No one ever wants to need an attorney. But, if you or someone in your family has been seriously injured or killed because of the carelessness or negligence of another person or company, choosing the right attorney may be the most important decision that you ever make for yourself and your family.
Unfortunately, most people have no idea how to choose the right lawyer for a serious injury or wrongful death case. These types of cases are very significant because the outcome of the case can affect the medical care that the injured person receives and the financial future of your family for the rest of their lives.
Choosing the Right Attorney – one that is experienced and highly successful in obtaining results for his or her clients – is one of the most critical factors in determining the outcome of a serious injury or wrongful death case. Most lawyers know this, but most non-lawyers do not.
Many people just assume that they should call the law firms that advertise the most on television with lots of TV commercials or the law firms who have the most yellow page ads or billboards. It might surprise you to learn that some attorneys that aggressively advertise for personal injury cases with TV commercials and billboards have never tried a single significant case in their entire career and many have never obtained a single significant verdict in a jury trial. They may handle lots of small car wreck cases but have little experience handling big cases involving serious injuries or deaths. You won’t hear about this in their advertisements because there is no requirement that these law firms tell you what they haven’t done.
In minor car wreck cases, insurance companies typically have and follow their own formulas in determining how much they will pay to settle these cases, and very few of these cases ever go to trial. As a result, an attorney’s lack of courtroom success or ability rarely affects the value of these smaller cases. But, if you choose one of these attorneys to handle your serious injury or wrongful death case, the insurance company on the other side of your case will find out about your attorney’s actual courtroom experience and results and will factor this in to its evaluation of your case.
The Truth is this: Experience and Results Matter
So, you should never choose an attorney for a serious injury or wrongful death case based on television commercials, billboards or other advertisements. You should do your research to find out if the attorney has the qualifications, experience and results to handle a serious injury or wrongful death case.
These are Five Things You Need to Know to Choose the Right Attorney in a Serious Injury or Wrongful Death Case
1. Get a Board Certified Attorney
There are lots of lawyers who have commercials, billboards or websites advertising that they are “personal injury trial lawyers.”However, not every lawyer that advertises that he is a personal injury attorney is actually Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law.
In Texas, Board Certification is controlled by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization was established in 1974 by the Supreme Court of Texas at the request of State Bar of Texas and is the only governing board authorized to certify attorneys in legal specialty areas.
Lawyers who represent clients in personal injury or wrongful death cases may be eligible to apply to be board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law. To even apply for board certification in personal injury trial law, the attorney must have tried a required number of cases in the courtroom and must have been the lead counsel in a required number of these trials.
Once the application has been filed, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization will research and vet the attorney by contacting trial judges and opposing attorneys to get confidential evaluations of the attorney’s skill, knowledge and reputation. If the attorney receives positive recommendations from judges and colleagues, then the attorney is given permission to take a difficult written test. If the attorney passes that test, then he or she becomes Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law. The attorney must continue to participate in continuing legal education to remain board certified.
Proven legal qualifications and real trial experience in the courtroom are required to be Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law.
2. Find an Attorney Who Has Won Big Verdicts in Trials and Settlements
This is information that you need to know because the insurance company on the other side of your case will certainly know it and factor the information into the decisions about whether to settle the case and what amount of money to pay to settle the case.
For example, a vice-president of an insurance company has the responsibility to determine how much money the insurance company is willing to pay to settle serious injury or wrongful death cases. Since he works for the insurance company, the vice-president wants to pay as little money as possible to settle a case. On the other hand, the last thing that the vice-president wants to do is offer too little in a settlement offer forcing the case to go to a jury trial in which a skilled and experienced trial attorney obtains a judgment much greater than the amount he offered in settlement. That vice-president could lose his job with the insurance company.
To illustrate how this works, assume that this vice-president is trying to decide what his settlement offer will be in two identical cases where the drivers of trucks were clearly at fault, the victims of the crash suffered identical injuries, and the insurance company for the trucks has policy limits of $5,000,000.00 policy. The only difference is the choice of attorneys representing the victims of the crash.
In one case, the victims are represented by Attorney A, a board certified personal injury attorney who has tried cases in front of juries and who has obtained multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlements.
In the other case, the victims are represented by Attorney B, an attorney who does lots of advertising, handles lots of smaller cases, but has only tried a few smaller cases in front of a jury.
Would the vice-president of the insurance company make the same settlement offer in both cases? Of course not, and here’s why. Attorney B does not have a proven track record in serious injury or wrongful death cases. Attorney B does not pose a significant risk to the insurance company.
On the other hand, Attorney A poses a significant risk to the insurance company. With a track record of significant verdicts and settlements in serious cases, this attorney has proven the he or she is not afraid to take large cases to trial and is capable of obtaining large verdicts. Attorney A is a problem for the insurance company.
Why? Because Experience and Results Matter
3. Get a Super Lawyer.
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented selection process, which includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Each candidate is evaluated on twelve indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Outstanding attorneys as selected and recognized as Super Lawyers.
4. Get an Attorney Who Will Personally Handle Your Case
Some law firms that advertise heavily try to sign up as many clients as possible. They have legal staffs that work on the cases, but your direct contact with the lawyer may be limited because the lawyer has lots of clients.
Or, in many cases, these law firms sign contracts with clients but then refer the case to another lawyer or law firm to handle the case. That is not necessarily a bad thing if the law firm refers the case to a lawyer who is more qualified to handle the case. However, why would you want to sign a contract with a law firm that will not handle your case but will refer it so someone else that you don’t know? In that situation, you have no control or ability to participate in the selection of the referral lawyer. Do not sign a contract until you know and have personally met the lawyer that will be responsible to handle your case. You are much better off doing your research and choosing a qualified, experienced lawyer for yourself.
5. Meet with the Attorney in Person
You should always meet the Attorney that you are considering to represent you or your family in person. You are choosing someone who will be speaking for you and your family. You want someone that you like and who will give you the attention that you deserve.
Brown Trial Firm, LLP
Board Certified, Super Lawyers with a Track Record of Verdicts and Settlements
At Brown Trial Firm, LLP, Laura Brown has represented families in serious injury and wrongful death cases for over 25 years. She has the legal qualifications, experience and a proven track record in these types of cases. She is:
- Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
- Recognized as Super Lawyer
- Adjunct Professor at Baylor Law School teaching law students Personal Injury Trial Law and an advanced course to third year law students on how to try cases in a courtroom.
We are happy to meet with you and your family to answer any questions that you may have about a personal injury or wrongful death case. If you have questions, call to talk with us or schedule an appointment