So, I was meeting with a medical malpractice potential client, Southern Illinois, and they pulled off a list of questions to ask me that I’ve gotten off the Internet of questions to ask before you hire a personal injury lawyer, and I’ve pointed out to them that I’ve written a book on it. On my website is a book that I wrote. It is the “Essential Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Lawyer or Settle Your Case.” You can click on the top-right of www.burgerlaw.com to get a free PDF of this free book.
I’d like to do a brief video here about what to ask a lawyer before you hire him. It’s hard to choose an injury attorney. How do you know? There are different ways to figure out who’s good, but most people aren’t buying lawyers like you buy cars or other consumer goods or things you consume, so it’s harder to know. One of the things is you can go, and you can look at Google reviews. We have the most Google reviews of any firm in St. Louis that I know of and we’re well-reviewed, so you’re welcome to look at those on Google. We’re reviewed on Avvo. We have the Avvo Client Choice Award. I’m a Super Lawyer. I have all these awards that I’ve worked hard for, not to brag but just to give you information about how you can assess lawyers.
Questions to ask before you hire a lawyer: Are you going to handle my case personally, or are you going to dish it off to someone else, I’m never going to see you?
Second: I know you say no fee if no recovery and I get a free consultation, but if you lose my case do I have to pay you back your expenses still? If you lose my injury of wrongful death case, am I going to be liable for the taxable cost if the defendant asserts them? If you don’t do the work that I tell you to do and I have to fire you, and I go to another lawyer, are you going to try to get money still out of my case from the other lawyer?
Third area: Do you go to court? Do you take depositions? Are you in court every day fighting the fight? How many cases have you tried in the last year, or do you just sign up these cases and settle them?
Next: Do you insist on a full 100% recovery for the damages to your client or do you settle for 70% or 80% and call it a day?
Next: Do you file personal injury lawsuits and try cases, or are you just going to collect a bunch of documents, send them to the claims adjuster and settle the case cheaply? Have you actually tried and litigated these types of cases? Have you actually tried these cases? Have you litigated them? Have you picked juries and gotten verdicts in auto, comp, med mal, slip-and-falls, employment discrimination, products liability? I’ve tried cases in all these areas and more, but that’s what you want to ask them, and do you have articles about them? Do you want to show me that?
What a trial lawyer does is he establishes a reputation, and you want to ask the lawyer this: Do you have a reputation in the legal community of someone who insists on a 100% recovery, and if they don’t get it they’re going to try these cases so that you can get the best value of your case from claims adjusters and defense lawyers, and they’ll know they’ll pay you the full value of your case? Are you going to fight to the very end of my case to get the full value of the settlement?
I had a case. A client called me two days ago and I talked to her yesterday where the case kind of went away. There was a challenge about insurance coverage. The other firm’s getting out. They don’t want to try a case without a guarantee of a payment, and now the case is set for trial in a short period of time that other lawyers are withdrawing and going because the easy money’s gone.
And I tried an injury claim twice earlier this year. The first time was a mistrial, the second time we tried it against a defendant with no insurance, and I don’t like to do that. It’s hard to recover. I’m not saying that’s easy, but I told my client I was going to try it. I told Lauren Coffey I was going to try it and I did twice.
So, next question: Do you have a packet of information, published articles, books, pamphlets to educate me about your firm, so I know you’ll be able to strongly represent my interests? This is an appendix. I have an appendix to my book where I say, “Here’s a printable appendix where you can bring this into a lawyer interview to see if you should hire him or not.”
Are you going to get 50%, 60% or 70% of my damages or are you going to get 100% of my damages? Do you have the experience in winning difficult premise liability cases, pursuing claims where the injuries are severe, finding additional insurance or unique insurance solutions where no one else thought there was any, thinking outside of the box, investigating the claims and being aggressive to ensure that you get a fair recovery or your family gets a fair recovery if it’s a death case or if it’s a case involving a minor child?
How long have you been practicing in the field of personal injury law? Have you ever handled a case like mine before? What are the possible outcomes of my case? Will you be able to assist me in finding good medical care? Will you be able to fight my liens for my insurance company and anybody else who wants money out of my case? Are you just going to try to get the money at the front end or are you going to also work on reducing my liens from my healthcare and my work comp and my medical providers, the med pay, my health insurance, my union benefits, the short-term or long-term disability? Are you going to work on reducing those liens so that I can put the most in my pocket?
Are you willing to take my case for a lower percentage? Most lawyers don’t do that because these cases can be tough. Are there expenses included in your fees? Will you let me know what’s going on with my case and communicate with me in a timely basis so that I know? Are you transparent? Can I know what my expenses are at all times?
And, one of the things on my wall in my oath of office, it’s right here. Rodney, can you turn this over here? Can you show it over here? I got my oath of office on my wall, and it says that, “I will practice law to the best of my knowledge and ability with a consideration for the defenseless and oppressed.” You do pro bono work, which we do, and the rules of professional conduct require us to be competent and diligent and to zealously represent our clients. I’m a former Regional Disciplinary Committee Member, and I work with the Ethics folks with the State of Missouri, in the Supreme Court of Missouri.
Who else in your office will be working on my case? Can I have your personal cellphone number and your email address so that I can communicate to you about my case? Do I even need a lawyer? Is this the kind of case that you’re going to add value to my case? Because, folks, if you’re in an auto crash, you get one ER visit and then you’re done medically treating, you’ll probably put more money in your pocket talking to the insurance company directly and settling. So, do I even need a lawyer? Am I going to put more money in my pocket without a lawyer or with a lawyer? Is the lawyer going to add value in the case? I turn personal injury cases down. I tell people, “Folks, I can’t add value to your case,” though some folks say, “Hey, I know that I don’t get a big case, but I don’t want to deal with it. It’s just not what I want to do.”
So, you want to ask about the firm’s track record. Do you have certifications or peer-review awards? What are your reviews like? Who’s the primary contact? Who’s the best way to communicate with you? How are you going to communicate with me about settling my case? Why should I hire you versus somebody else?
And I hate to ramble on and go all over the place, but the point is there’s a lot of questions you can ask lawyers in deciding to hire one. Take your time. Get the right lawyer for you and your family, and get a lawyer who really wants to work with you. If you have any questions about this, you can get my book as I mentioned. You can also call me, Gary Burger, 314-542-2222. I’m at www.burgerlaw.com as well. Thank you.