How to hire a personal injury lawyer

I’m writing about how to hire a personal injury lawyer because of something that happened to an old friend of mine.

Without giving away any confidences, the story goes something like this:

My friend’s wife was seriously injured in an automobile collision.

My friend hired a personal injury lawyer who holds himself out as a skilled P.I. attorney.  My friend found the lawyer on the internet and didn’t check references.

The P.I. lawyer took my friend’s case and then handed it over to a junior attorney.  The junior attorney spent almost two years working on the case.  I’m not sure what the junior attorney actually did during all those months.

The junior lawyer then told my friend that (1) the skilled personal injury lawyer my friend had hired was too busy to meet with my friend and discuss the case and (2) even so, the “skilled” lawyer had decided he would not file a lawsuit under any circumstances.  Since a deadline for filing the case was coming up, this created something of a problem for my friend.

Then, the junior lawyer disclosed he had a VERY low offer from an insurance company to settle the claim and began pressuring my friend to accept it. He applied this pressure even though the accident was already costing my friend an amount equal to the entire offer every single month.

My friend decided to ask for a second opinion. He came to me. I looked at the file. I did some investigation.

We are working on fixing the problem because it doesn’t seem like the very low offer is fair.

The point being, what I am describing is something that should NEVER happen.

When you hire a personal injury lawyer, that lawyer is supposed to work for you.  They should meet with you.  They should communicate with you.  They should work hard on your case.

Too often, a lawyer will forget those simple truths.

So, the first thing you need to know about hiring a personal injury lawyer is – don’t assume that just because the lawyer says they practice personal injury means they they have the skill and the drive to keep your best interests at heart.

A good P.I. lawyer puts you first.  You might not like what they tell you.  But they will not pressure you to do something that isn’t fair to you.

Some advertising lawyers are great attorneys.  Some are just great advertisers.  So, what I tell people is, when you are looking for a great P.I. lawyer, your best course is, ask someone you trust for a referral.

Ask your family and friends if they can help steer you to a trusted professional for advice.  Lawyers in the community generally know who the reputable personal injury attorneys are.  Also, reputable lawyers won’t charge if you simply consult with them to help you find the right attorney for your needs.

Also, don’t feel like you are asking for a favor when you ask an attorney to refer you to a reputable personal injury lawyer.

In many states – California being one – attorneys can often negotiate a referral fee when they connect you with the lawyer who takes your case.  That referral fee SHOULD NEVER increase the attorney fee you will be expected to pay.

So, it makes good sense to let a trusted expert help you find the right lawyer to represent you in your claim.

You know to shop smart at the supermarket. Apply those same skills when you or a loved one suffers a personal injury and needs to make a claim.

The problem is, if the injured party is not a US citizen and didn’t contribute to social security or pay any Medicare tax, they won’t qualify for Medicare benefits and the government will not (at this writing at least) provide any document that states there is no lien.

If the conditions are right, then the solution (short of having Medicare on the check and sending it off for endorsement, which takes months) is an indemnity clause in the settlement agreement.

Make sure this will not blow back on you or your client, but if you decide to go this route, here is some language that has worked for us with State Farm and Farmers:

FURTHER, as a condition of the settlement and release, Claimants represent and warrant that as of the date of this signing, Claimants have provided the released party’s(ies’) Insurer ______________________ (“Insurer”) all information Claimants know about any and all Medicare rights to recovery as of this date. Claimants agree to reimburse, indemnify and hold harmless each of the persons, firms or corporations released hereunder and their Insurers, including their agents and assigns, with respect to all known and unknown Medicare rights to recovery related to the Subject Accident for which the federal government may seek repayment, as well as any fine or penalty the federal government may seek resulting from the sufficiency and accuracy of the information Claimants have provided to Insurers regarding Medicare rights to recovery known as of this date.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.