily lead to more and more exaggeration and puffing in TV ads. Then you throw in the ads that show lawyers flying around in Superman like costumes and lawyers screaming into the camera and claiming names like “The Hammer” or “Bulldog Bill” or Steve “the Stingray” and hiring a personal injury lawyer becomes more like picking your favorite WWE character rather than hiring someone to help you get through the complexities of an insurance claim or case. What follows are three basic areas that should be explored when considering hiring a personal injury lawyer. (I also highly recommend the AVVO.com web site because it has extensive lawyer ratings based upon legitimate skill criteria.)

 The three key areas for inquiry when considering hiring a personal injury attorney are: 1) Contingency fees, 2) Trial Experience and, 3) Resources. Having an experienced and qualified attorney with litigation and trial experience is important to achieving a good outcome because it helps bring forth a fair settlement offer. Also it is important to have an attorney who is truly concerned about your situation and who is committed to protecting your best interest through the legal process. There is a good attorney out there who can help you and I hope this article helps you find that attorney.

1. CONTINGENCY FEES:

Most people know that personal injury attorneys who represent personal injury victims do so under a contingency fee contract. (The attorney fee is a percentage of the money recovered by the attorney.) Yet the percentage or contingency amount can vary greatly between lawyers. Also the personal injury victim should know exactly how the contingency fee is going to be applied and calculated. In addition, they should know what expenses can be expected and how those expenses will be handled. NOTE: Some states allow personal injury attorneys to advance litigation or legal expenses for a client. The client will be responsible for reimbursement of those expenses. Therefore, it is very important for a personal injury victim to know what percentage contingency fee will be applied and the approximate amount of the expenses.

2. TRIAL EXPERIENCE:

Many personal injury claims can be resolved without ever having to consider filing a lawsuit or litigation and most personal injury matters where a lawsuit is filed resolve without a trial. Yet, you should not be afraid to ask the lawyer about his or her trial experience in handling similar personal injury matters. The goal in handling a personal injury claim or case is to resolve the matter for a fair amount without having to subject the client to the stress, strain and uncertainty of a trial. While it is true that most civil claims and cases settle without a trial, trial experience is critical when hiring a personal injury attorney. Insurance adjusters and company risk managers know and rate the experience level of the attorney representing a claimant. This is a factor in their evaluation of a claim. It is a sad reality that some personal injury attorneys or personal injury law firms that rely heavily on advertising are nothing more than “claim factories” with very little, if any, courtroom experience. Attorney advertising rules and regulations are very lax in some jurisdictions allowing inexperienced and incompetent lawyers to advertise extensively for personal injury claims. Talk with people in the community about their recommendations. Also, many healthcare professionals who treat injury victims have knowledge about the skill and experience of local attorneys. In addition, lawyers in the community who may practice in other areas of the law may be familiar with local personal injury attorneys with courtroom and trial experience.

3. RESOURCES:

When hiring a personal injury attorney you should also consider the resources of that lawyer and law firm. This includes the financial resources necessary for the expenses of the claim or case and the general resources such as personnel and technology. A lawyer’s commitment to having skilled and qualified support personnel is reflective of an attorney who wants the best for his or her client. Likewise attorneys who want to be efficient and effective for their clients utilize current technology and state of the art office equipment. Simply put, if the lawyer does not want to, or can not afford to, invest adequate resources into his or her own practice, what makes you think he or she will invest adequate resources in your claim or case? Also, remember the insurance company or risk manager for the at-fault party will have access to tremendous resources to use against you and you want to make sure your attorney has similar resources.

REMEMBER CONSULTATIONS ARE FREE:

Personal injury victims should be cautious of attorneys who push too hard to have a representation agreement executed immediately. Most personal injury attorneys do not charge for consultations and this allows injury victims the opportunity to talk with several different lawyers or law firms before hiring a lawyer or law firm. NOTE: There are situations and times when immediate legal intervention may be necessary but the attorney should fully explain such a situation.

CONCLUSION

The hiring of a personal injury attorney is an important decision. Yet most injury victims have no idea how to go about selecting a good personal injury attorney for their case. Having an experienced and qualified attorney with litigation and trial experience is important to achieving a good outcome. Also, just as important, is having an attorney who is truly concerned about your situation and who is committed to protecting your best interest through the legal process. There is a good attorney out there who can help you and I hope this article helps you find that attorney.

About the author: Mark Wolfe is a partner in the Mobile, Alabama law firm of Boteler, Finley & Wolfe. The firm limits its practice to representing insurance claimants, including auto-injury claimants. In addition to being an accomplished trial attorney, Mark is the editor and primary contributing writer of Legally Speaking, a quarterly newsletter for consumers and injury victims. It has been in continuous publication since 1998 and has a quarterly circulation of 14,000. Mark also maintains the BF&W blog, which provides important highway and traffic safety updates to consumers. He can be reached by e-mail at mark@bfw-lawyers.com

Required Disclaimers:

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