What is the truth about attorney advertising?
Looking for an attorney to help you with your personal injury case can be an overwhelming experience. If you open the Yellow Pages or turn on the television you are bombarded by advertisements for attorneys claiming that they handle personal injury cases. Many of these ads say the same things, such as "no fee if no recovery", "get the money you deserve", "aggressive trial lawyer" or "insurance companies fear us". What exactly does all this mean? How do you go about telling these attorneys apart? Most importantly, how do you choose the right attorney for your case? When you see "no fee if no recovery", remember that you are almost always liable for your medical expenses, regardless of how your case turns out. If you win enough money, that money can be used towards paying off those bills. However, if you lose, or do not recover enough money, you are still responsible for paying your own medical bills. Be sure and clarify exactly how any recovery is divided as well as what bills you are responsible for (no matter how the case turns out) with any attorney you are considering hiring. When you read such phrases as "get the money you deserve", be wary of any attorney that promises you that it will be easy to get you lots of money. Any attorney who promises you this is not telling you the truth, because no one can predict exactly what will happen ahead of time in trying to it either settle your case or take it to trial. After a careful evaluation of your case, an attorney should give you their opinion of your chances of succeeding in recovering for your injury, and they might give you some idea of what the case may be worth, but they cannot honestly promise a particular outcome. Remember also that the evaluation of the case is an ongoing process. The prospects for a case may change as new facts are discovered during the investigation and preparation of your claim. An honest, experienced attorney will usually admit that they have lost cases they probably should have won and they have won cases that they probably should have lost. They will also admit that they do not know exactly why this happened other than the fact that lawsuits involve people, and people are unpredictable. This also hints at the value of settling a case, where appropriate, to avoid the uncertainty of the outcome at trial. If the attorney advertisement states that he is an "aggressive trial lawyer", find out exactly what this means. Does the attorney actually take cases to trial, or does he settle most of them, or refer them out to other attorneys when cases need to go to trial? Also, what does "aggressive" mean? Every attorney should zealously represent their client, but if they are obnoxious to the opposing attorney or the opposing insurance company, or for that matter, the judge or jury, they may do more damage to your case than someone who treats everyone involved with courtesy and respect. Being effective is not the same as being rude. Remember, some jurors already have in their minds a stereotype of a personal injury trial lawyer as a greedy, obnoxious, dishonest opportunist. If your attorney's demeanor reinforces this stereotype, you may have a problem. If the jury does not like your attorney or does not believe your attorney, they will usually find a way to make you lose. If an attorney claims that "insurance companies fear us", be careful. The reputation of your attorney is important in that insurance companies respect attorneys that thoroughly prepare and are willing to take cases to trial. However, remember that insurance companies also have excellent attorneys, and these insurers deal with claims like yours all the time. Thanks to the successful insurance industry public relations media campaign that has convinced many potential jurors that all personal injury plaintiffs are out to "get rich quick" with a frivolous lawsuit, insurers are often willing to "roll the dice" by taking a case to trial, regardless of who the attorney for the plaintiff is. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney that is willing and able to take your case to trial when necessary. It is important to remember a few other things when looking at attorney advertising. First, remember that anyone can buy an ad. A large, expensive ad in the Yellow Pages or on television does not necessarily mean that the attorney is the right one for you, or even a very good attorney. The attorney may be competent, but it is important that you check out their credentials and talk with them about how they will approach your case before you decide to hire them. Also, make sure that they are they are not running their practice as an advertising "mill" that takes way too many cases, hoping to settle them all, and then, if cases need to go to trial, farms them out to other attorneys. You should know up front what attorney will be handling your case all the way through, and that your attorney is willing and able to try the case if necessary. Finally, make sure the attorney's personality matches yours, since you are going to be working together for a while. To be successful in resolving your claim it is important for you and your attorney to work as a team.