Lawyer jokes and terms like "ambulance chasers" exist for a reason; annoying television ads, billboards, and anecdotes about lawyers behaving badly seem to be everywhere. However, the majority of personal injury attorneys are hard working, caring members of society who believe in fairness, honesty and improving the lives of others.
Choosing a Personal Injury Attorney
We are fortunate that here in the Portland area and elsewhere in Oregon the legal community has a well earned reputation for being more congenial and ethical than elsewhere. Lawyer advertising and marketing is generally tasteful and honest.
Regardless, before you decide who you want as your personal injury lawyer be sure that they are the right fit for your personality and your case. Carefully consider who will represent you. Ask yourself if this is the person you want speaking on your behalf in front of a judge and jury. There is nothing wrong with interviewing more than one personal injury lawyer to decide who the best fit is for you.
It is important to seek a personal injury lawyer that has jury trial experience. Relatively few lawyers actually have experience taking cases to trial before a judge and jury to achieve successful outcomes for their clients. If there is no real possibility that you can effectively take your case to trial if needed, the other side will know this and you will not see a chance at a reasonable settlement. Seek an experienced trial lawyer or law firm.
Be careful about hiring a personal injury lawyer that paid for the “lead” on your case. National “law firms” are now advertising heavily all over the country on the internet and television. Once the injured party contacts them these outfits send the “lead” to a local lawyer that has paid for the referral. These are really just marketing organizations that are selling referrals to any lawyer who will pay for it, whether or not that lawyer has any experience handling personal injury cases and taking them to trial after careful preparation.
Here are some other important tips and traps to avoid when considering how to choose your personal injury lawyer.
Regardless of whom you speak with, beware of these "red flags"—if these issues pop up when you are speaking with a lawyer that you are considering hiring, use caution going forward.
Contact shortly after your injury
Be very wary of any law firm or lawyer that sends you mail or calls you shortly after your injury. They likely monitor news media and buy police reports just to solicit injury cases. Ask about their reputation in the legal community before working with such lawyers. Make sure they are more interested in helping their clients recover for their injury than just turning a quick buck.
Fee for initial consultation
Most reputable personal injury lawyers in Oregon do not charge a fee for an initial consultation. If a lawyer asks for money just to talk to you about your case consider interviewing other lawyers who do not.
Pressure to sign agreement
An attorney should never insist that you sign a representation agreement before leaving their office after an initial consultation. If you choose to do so on your own accord - fine. However, you should never feel pressured to enter into an agreement.
Should always explain terms as well as answer any questions
The injury attorney you hire should always explain the terms of your representation agreement to you and be willing to answer any questions you have.
Guarantee of results
If the attorney you are speaking with guarantees a certain result for your injury, you should speak with someone else to be sure of the risks involved and whether such a result is realistic.
Contingency fee greater than benefits
Your attorney should not charge a contingency fee in an amount greater than the benefits they obtain for you.
After speaking with a few personal injury lawyers you are still having trouble finding the right one for you, contact the Oregon State Bar's free Lawyer Referral Service at 503-684-3763 (or toll-free in Oregon at 800-452-7636). They will provide you with the contact information for an attorney from a list of those that handle your kind of case.