Accidents happen. But how do you know if you have a legal argument for collecting damages?
“If you’ve been injured in a car collision or by tripping on a bad sidewalk or as a result of medical treatment, that will probably start you thinking,” says David B. Golomb, of the Law Offices of David B. Golomb in New York City. “‘Was that injury caused by someone being negligent?’ If the answer is yes, that is enough to start looking around.”
“Many [clients] depend on poster advertisements or radio or TV ads,” says Robert Kelner. “They end up in a mill that is content to handle cases in great volume, but do not do an artistic job on the cases.”
What is an artistic lawyer? “Someone who will make novel and successful legal arguments,” says Kelner. “That is an art. Will this attorney be able to paint the picture of what has occurred in that person’s life?”
Seymour Boyers of Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz adds, “Go to the New York State Bar Association or local bar associations and examine their websites. They give very good background. Or ask someone you know who’s had representation and is satisfied they were properly compensated.”
When interviewing attorneys, Robert Kelner advises asking for the firm’s results. “Have they consistently obtained good settlements in cases?” he asks. “I would also want to know if the firm is at the edge of the art academically—do they publish in the field, do they lecture at bar associations or law schools?”
“See if the lawyer has achieved verdicts,” Golomb adds. “Trying cases means they go to the wall for the client, and that person will ultimately get better settlements.”
“Whoever you interview should answer your questions, and not just say ‘We will take care of it,’” says Gail Kelner. “If the client has a question, it’s important to give an answer.”
Hey, who’s handling my case anyway?
Those questions should include asking if the attorney you meet is actually handling the case.
“Many large firms are just referring sites, and you may not know who is assigned your case,” says Golomb. “You want to know if they are handling the case from soup to nuts. Will it be a senior partner or a bunch of greenhorns? Will I be able to get my attorney on the phone? Ask how many cases the lawyer is handling at a given time. If it’s anything more than 20 to 30, you know you won’t be able to get the time you deserve.”