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Tips When Considering a Texas Personal Injury Attorney

What to look for and what to avoid

Searching for an attorney after you’ve been injured—in a car accident or otherwise—can be an intimidating task. Where do you start? Which factors should you consider, and why? Such questions can be difficult, but necessary, attorneys say.

“Not getting an attorney to assist you through the process is a big mistake,” says personal injury attorney Brant J. Stogner of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, who began his career primarily representing defendants, but now exclusively represents plaintiffs in cases involving catastrophic injuries, personal and commercial vehicle accidents, and more.

In addition to handling the routine aspects of your case, an attorney can bring to bear resources including subject matter experts and accident reconstruction. And typically, the sooner they’re involved, the better.

“That is really important,” says Jennifer Stogner, also of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, who handles similar catastrophic personal injury cases, “because, for example, with any type of surveillance video that might have picked up the accident itself, businesses usually write those things over within 30 days.”

When it comes to choosing an attorney, “who you hire matters,” says Brant Stogner. He points out a few key factors to look for: “If you hire a law firm that has the resources and stability and they’ve been around, are they established in the community or are they brand new? Is the particular lawyer working your case board-certified? Has he or she actually tried cases?”

He adds: “You want to know that because, at the end of the day, the insurance company puts a value on [a motor vehicle accident] case based on who your attorney is and which law firm the attorney works for. Those are two data points that go into the analysis almost equally as the injuries involved.”

A lawyer can achieve certification by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization by demonstrating “substantial, relevant experience,” passing the board’s exam, and completing a certain number of continuing legal education hours in their particular practice area. A recent survey by the State Bar of Texas found that about 25% of personal injury lawyers are certified.

Jennifer Stogner says an attorney should be known for how they handle themselves professionally. “It is not just about reputation,” she says. “It’s also about relationships. If you’ve got good relationships with defense firms and with insurance carriers and treat them professionally—just like you want to be treated—then that helps make sure that the client gets the justice they deserve.”

An attorney should also be realistic with you about possible outcomes of your case, and help you set reasonable expectations. “We try to let folks know that, look, each case is different, and the reality is we can try your case 10 times and we’d probably get 10 different verdicts,” says Brant Stogner.” So your case value is really a range as opposed to a number, and we’re doing our best, based on our experience and our knowledge, to predict what that is. We try to provide them verdict sheets, settlement sheets so they can kind of see what different cases are worth, but also let them know different cases are worth different amounts in different counties. An accident in Harris County is not the same as an accident in Montgomery County.”

And, of course, a personal injury attorney’s level of experience is a crucial factor. “I wouldn’t want a brain surgeon operating on me if it was his first time,” says Brant Stogner.

Adds Jennifer Stogner: “You may be interested in hiring your buddy or your friend, but you might not necessarily want your buddy or friend doing your brain surgery.”

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