HOW TO FIND AN HONEST LAWYER – WHAT ARE THE RED FLAGS TO LOOK OUT FOR?
As children we all remember our parents explaining the “No Free Lunch Rule.” Simply, if it seems to good to be true, it probably it, there’s no “free lunch.” Lawyers, like politicians, often make promises to their clients that are impossible to keep, hoping to fill their office with uninformed ignorant clients. In this post you will learn what is reasonable to expect from an attorney, and the red flags to warn you that you are being disrespected.
RED FLAG NUMBER ONE – Valuing a Case at Day One
An attorney tells you that your case is “worth millions” or even “hundreds of thousands of dollars” before he has received any medical reports, especially if your accident or injuries are not clear-cut. It is not possible to know, immediately after an accident, the diagnosis for your injuries, how fast you, as an individual, will recover, how much time you might lose from work, whether or not your injuries will require surgery, etc. An honest attorney will tell you that this analysis will take time and that your first priority is to get the best medical treatment possible. A caring attorney will help you find the best doctors that will accept the insurance that pertains to your case and monitor your medical reports and treatment closely. They will promise to do the best job on your case without promising any numbers. Legal ethics require attorneys to only make promises they can keep.
RED FLAG NUMBER TWO – Valuing a Case Without Knowing the Policy Limits and Other Claimants
In New York cars must be insured for liability with a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. When you are making a claim against a minimum policy, you cannot collect more that $25,000 regardless of the severity of your injuries. Even if the attorney is able to quickly obtain the policy limits, it is still not possible to know right away how many other claimants have been injured, and the severity of these other claimant’s injuries. If there are ten people without severe injuries, the $50,000 would have to be divided among all of these claimants. If the claim involves a commercial vehicle, especially a commercial vehicle from a large company or a municipality, it is clear from the onset that there will be ample coverage for your injuries.
RED FLAG NUMBER THREE – Attorney Attempts to Substitute Another Attorney Without Good Reason
I get calls all the time from claimants that are unhappy with their attorney. The first thing I want to know is whether the problem is the attorney or the client. I do not want to take over a matter where the client has unreasonable expectations. I ask the potential client what the attorney has done for them, and sometimes I even call the attorney to see if he’s on the ball with the case. If an attorney is trying to encourage you to substitute to their firm, insist on specific information about what the other firm is doing wrong and what they could do better, and ignore bad mouthing as this is unethical and shows bad character. I recently substituted a firm that presented a client with a release to sign and no breakdown. The breakdown of the settlement advises the client of the disbursements chargeable to their case and any liens that may apply. I called the claimant’s attorney many times requesting that the firm supply the client with a breakdown, but they never did, so I had the client substitute to my firm. Nobody should ever sign a release without a breakdown!
RED FLAG NUMBER FOUR – Attorney’s Office Doesn’t Have Proper Staff or Visible Files
Personal Injury cases require a great deal of staff time, in addition to work by the attorney. Proper offices have at least two and often three paralegals to assist each attorney. There is a great deal of work to be done to manage your case, so look for proper staffing. The staff will be collecting your medical reports, lost earnings and out of pocket expenses while the attorney is in court. They will be arranging for your Independent Medical Examinations and Hearing Dates. If you want your case on the fast track, make sure the attorney you select has an office that is well staffed. When you are selecting an attorney, it’s a good idea to strike up a conversation with the staff to see if they are knowledgeable and helpful. They will be your contact point when the attorney is in court.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call Wittenstein & Wittenstein at 718-261-8114
If you would like more information about ethics and how to find an honest lawyer – see our other article: Honest Personal Injury Lawyer – Is that an Oxymoron?