Every industry has its insider secrets. Law is no exception. However, there are many more secrets in law, because the law itself is so complex most of us can’t interpret it, particularly when it comes to personal injury lawsuits.
Furthermore, we rely on attorneys to help us navigate the legal system, often when we’re in a crisis, so we tend to trust what they say.
There are plenty of tips and rules about choosing an attorney, such as here, but you need to be aware of some of the traps that you may fall into as a potential client of a trial law firm.
Here are the secrets personal injury lawyers won’t tell you but you need to know.
There Are a Variety of Funding Models
You don’t have to go all or nothing to hire a personal injury lawyer like this Houston practice which has focused on providing a transparent policy for those seeking recourse through the courts. You can choose to hire them on a commission basis, where they take a percentage of the settlement in payment, but you owe them nothing if you don’t win.
Note that this commission can be negotiated, and you can consult with several attorneys to find someone who takes 30 per cent instead of 40 per cent.
You can also pay them on an hourly basis. Attorneys may be more willing to evaluate a case and take small cases, if they’re not relying on a percentage of the payout to pay their own bills. Having a lawyer on retainer means you’ve paid them a lump sum up front, and they draw it down as they bill for their services.
When you have a lawyer on retainer, they’re at your service because they know you can pay. After all, you already did.
You May Not Be Working with the Attorney You First Met With
It isn’t uncommon for an attorney to refer you to someone else. That’s understandable if you’re talking to a medical malpractice attorney and they refer you to an expert in medical device manufacturer lawsuits.
If you’re talking to a family law attorney about your international adoption issues, they may refer you to an immigration attorney instead. Yet the odds are much greater that the person you talk to isn’t the one who handles the details of your case. For example, you’ll probably meet with a senior attorney who determines whether or not the firm takes your case.
They’ll then farm the work out to junior attorneys or even paralegals on their team.
You should ask whether they have handled cases like yours and make sure you get a straight answer that you can verify and have confidence in.
They May Never Have Spoken to a Jury
It is quite possible that your attorney has never stood before a jury to make their case. This is because roughly 95 per cent of personal injury cases are settled, while around 5% go to jury trial. And attorneys have good reason to avoid a jury trial. A settlement is guaranteed payment for them and you.
A jury trial may or may not result in a judgement in your favor, and it may not be more than the settlement the other side offers. But the attorney knows that a jury trial comes with far more work on their part.
If your attorney has never taken a case to trial, this can hurt you. Insurance companies and other attorneys know the track record of each attorney in the Houston area. They’ll know that your attorney has never gone to trial or if they periodically stand before the court. k
Don’t be afraid to ask about your attorney’s experience, any awards, Board Certifications, trial results and other credentials. A good attorney should not be afraid to explain why he or she is qualified to handle your case when you’re discussing it with them.
They tend to offer less to attorneys without jury trial experience, because they aren’t used to fighting for more. But they may push you to accept the settlement so they get paid and close the case, though you might have gotten more if you hired a different attorney.
They May Have no Intention of Filing a Lawsuit
Because a large percentage of cases settle out of court, a personal injury lawyer may take your case knowing that if it does not settle, they are not willing to file a lawsuit. They may know from the start that your case is not one they are willing to gamble in front of a jury on but they also know they can simply return the file if they cannot “bluff” a settlement.
They may or may not chose to tell you this up front.
Every attorney operates differently and has his/her own criteria for taking cases and/or filing lawsuits. Each of the above subjects are things you should discuss with your attorney on the first meeting so that you understand the game plan and there are no surprises.
Joe Haynes writes about legal matters for those seeking legal assistance for personal injury, consumer law and other matters.