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What to look for when selecting a personal injury lawyer

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An accident occurs -- someone close to you is injured or killed. What to do?

Many folks, once they have weathered the immediate storm, decide to hire a lawyer to assist them with investigating the accident and potentially pursuing a claim. As a lawyer with 30 years of experience representing individuals and family members, let me provide some insight into what you should be looking for when selecting a personal injury lawyer.

1. If you have a trusted lawyer, contact that lawyer about referrals. Lawyers generally know the reputations and qualifications of other lawyers and can give good advice. If the particular lawyer you know does not know someone, they will generally know who to contact to get good advice.

2. Many people don't have a trusted lawyer to contact. In that case, it takes more research to find a qualified personal injury lawyer. Don't turn to the first lawyer you see advertising on TV. And don't select the lawyer who has the TV ad you like the best. Most highly experienced and highly qualified lawyers don't need to advertise on TV to get their clients.

3. Having refused to select a TV advertising lawyer, the next step is to ask trusted friends or advisers if they know of any personal injury lawyers that they can recommend. If they do, that is the first step to selecting a lawyer.

4. Once you have a name or, even better, several names, start researching the lawyer's qualifications.

5. Are they Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law? Only approximately 3% of all lawyers in Texas are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law. These lawyers have passed a specific test regarding personal injury lawsuits, have been recommended by other experienced lawyers and judges and have prepared and tried lawsuits involving personal injuries.

6. Does the lawyer have experience handling similar cases? Lawyers who have handled specific types of cases usually have greater knowledge about investigating and pursuing specific types of claims. This is especially true for complex cases, such as medical malpractice, defective products, construction related claims and trucking accident claims.

7. Contact the lawyer and find out who will be doing the work on the case. Will the experienced lawyer do the work or will some associate do the work?

8. Finally, research the background of the lawyer. Has the lawyer been involved in personal injury related organizations or associations. In Texas, the most well known organization of personal injury lawyers is called the Texas Trial Lawyer Association. If the lawyer has been extensively involved in that organization, he or she has been recognized by his or her peers as a highly qualified lawyer in the personal injury area.

9. Also, meet with the lawyer. See what the office and office staff are like. Do they meet you with a smile? Are the open to answering your questions? Do they seem to genuinely enjoy assisting persons? Or do they seem only interested in the fee they may earn?

10. If your friends or advisers don't have any names, then contact some lawyers who are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (you can find them listed in the yellow pages and by researching them on the internet) and follow the steps 6 - 9 above in researching those lawyers.

At the end of the selection process, hopefully you will have selected a well-qualified lawyer who you have confidence in and with whom you enjoy working.