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Red Flags to Look For When Searching for a Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Injury Case
In the past two weeks the Piccuta Law Group has been contacted by several clients seeking a personal injury attorney to handle their injury claims. One of those clients was previously represented by an attorney and she determined he was not doing a good job handling her car accident injury case. Another client was deciding between hiring the Piccuta Law Group and another attorney to handle her trip and fall case. The fall resulted in a fractured tibia. A third client was seeking an attorney to handle her underinsured motorist claim. That client was in a severe, head-on, car accident.
An injured person seeking an attorney really does not know what to look for or have any idea what red flags they should be aware of.
Surprisingly, the attorneys who these clients were considering, or had already hired, were nowhere nearly as accomplished as the attorneys from the Piccuta Law Group. Really, that is an understatement. Some of the attorneys did not even really practice personal injury and were not civil trial lawyers. It was frankly shocking that there would be any indecision whatsoever. After speaking to these potential clients, it became clear that an injured person seeking an attorney really does not know what to look for or have any idea what red flags they should be aware of.
Make Sure You Are Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Car Accident Case
For the client that had a previous attorney, Piccuta Law Group agreed to consider the case and asked for the previous attorney’s file. The previous attorney had done almost nothing on the file. All he had done was send out a representation letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, the letter he sent did not contain basic instructions or requests that any competent personal injury attorney should include in his or her representation letters. For example, the letter did not ask that the insurance company seek authority from its insured to disclose the insurance policy limits.
The file provided also lacked any letter to the client’s own automobile insurance company. As such it appeared that her insurance company was completely unaware that she was even represented. Moreover, there was no instruction from her previous counsel to the client’s insurance company on how to allocate her MedPay benefits. (MedPay is an optional insurance coverage that someone may obtain that pays for a certain amount of covered medical expenses following a motor vehicle accident). As a result, the client had a single chiropractor collect all her MedPay money resulting in a complete windfall to the chiropractor and depriving the client of the full value of those funds. Of course, this should have never happened. It would not of happened if she hired a competent attorney to handle her personal injury case.
Not All Reviews Are Authentic and On-Line Reviews On Certain Websites Should be Questioned
Apparently, clients who are seeking an attorney are at a complete loss as to who is most qualified and best suited to handle their personal injury case. Some of the attorneys, that injured individuals are considering in the Monterey County area, are not even personal injury attorneys much less civil litigators. The fact that someone has a sleek website or a high-ranking Yelp page does not make that person qualified to handle your case. It simply means that the person paid big money for a website or has been putting his or her energy into obtaining Yelp reviews and maximizing his or her Yelp rankings.
For example, on Yelp, for personal injury attorneys in Monterey, the Piccuta Law Group ranks behind attorneys who have never even tried a personal injury case to a jury. Piccuta Law Group believes Yelp is simply a play to pay scheme. Click the below link to watch a quick video detailing the fake reviews on Yelp and claiming that its salespeople operate like the mafia.
Of course, if you cannot trust Yelp or other online reviews—who can you trust? How does a consumer or potential client even know who he or she is hiring or what he or she will be getting in return? The answer is simple. Discuss your case with multiple attorneys. Select the one that can prove his or her results. Determine which attorney is the most knowledgeable based upon your discussions. Most importantly, be aware of the below red flags.
Five Red Flags to Be Aware of When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Red Flag #1 When Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney-The Attorney Holds Himself Out as Practicing in Other Areas of Law.
Here is a newsflash, the most skilled personal injury attorneys only handle civil litigation cases. A personal injury attorney may crossover into other more complicated practice areas of civil litigation, but the best never practice in other types of law. For example, the attorneys at the Piccuta Law Group, handle civil litigation cases exclusively. We specialize in personal injury cases involving accident injuries and civil rights cases involving police excessive force. Civil rights cases are harder than personal injury cases. These cases are in federal court, involve constitutional law and fault is always contested. Likewise, we handle other types of cases in civil litigation. This includes, medical malpractice, employment law, consumer class actions, prisoner civil rights cases, to name a few. However, we do not handle cases that are not civil litigation.
What this means is that we do not handle criminal law cases. We do not handle DUI cases. We do not handle bankruptcy cases. We do not handle family law cases. We do not draft contracts or business agreements. We do not do estate planning and write wills and trusts. We do not do immigration law. We are civil trial lawyers that get results.
In other words, you should be wary of an attorney who holds himself out as a general practitioner.
The best in the business, handling personal injury cases, are civil trial lawyers who only handle civil litigation matters. If you are considering an attorney who is a jack of all trades, then he is a master of none. If the attorney you are considering handles a little bit of everything, that is because he needs to by necessity and because he isn’t successful in a specific area of practice. In other words, you should be wary of an attorney who holds himself out as a general practitioner.
You should be wary of an attorney who dabbles in personal injury cases.
