Needing to engage a lawyer is something most people try to avoid, but there will generally come a time when it is necessary. Reasons for using a lawyer’s services can vary, from something simple like preparing a Will to complex family law proceedings, personal injury claims and commercial litigation.
Choosing a lawyer, particularly the right lawyer for the job, is not a task that should be approached lightly.
This article will focus on choosing a personal injury lawyer but many of the tips below can be applied to other legal services.
Things to consider with your personal injury claim
- Does my lawyer have the right experience?
Just like you wouldn’t see a psychiatrist for a knee problem, you should make sure you engage a lawyer who specialises in, and is experienced in, personal injury law.
Even if you have found an experienced personal injury lawyer, you should then make sure they specialise in the type of personal injury claim you have. For example, not all personal injury lawyers specialise in medical negligence claims or workplace injuries.
At Mellor Olsson Lawyers, our personal injury lawyers specialise in motor vehicle accident claims and medical negligence as well as some public liability claims.
- Do you feel comfortable with your lawyer?
The majority of seriously injured people will say that their lives (and their families lives) have been turned upside down as a result of their injuries.
Personal injury claims generally take years to resolve, so finding a lawyer that you feel comfortable with is incredibly important. That lawyer will be guiding you through the claims process and will need to discuss very personal issues with you which will likely include most aspects of your life.
It is crucial to consider the communication style of a lawyer when choosing one, as each lawyer may have a distinct approach. It is important to find a lawyer whose communication style aligns with your preferences and needs. For instance, some lawyers may adopt an excessively formal communication style, which might not be suitable for dealing with a personal injury claim but could be ideal for commercial litigation. Whilst your lawyer is there to provide legal advice, they should also approach your claim with empathy and kindness. Building trust and confidence in your lawyer will make the claims process much smoother and comfortable.
What about costs?
Before a lawyer commences work on your matter, they will provide you with a Retainer Agreement that will set out a number of things and importantly, provide a cost estimate.
Whilst the cost estimate can sometimes come as a shock to clients, the lawyer should have discussed this with you in your first appointment.
This cost estimate should be a realistic one. Some lawyers will provide cost estimates which they know are too low to encourage you to engage them. This will only result in an updated cost estimate needing to be provided relatively soon after you instruct them.
The lawyer should also have explained to you that in most circumstances, the insurer will make a contribution towards costs on the successful resolution of your personal injury claim.
Whilst cost is an important factor to consider when engaging a lawyer, a cheaper lawyer does not always mean you will achieve the best service or outcome possible.
Similarly, some firms advertise that they offer “no win, no fee.” You should be aware that these types of Retainer Agreements often involve uplifts of 25% which means that you will end up paying more in legal fees to account for the risk taken on by the lawyer. A lot of people also don’t realise that you will also be liable for disbursements in any event under these Retainer Agreements. These types of agreements are not suitable in all cases, particularly where liability has been accepted, or will likely be accepted. Legal disbursements simply mean the ongoing expenses incurred by the law firm on behalf of the client during the legal process.
Most law firms will offer a free initial consultation whether that be in person or via phone. This can be the perfect opportunity to meet the lawyer and see whether you feel comfortable with them.
Asking friends and family for referrals can be a good place to start but the Law Society of South Australia can also refer you to firms who practice in the relevant area.
Conducting thorough research and carefully considering the factors mentioned above is important before hiring a lawyer. Switching to a different lawyer in the midst of the claims process can lead to additional fees and often cause unnecessary delays in resolving your claim.