Since many of the same questions recur in personal injury law, it makes sense to write about them. Here then is the first installment of Frequently Asked Questions:
1. There are so many attorneys and legal websites, how do I select a law firm?
- Make sure the firm has a real office in your area. A “national” firm advertising on the Internet may merely be a toll free number from anywhere, without even having an attorney admitted to practice law in New York. Such a firm is likely to sign clients up, and then shop the case around to others in New York in exchange for a legal fee. This lowers the fee to the local attorney (who you have not met) that will do the actual work. Because the “national” firm is taking some of the legal fee, it will also make it less likely to be accepted by high caliber local attorney. The same is true of the dozens of attorney search “services” that are little more than an advertising web site.
- Make sure the firm has handled personal injury cases such as yours and has some examples for you to see. Would you want a firm that devotes 95% of their time to matrimonial matters handling a medical malpractice birth injury lawsuit for your child?
- Visit the office and talk to the attorney that will handle your case. If you feel you are being rushed and not given enough time to discuss the matter, hire another firm.
- Will your case get individual attention, or be one of thousands of New York personal injury cases that the firm handles, assembly-line style? Some people like small firms with individual attention, and others like larger firms. It is a matter of personal preference.
- If possible, get a reference from someone you know and trust.
2. Someone approached me at the hospital and recommended a lawyer. Is it OK to use that firm?
Any law firm that solicits you, your family or friends at a hospital should be immediately reported to the District Attorney or the local disciplinary committee. This “ambulance chasing” is illegal, unethical and embarrassing to the profession. Further, if such conduct takes place at the start of representation, it will be impossible to trust the attorneys later on to do the right thing for you when you seek advice on how to proceed. I don’t care how good they claim to be, if they are unethical than you should look elsewhere, or if you have already hired them, change attorneys.
In the next FAQ post, I’ll cover legal fees for general liability cases as well as the more complex medical malpractice suits.