How Can You Find The Best Personal Injury Attorney?
Many people search for the “best Orlando personal injury attorney.” So I thought I would share my thoughts on how you might go about finding the best Orlando personal injury attorney.
Finding The Best Of Any Profession Is Not Possible
First, there really is no way to find the best professional in any field. For example, when looking for the best Orlando personal injury attorney, you might be looking at impressive settlement numbers on a website. Maybe high numbers means you have found the best Orlando personal injury attorney? I seriously doubt it. The reason is that you can’t possibly know: (1) what number and type of calls does this attorney receive? and (2) should a high settlement or verdict number be even higher?
For starters, if a firm receives a higher volume of calls, which is usually gained through extensive billboard and television advertising, they are going to receive more serious injury case calls. Serious and catastrophic injuries lead to the highest settlements and verdicts.
The Highest Settlement & Verdicts Result From The Most Catastrophic Injuries
There aren’t any million or multi-million dollar settlements or verdicts that result from minor injuries, such as soft tissue injuries. In fact, the overwhelming majority of cases are NOT in that range. Only the most serious injuries lead to the highest personal injury settlements or verdicts. Catastrophic injuries, at least as defined by Florida’s medical malpractice statute (which is a good guide for classifying other types of accident cases), include things like wrongful death, spinal cord injuries causing paralysis of an arm, leg, or the whole body, brain injuries seriously impairing functioning, amputation of an arm, hand, foot, or leg, serious burn injuries over a significant percentage of the body, face, or hands, blindness, loss of reproductive organs, or any other injury that seriously impairs communication, motor or sensory functioning.
Are The Highest Settlement & Verdict Accident Cases The Most Difficult?
Let’s say an Orlando personal injury attorney gets a catastrophic injury call (which, with heavy advertising, any attorney would likely get in higher numbers). They might have a very easy job ahead of them in many respects. I have personally worked on countless multi-million dollar cases. They range in difficulty from easy as pie, to much more complex and challenging. Right now I’m working on a wrongful death case that was caused by a drunk driver, who was driving in the wrong lane, causing a head-on car accident. While there are some unique legal twists to that case (mostly involving insurance coverage), proving fault and extremely high damages is not going to be difficult. My point is that higher settlements and verdicts come with the territory of more serious injuries and fatalities. Whether those cases are more legally complicated is an entirely different question.
At the same time, an injury case worth only a few thousand dollars absolutely might involve some of the most complex legal issues possible. (However, if the injuries aren’t serious enough, then a lot of lawyer time might NOT be justified, based on the potential recovery.)
So, bottom line, the value of the settlement has nothing to do with the difficulty of the case, or the skill of the attorney who achieved the result.
High Verdicts Could Always Be Higher
Also, let’s say an Orlando personal injury attorney gets a very high car accident verdict. How can you possibly know whether that number should have been higher? Let me give you another example. I have a friend who recently obtain a verdict near 5 million dollars. But, here’s the thing. Numerous experienced injury attorneys told him that 20 million or even 50 million would not be an unreasonable jury verdict goal given the degree of ultra-catastrophic injuries his client had suffered. On the other hand, there were some shortcomings in his case, in terms of whether his client had contributed to his own injuries. So, in the end, how can we possibly now whether the 5 million was awesome, or terrible? We can’t. (Important: those types of settlement and verdict numbers are ONLY possible in the absolute MOST horrific of injuries, and then only when the cause of the injury is very clear.)
The Cost Of Medical Bills Is Always Part Of The Settlement Or Verdict
Also, part of the recovery in any personal injury case is past and future medical expenses caused by the accident. If someone has higher medical bills, or projected medical bills, then they will recover more money. For example, if someone has surgery that costs 100K, that amount is included within their recovery (although the doctors or health insurers must be reimbursed, usually at a negotiated discount).
How Much Control Do Lawyers Have Over Personal Injury Verdict Or Settlement Values?
In the end, lawyers collect evidence in the form of documents, witness statements, expert opinions, and medical records. We then use that evidence to tell a group of random strangers (the jury) your story. Jurors are people from all walks of life, with different attitudes, political persuasions, and general impressions. They may or may not decide that an injury should be worth a lot of money. Attorneys can do a LOT to prepare to tell the story. But they can’t ultimately control the outcome of juror decisions.
Additionally, settlement numbers result from insurance company negotiations. Insurance companies have their unwritten rules regarding case value (often based on multipliers of medical bills, within a range based on positive and negative evidence). Lawyers can’t very easily change those, either.
So, you simply can’t judge whether someone is the best Orlando personal injury attorney based on settlement or verdict numbers.
Do Good Reviews Mean Someone Is The Best Orlando Personal Injury Attorney?
Some might understandably believe that good reviews mean someone is the best Orlando personal injury attorney. That’s just really not the case. Although I am thankful to have excellent reviews (at least as of the time of this writing), clients really have no idea what they are judging. So, if a law firm asks for reviews from clients who just received a check, the clients probably would leave a great review. But, as I explained above, how can the clients possibly know whether, if the lawyer had done more work, they might have gotten more money?
Also, clients judge things like how well they got along with the lawyer. While I hope all of my clients like me, our good or bad relationship has nothing to do with how well I’m doing my job. The bottom line is that clients have no way of judging whether a lawyer is any good.
