Posted on April 16, 2014 in Personal Injury
We have built our practice around our clients and work hard to not only deliver great customer service, but remarkable service. We receive many calls from people who already have an attorney, but are unhappy with that attorney or do not understand either the legal process or the advice their attorney is giving them. We take the time to answer questions and help as best we can. We thought it would be helpful to share five basic truths about hiring a personal injury attorney based on some of those calls.
1. Cases can take a long time to resolve. We have settled cases in a few months while other cases have taken many years, including a case against the City of New York that took eight years to resolve. Why? Each case has its own facts, but there are significant factors that affect the speed of every case:
- Have you finished treatment for your injuries? You do not want to seek to settle a case while you are still treating, so if treatment takes two years, then a settlement may take two years.
- Is the insurance company interested in settling? No matter how well your attorney prepares a case, if the insurance company is not interested in settling, the case will not settle.
- The New York courts are slow: If you file a lawsuit in the Bronx today, it can take three years for that case to come to trial.
Long phases of inactivity are bound to occur, regardless of how much your lawyer wants to move your case forward. Lawyers acutely understand the meaning of the phrase “hurry up and wait.” Moving a case forward is like juggling. You can only throw the ball back up in the air if you have it in your hands.
2. The Speed with which a case moves depends on many people. Your lawyer must work with and, at times, wait for many people:
- Defense counsel
- Witnesses for deposition
- Medical providers, from whom your lawyer needs to retrieve various records
- Freedom of Information Law offices, which often take months to respond to requests for public information
- The Courts, which are usually overloaded with cases and understaffed with personnel. Many New York Courts for example, especially those in the New York City metropolitan area, are incredibly backed up due to budget constraints, leading to enormous delays in between key pre-trial dates such as conferences and discovery deadlines.
- You – the client. Maybe you’re still receiving medical treatment or your overall medical condition has not stabilized. We always let our clients know from the outset that we won’t prematurely assess the value of their cases. The best thing you can do if you’re still receiving treatment (and pausing the development of your case) is to keep receiving all of the necessary medical treatment that will help you get better and help us know what injuries you really have – before we do a lot of premature work and then have to scrap all every time something new crops up. We like staying in touch with our clients throughout the treatment process so that our clients know we’re still thinking about their cases and so that we can be ready to take action as soon as their medical conditions stabilize.
3. The “slam dunk” case is rare. The fact of the matter is that even a case that seems like a slam dunk will have its weaknesses and limitations in the courts. To complicate matters, the law itself is not black and white in any respect aside from the actual pigment and paper with which it is written.
You should always keep in mind that your attorney is your advocate, but also your advisor. Your attorney should tell it like it is, weaknesses and all. You do not want a lawyer who cannot anticipate and give all due consideration to the arguments that opposing counsel will make at trial in front of a jury, and how they could plausibly affect your case.
4. Not all lawyers are right for you. You have many lawyers from which to choose and need to recognize that not all lawyers are right for you. Yes, you want an attorney familiar with your type of case. If you suffered injuries in a rear-end car crash, you may prefer to find an attorney experienced with those cases. Some attorneys look to settle cases quickly; others prefer to file lawsuits and fight in court. Some attorneys work alone; others will have a team supporting them. Ask questions about the attorney’s approach and how the attorney will communicate with you. Do you prefer phone calls or emails? Do you prefer face-to-face meetings or letters giving detailed explanations? Find an attorney who works the way you want to work and whom you can trust.
You should always check out this person’s reputation on the internet by looking up reviews and ratings on a variety of web outlets, including the firm or attorney’s website, their social media pages, their profiles and ratings on legal sites such as Avvo and Lawyers.com, and even by looking at Yelp ratings and reviews. It’s up to you to do the legwork and make sure you’re putting your case in the hands of a competent attorney. The same should be true of anyone you pay to perform a service for you – from your doctor to your accountant to the person you hire to babysit your children.
5. If you run into trouble with an attorney, you are always free to change attorneys but you may want to make the relationship work. You may start down the road with one attorney and decide that you do not like the way things are going. You are always free to change attorneys, but before you do, consider a few facts. Your attorney most likely wants to make the case work. Ask if they are still interested in representing you. If you do not like your attorney’s advice or assessment, ask for a full explanation of how they reached their conclusion. If communication is a problem, meet with your attorney to discuss the best way to communicate. Remember that changing attorneys can delay your case, and you may run into the same issues with a new attorney.
We receive many calls from clients upset with their current attorneys and looking to change lawyers. Most of the time, clients are upset about a lack of communication or about the fee arrangement. A simple, professional phone call or face-to-face meeting can usually clear up any miscommunications and set expectations moving forward.
While nowhere near exhaustive, this brief list hopefully addresses a few of the common misconceptions about the legal profession and the process of prosecuting of your case.
If you were injured the first thing you should do is seek all the necessary and appropriate medical attention needed to help you achieve a full recovery. If you feel that your injuries were caused by the negligence of another party, you should consult an attorney in your state to see if you have a case. At the Schlitt Law Firm, we would be happy to answer any of your questions and assist you. The consultation is always free.
The Schlitt Law Firm is an intentionally small, mission-driven plaintiffs-only law firm focused on personal injury and medical malpractice cases serving the New York metropolitan area. We commit ourselves to education, communication and responsiveness and vow to deliver remarkable service and outstanding outcomes.
The Schlitt Law Firm
A New York Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Law Firm
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney. Remember, past results do not guarantee similar outcomes in the future.
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We have built our practice around our clients and work hard to not only deliver great customer service, but remarkable service. We receive many calls from people who already have an attorney, but are unhappy with that attorney or do not understand either the legal process or the advice their attorney is giving them. We take the time to answer questions and help as best we can. We thought it would be helpful to share five basic truths about hiring a personal injury attorney based on some of those