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Are all Injury lawyers the same?

The same question could be asked about doctors and mechanics.  I use a doctor that I trust.  I have used him for years.  I believe what he says and follow his advice.  I use a small mechanic shop where I have known the owner for about 10 years.  My father in law has known him longer than that.  I purposely use him for everything that is wrong with my car, which includes regular maintenance.  He never has the parts in stock for my car.  He always has to order them.  His price beats the dealership every time; but, the most important thing is that I trust him.  I trust that if he says something that it is true and he is not going to go looking for more work while he is fixing my car.  Your relationship with your lawyer should be the same way.

Most lawyers in personal injury charge similar rates.  Generally, they charge about 1/3 to handle the case and 40 % if you have to file a lawsuit.  This means most cases will be handled at the 1/3 rate.  Some lawyers charge more and some charge less.  You should probably find out why a lawyer is charging you a higher rate than 1/3.  Maybe there is a good reason.  Maybe you have a very difficult medical malpractice case and the lawyer is taking a large risk.  Maybe the lawyer expects there to be a lot of expenses for which he will advance funds.  If so, then I would expect a higher rate. 

There may not be a good reason.  If so, then I would ask the lawyer what you are getting for the higher rate.  Maybe the lawyer is just that good.  Some lawyers have expertise in cases that make their higher rate valid.  Some of the best litigators can more than make up for their higher charges.  Think about an attorney that is an expert in an area of the law.  Maybe the lawyer has written a book or has spoken at conferences about the topic.  I know several brain injury lawyers that charge higher rates than some less experienced lawyers.

Another thing to consider is whether the fee is contingent on winning.  This is fairly standard in most personal injury cases.  This is the - "you don't pay if I don't win language", which is usually followed by an * saying that the client is responsible for all court costs and expenses.  If you have a personal injury case and the fee is not contingent, then you should find out why.  Maybe there is a good reason or maybe the attorney does not believe in the case.

Does this lawyer do anything other than personal injury work?  There are all different types of lawyers, like there are all different types of doctors.  Personal Injury work is what my firm does.  We do not do real estate transactions or write wills.  We do not do bill collecting or advise small business's on tax issues.  We do personal injury work.  Can you use someone who does a lot of different stuff for your personal injury case? - Sure.  The question is ... Should you?  I had to have a fairly minor surgical procedure done myself.  Did I go see my family doctor? - No, I used a specialist.  Could my family doctor or a general surgeon have done it? Maybe ... even probably.  However, I would only have this done once (hopefully) and I wanted it done right the first time.  I wanted someone who thought this was boring and routine.  Someone who had done this procedure hundreds of times.  Someone whose staff had done this hundreds of times and knew what to do.  I did not expect anything to go wrong; but, if it did, I wanted the "go to guy" to be right there with the knife. 

You want the same with your lawyer.  You want someone who has done hundreds of Personal Injury Cases.  Someone who knows all about car wrecks and the injuries they produce.  Someone whose office personnel know how to set up a claim.  You need someone who knows how to write a demand and who can file a lawsuit if you cannot settle the case.  Someone who can tell you if the offer is good or fair.  Someone who can tell you if the offer is bad or someone who can tell you if something about the case makes it hard to win.

Does your lawyer call you back?  The chief complaint about lawyers is that they do not call you back.  I am not talking about it taking a day or even two days to call you; but, that they do not ever call you back.  I would not tolerate this from anyone else I do business with, so why would I from a lawyer.  You have hired them to help you.  They should.  We strive to return all calls the day they come into my office.  We always work to call back within 24 hours.  If we have not called you back within a day then I want you to call us again because a mistake was made. 

These are all things you should use in deciding what law firm to use.  Take the time to talk to the lawyer on your case.  Take a look at my reasons to hire me and my firm.  If you do not have a personal injury case,  I cannot handle your case; but, I may know someone who can who shares the same standards.  Let me point you in the right direction.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia