How to Choose an Attorney

When you are injured or disabled and unable to work, it is very difficult to decide what to do. Frequently, you aren't feeling well, you have financial pressures, and the whole thing seems overwhelming. You may think that all lawyers are alike, but they are not. In deciding who to choose to handle your case, you might want to ask around since word of mouth is a good indicator of quality. Also, you need to consider the person's expertise. How many workers' compensation, or Social Security, or personal injury, or auto cases has the person done, what has their success rate been, and how promptly do they respond to their clients? Also, will the attorney pay for the costs, advance the costs but expect you to pay for them, or just have you pay for them up front? This is very important to determine because the costs of a case, specifically, the medical records, court reports, doctors' opinions via deposition of report, can all add up very quickly. Also, you should determine what the fees are that the attorney is going to charge. Most importantly, you should determine whether the attorney cares about you as a person or is only looking at you as a source of income. Whether the attorney is going to go the extra mile for you or push you out the door to get the quickest fee is the single most important aspect of the decision.

Another aspect is whether the attorney is considering both your immediate needs as well as your long term needs. How are you going to be left five years from now? Another consideration is whether the attorney is thinking of all possible remedies for you. Sometimes, a workers' compensation client may also qualify for Social Security disability. The same is true for auto and personal injury cases. In some cases, a workers' compensation case may also involve auto, which allows for the payment of pain and suffering.

Choosing a lawyer is the single most important decision you have, and I would suggest that you feel comfortable in interviewing attorneys and not feel pressured into making a decision until you are comfortable. Please keep asking questions until you are satisfied that this is the person you want to have represent you. Also, please be mindful that fees for workers' compensation and Social Security are controlled by the various Acts. Under workers' compensation, an attorney can only charge a 20% fee, and it must be approved by the judge. Costs are negotiable, and that is an area where you must address the matter with the attorney before you sign the Fee Agreement. Regarding Social Security, fees are limited to 25% of the first check, which represents the back amount, or $6,000.00, whichever is less. That applies to all circumstances, and the fee must be approved by the Social Security Administration. Costs really vary, and in some cases, the attorney may not get the medical records and expect you to or may charge you for them. My firm both gets the records and pays for them, win or lose. This can be hundreds of dollars, and I would urge you to look into this matter before signing up.

Please note that if you are unhappy with the representation that your attorney is giving, you can discharge them at any time. You need to do this in writing. Before you do this, I would encourage you to speak either with the lawyer or his or her supervisor and talk to them about what you are unhappy about. To some extent, there is going to be frustration with the system because it is slow no matter what court you are talking about. However, you should have an attorney who returns your calls promptly, answers your questions, and has a plan for how to resolve your matter. Also, they should move along promptly in getting the medical evidence that they need for the case, and if they are not doing so, you should address this matter with them.

Also, you need to know whether the attorney has, indeed, accepted your case, as some attorneys will wait until close to the last minute and then say they are not taking the matter. Some attorneys do not fully develop a case, hoping for a quick settlement. You do not want to have that attorney represent you.

You need an ethical attorney who will advocate on your behalf and keep your interests first. You need somebody with honesty and integrity who will represent you to the best of his or her ability. Hopefully, the outcome will be positive, but the process should also put your mind to rest.

Any questions, please feel free to contact me at kniven@klnivenlaw.com.

2 Comments

I think you're right about how I need to consider my immediate needs and my long term needs when hiring a lawyer. It seems that thinking about getting the representation that will help with my workers compensation case is something that I need to think about now so that I can get a fair settlement that will allow me to pay for my medical bills. I would also like to be able to get back to working at my current job and continue to work there after I've recovered from my injury, so I'll have to discuss that with a lawyer and my employer while I'm thinking about it. Thanks for the tips!

Thanks for mentioning that when you're injured or disabled and unable to work, it can be very difficult to decide what to do. You also said that it's good to choose an attorney that is up front about the fees that the attorney is going to charge. I think it's important to choose a compensation lawyer that has experience in handling cases that are also in your industry.

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