Choosing the Top Personal Injury Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim is a big decision. Your legal counsel is your advocate at all stages of your case, and you typically only get one chance to sue for your injuries. It can be challenging to figure out what law firm is right for you, given the number of personal injury lawyers in Ontario. Here are a few questions you can ask when you are vetting candidates.
1. Ask About Credentials
It goes without saying your personal injury lawyer should be a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario's Bar), but there is other evidence they are respected within the profession. Review your lawyer's professional associations, publications, teaching gigs or other evidence of their participation in the broader legal community. For many clients, service to the community is important evidence of their lawyer's good character.
2. Ask About Legal Strategy
A personal injury case can go many ways. An important question is whether your lawyer will proceed to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached. In general, the legal community in Ontario tries to achieve settlement instead of going to trial, because it saves time, resources and emotional capital for all the parties involved. A trial is hard on everyone, but sometimes it is the best for your case. Discuss the issue with your lawyer, asking how they feel about going to court if negotiations fail.
3. Ask About Legal Staff Members
Few lawyers work alone. Their legal staff members, such as case managers, legal assistants and other professionals, are a key part of the service they provide. Ask your potential lawyer who else will be involved in your case and the respective roles they play. That way, you can assess the kind of support you have while you are healing from your injuries and your legal challenges are still being resolved.
4. Ask About Finances
There are many expenses involved in a legal case. Ask your lawyer how they expect to be paid, not only in legal fees but also in disbursements. Disbursements are expenses that the lawyer incurs to investigate your case. It is important to know whether you are responsible for disbursements up front, or whether the lawyer will deduct them from any final settlement they negotiate on your behalf. In terms of charging for time, ask the lawyer if they will take a percentage of the final award or expect to receive an hourly rate.
5. Ask About History
This should not be the first time your lawyer has handled a personal injury case. However, some lawyers have more experience than others. Ask for referrals from past clients or statistics about past successes in personal injury matters. Since some lawyers handle cases in a number of legal areas, you may want to choose a lawyer who spends most, if not all, of their time working on injury matters. In particular if your injuries are severe and your medical needs complex, you want an experienced lawyer who understands how insurance companies and medical professionals work.
6. Ask About Communications
Even relatively simple personal injury matters take some time to unfold. Once you start a claim, it can be weeks or months before you reach a settlement or get a judgment from an Ontario court. In the meantime, you may have to be in contact with your legal counsel. Ask whether the lawyer is regularly accessible to clients, including whether they have assistants and other staff members on hand to answer important questions.
7. Ask About Possible Outcomes
When you take legal action on a personal injury matter, there are a number of different things that may happen. Depending on what happened, from a car accident to a slip and fall, you may need to recover money for medical care, lost wages, property damage and other losses. Your lawyer can play many roles throughout your case, from acting as your advocate with your insurance company to standing up for you in court. Ask your potential lawyer what the end of the case may look like and how long it will take to get there.
8. Ask Yourself If You Feel Comfortable
It is a very big deal to ask another person to speak for you on such critical matters. In order to choose the right personal injury lawyer for you, the most important question may be whether or not you feel comfortable with that person. Doing a simple "gut check" can help you to make the decision about whom you trust to handle your claim so you can focus on improving your health and recovering your routine.
In order to find the best personal injury lawyer in Ontario, keep a list of these questions. Consider putting an asterisk near the "deal breaker" issues when it comes to partnering with a lawyer for your case. Take note of the answers that you want to hear. You will know you've found the best personal injury lawyer not just when you hear the right words, but when your intuition says you've met the person you want to hire.