How to Choose a Personal Injury Attorney

Being involved in a legal matter and hiring an attorney to help you is a very "personal" experience. There are a few steps you should take into account when making the critical decision to hire the right personal injury attorney:

  • Do not be lazy and only rely on television and radio ads. Do your own research. Ask your family and friends who have had actual experiences with personal injury attorneys. Get the names of a few attorneys.
  • If you are not able to get referrals, read the websites and Facebook pages of a few firms. Read the attorney profiles. Get a real feel for the firm, since you will likely be spending several years with them.
  • Contact your chosen law firm/attorney as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to determine your legal rights before critical evidence disappears. Make sure you speak with an attorney and your appointment is made to meet with an attorney. Do not accept an appointment with a paralegal, legal assistant or intake clerk. Only an attorney can give legal advice.
  • When you make the appointment, ask and be assured that the specific attorney you are scheduled to meet with will be the attorney personally involved with your case until it is resolved. A large part of your experience with an attorney derives from your relationship, so chemistry and continuity is very important.
  • Discuss the fee arrangement. Under New York law, you now have the right to choose different fee arrangements. Ask about the anticipated costs and disbursements and how they are to be advanced and reimbursed. Be sure to find out that in the event there is no recovery whether you are responsible to reimburse the law firm for their out- of-pocket expenses. Some law firms require the repayment of these expenses, while others do not.
  • Read your retainer agreement carefully before signing. You should be cautious about signing any written retainer agreement that provides that in the event you change attorneys you are obligated to pay specific itemized sums of money for the legal services rendered by that law firm up to the time of discharge.
  • If you have any hesitation about hiring the attorney you meet with, do not be pressured into signing the agreement. Simply advise the attorney that you need to think about it and promptly look elsewhere, as there are time limitations for pursuing personal injury matters.

It is also important to know that after you have retained a personal injury attorney, you have the right to discharge that attorney and retain another attorney in place of the original attorney if you are unhappy with your representation, even after the claim is put into suit. If you decide to change attorneys, the new attorney should reimburse the outgoing attorneys for their out-of-pocket expenses to obtain the release of your file. If you change attorneys and a recovery is obtained for you, there is no additional cost to you for having changed attorneys. Your prior and current attorneys are required to apportion the attorneys fees between the law firms. The amount you recover remains the same.

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