Think about a doctor. If you get surgery, how in the world can you possibly know whether the surgery results could have been better? Or whether the surgery was simple or difficult? You can’t. I firmly believe that it is impossible to rate any professional when you don’t understand the work itself. Remember, just because Google invented reviews, doesn’t mean reliance on them actually makes logical sense. I rely on them myself when making some purchasing decisions (though usually NOT with professionals). I think reviews make the most sense when judging products. In any event, ignoring your gut feelings while following positive reviews is always a bad idea.
Do High Ratings Or Awards Mean Someone Is The Best Orlando Personal Injury Attorney?
There are a number of services online that “rate” attorneys, or give them awards. I am thankful to have received some awards, and to have a perfect “10” AVVO rating. I’m even listed as one of the “top ten Orlando personal injury attorneys” on one website. But, I don’t give those a whole lot of credit, either. You see, just like clients have no basis for judging attorneys, those rating services have even less relevant information. Those are generally driven by things like numbers of awards, years in practice, publications, peer reviews, client reviews, and the like. But, those services never meet the attorneys they are rating. They never see them in action, meeting with clients, researching legal issues, planning discovery, collecting evidence, taking a deposition, or arguing in front of a jury.
So, How Can You Find The Best Orlando Personal Injury Attorney?
To me, you start by finding those with positive reviews or ratings. Then, you have to judge your experience. You see, lawyers have one basic job (although VERY complicated to perform). They must collect evidence, then present evidence, according to all sorts of complicated rules. Orlando personal injury attorneys can’t possibly judge whether you have good or bad evidence, if they don’t spend time talking to you.
So, my first warning would be to avoid high volume, or settlement mill, law firms. In those firms, lawyers handle anywhere between 300 and 700 cases PER lawyer. If you imagine that most lawyers probably work between 2000 and 2400 hours per year, how many hours could they possibly work on each case, each year, with those kinds of case load numbers? The answer is VERY few. Yet, the best way to prove a case is to learn the facts, determine what evidence will be needed, then craft a plan to get that evidence. That takes time. There are no short-cuts.
The reason some firms can handle such high volumes per lawyer is that the lawyers do very little work on each case. Instead, a paralegal collects the medical bills, then multiplies by some number, then tries to convince the client to settle for that amount. The lawyer has very little involvement. That’s NOT going to help you get the most money possible from your accident, injury, or malpractice case.
For those reasons, at least with moderate and serious injury cases, I would avoid firms where you aren’t able to speak with an attorney about the facts of your case (not just the contract you are signing to hire them) or you speak too often with a paralegal, case manager, or “investigator.” Those people know far too little about proving accident and injury cases.
What Percentage Of Their Case Load Is Personal Injury?
There are lawyers who handle all different types of cases, at the same time. For example, an attorney might handle criminal, family and personal injury. While handling multiple practice areas gives them broader knowledge of legal issues, my impression is that they may not know as many detailed strategies related to personal injury law. So I wouldn’t hire an Orlando personal injury attorney who handled other types of cases.
What Percentage Of Their Case Load Is Plaintiff Work?
There are Orlando personal injury attorneys who handle both plaintiff and defense work (at the same time). Also, there are lawyers, like myself, who used to handle defense work. But now represent plaintiffs. I would stay away from anyone who is handling a high percentage of defense injury work. They may consciously or unconsciously undervalue your case. However, I believe that finding someone who used to work on the defense side is an added bonus. The reason is that they know how the other side prepares and judges the settlement value of accident cases. So you might want to ask what percent of their case load involves representing plaintiffs, and whether they have worked on the defense side in the past.
Go With Your Gut When Trying To Find The Best Orlando Personal Injury Attorney
In the end, since you can’t possibly know what your lawyer should be doing, you have to judge your experience. At a minimum, you should be speaking with a lawyer about the facts of your case. The lawyer should be asking about how the accident happened, what injuries you experienced, what evidence might help prove how the accident happened, and what treatment you have received. The lawyer should also be telling you all of the ways that insurance companies can devalue your case, based on things that you do, or don’t do, after your accident. The most important aspect of this advice should revolved around dealing with your doctors and medical providers.
Importantly, you should feel comfortable talking with your lawyer, and being honest about the pros and cons in your case.
Orlando Personal Injury Attorneys Should Be Giving You Tailored Advice Based On The Unique Facts Of Your Case
Let me give you another example. I received a call this week from a man who wanted to fire his car accident attorney. The attorney had recommended lower settlement value than he wanted (and deserved) for fairly significant injuries. However, there was evidence in his medical records that he had been playing sports. In other words, he told his doctor that he was back to playing a sport that he loved. Now, mind you, he was playing that sport with a LOT of pain, and really just out of sheer determination not to have his injury hold him back from living life. Still, having that information in his medical records will lower his case settlement value. The insurance company will argue that he can’t be in pain, if he is playing sports. And I don’t think they will easily back down from that position. You could take the case to a jury (if you didn’t like the settlement numbers), but a jury might think the same thing. That’s especially true because the insurance defense attorney is likely to make that argument very persuasively, and forcefully. So, what’s the solution? The solution should have happened on the front end of that case. The lawyer should have warned the client not to discuss things like playing sports with his doctor. In other words, that evidence was preventable. The client just needed the education. That’s why clients need a lot of advice from actual LAWYERS to get the most money from their car accident, or other injury or malpractice cases.
In firms where lawyers aren’t doing this work, the clients just get less money, and never realize that they could and should have gotten more.