If you have been unfortunate enough to have been involved in an automobile accident and have been injured as a result of the fault of someone else, you need a lawyer. And you need a good one. Make no mistake, with the exception of some medical and minimal wage loss benefits, that adjuster from ICBC you are talking to represents the driver that hit you and is aiming to minimize your claim. You need to do more than level the playing field: you need to tip the playing field to your advantage.
There are several ways to shop and decide on a lawyer. Some lawyers (or ways to shop) are better than others. The phone book is probably the worst way to pick a lawyer. All it really shows is which lawyer has enough money to buy an ad. The internet is marginally better. Generally there is more information on lawyers’ websites and you can start to get a feel for the type of work and the personality involved in a particular firm.
I recommend you do your own research. Start with asking family and friends that you know who they would recommend. Generally a personal injury file lasts somewhere between 1 year and 3 years. If someone you know and respect has spent that much time with a lawyer and are recommending them, this is something you should consider.
Once you have decided who to call, arrange to meet with them. Most lawyers will not bill for their initial consultation and it will give you a chance to meet the person who will represent you and your interests. Keep in mind that you will spend a lot of time with this individual over the next couple of years and they will become aware of your medical and financial situation and other very personal details of your life. You need to have confidence and build a rapport with this person from the start.
Ask the lawyer if they represent defendants and insurance companies like ICBC as well as Plaintiffs. Ask them if they feel this puts them in a position of conflict. Many insurance companies make their counsel who are under contract sign away their ability to bring certain types of claims, like claims for aggravated and punitive damages. If the lawyer cannot bring this type of claim, or is under contract with the insurance company you are battling with, ask yourself if you think they are in conflict and can do the best job possible for you.
Ask if the lawyer and their firm will cover litigation expenses. Most firms that specialize in personal injury work have the ability to cover these expenses for the life of your file and those costs can be significant.
Satisfy yourself that your lawyer has and can bring the file to trial if necessary. Some lawyers can’t or won’t take files to trial. If you don’t know if your lawyer will go to trial, you can bet the insurance company knows, and it will negatively affect any offer they make. While most files settle and trial should be a last resort, you need to know if the lawyer you are considering hiring will go to trial.
Lastly, be wary of lawyers that promise big results and big dollars right from the start. The nature of a personal injury file is that you do not settle or go to trial until you are better or as good as you are going to get. Your compensation is based on the length of time you take to heal, whether you are left with permanent injuries or deficits, whether your ability to work in the past and the future has been compromised, plus an assessment of medical expenses. Some people heal faster than others and some get better surprising quickly, and some unfortunately, don’t get the result that was hoped for and don’t recover quickly or at all. It is impossible in the first interview to know how someone will recover, and any promise of instant riches in the first interview should cause you concern.
At the end of the day, pick a lawyer that you feel comfortable with. But make no mistake; you need a lawyer.