Worse yet, you should be wary of an attorney who dabbles in personal injury cases. For the client who came over from the previous attorney discussed above, that attorney was primarily a criminal law attorney. His website held himself out as a criminal law attorney first and listed: Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; Personal Injury; Immigration Law; Employment Law and other practice areas. It was no wonder he did not know what he was doing. Simply put, he was not a skilled personal injury attorney, proven civil litigator or winning trial lawyer.
Red Flag #2 When Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney-The Attorney Asks You for a Retainer or a Cash Payment.
Without exception, no reputable personal injury attorney requires a client to pay a dime up front to handle his or her case. A “real-deal” personal injury attorney handles the case on a contingent fee basis. This means that the client pays absolutely zero and the attorney only gets paid if he wins the case or recovers. If you encounter a “personal injury attorney,” who is asking you to pay anything with respect to your case, you should run for the hills. That is a signal that the attorney is looking for a money-grab.
Personal injury attorneys are not paid on an hourly basis. There should be no payment to the attorney to determine if you have a case. You should never pay a retainer. You should never pay for an initial filing fee. If the attorney asks you for money, this is an obvious sign that you should steer clear.
Red Flag #3 When Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney-The Attorney Wants You to Pay Costs.
This is very similar to an attorney asking you for a retainer. It is not the norm in the industry for a client to pay costs to fund his or her case. It is a signal that the attorney is financially unstable or unwilling to put his own skin in the game.
With respect to two of the three clients mentioned above in this post, this was the case. The client who came over from the previous attorney had signed an attorney agreement requiring her to pay all cases costs. The client who had tripped and fell, was considering an attorney who wanted her to do the same thing. That attorney requested that she pay $600 initially for the costs needed to file the lawsuit. No reputable personal injury attorney requires this. Simply put, it is bush league.
Really, it is just laughable to make a client pay cases costs as the case is pending. Real personal injury attorneys advance costs and recover them when they win the case. Some personal injury attorneys may require the client to pay back the costs if the case is lost. However, these attorneys at least advance the costs. The Piccuta Law Group advances all costs and if the firm does not prevail or win your case, we do not seek the costs back from the client. An excerpt from Piccuta Law Group’s attorney agreement is below.
It is unrealistic to think that a client could afford to fund a real personal injury case. The Piccuta Law Group took a civil rights case to trial in January of this year. The firm obtained a $710,000 verdict for the client. In that case, the firm had over $40,000 in costs. The firm operated lean with respect to the experts it hired in that case. It only needed and hired one retained expert. Often times, multiple retained experts are needed. It is not uncommon to hire four or more retained experts in a personal injury case. A single retained expert may cost up to $10,000. The costs in a serious, high-stakes, personal injury case could easily exceed $100,000.
Most clients are completely incapable of funding a high-stakes, personal injury case. To the contrary, most injured clients need money more than ever after an injury. They have missed work, have mounting medical costs and other accident or injury related expenses. To think they could fund their case is ridiculous.
Avoid any “personal injury attorney” who wants you to pay costs.
Often times, an attorney who has an agreement with the client to pay costs, will use it to pressure the client to settle the case. In other words, the attorney will tell the client, “if you can’t come up with the money we need for experts, then we need to settle your case.” It is leverage an attorney has over the client when the client may not think the settlement is fair. It is used by attorneys who are afraid to take the case further or are unwilling to take the case to trial to achieve maximum compensation. Avoid any “personal injury attorney” who wants you to pay costs.
Red Flag #4 When Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney-You Are Unable to Find Proven Results.
Any reputable or proven personal injury attorney will have the results to prove his skill. Winning a jury verdict is a big deal. Less than five percent of cases are tried. When a personal injury case is tried and a personal injury attorney obtains a jury verdict, it is usually well-known in attorney circles. If the result is impressive, the insurance companies and defense attorneys learn about it as well. The results are usually published and picked up by third party websites and media outlets. The verdicts are reported by publications such as Verdict Search, Jury Verdict Alert or the Daily Journal.
While an attorney may publish results on his or her website, they may or may not be that of the attorney.
While an attorney may publish results on his or her website, they may or may not be that of the attorney. Often times, the attorney will post about results and cases that he has nothing to do with at all. Other times, the attorney may have only been remotely involved. Perhaps the attorney assisted on the case when he was a junior associate. Perhaps the attorney worked on the case but did not participate at trial. Do your research and see if the attorney you are hiring has proven results as lead trial counsel. Does he have a proven track record of winning personal injury cases and obtaining large money verdicts.
Red Flag #5 When Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney-The Attorney Is Unable to Tell You About Recent Results.
It is important that the attorney you hire is actively on top of his game. If the attorney is a dinosaur and only can talk about what he did five, ten or twenty years ago—you should be cautious. Ask the attorney when was the last time he tried a case to a jury and what the result was. Ask him when was the last time before that. Ask him if he has any cases currently set for trial that he thinks may go forward.
Ask the attorney when was the last time he tried a case to a jury and what the result was. Ask him when was the last time before that.
It is important to have an attorney with experience. However, it is equally important to have an attorney with recent and relevant experience. If the attorney you are considering tried most of his cases in the 1990s and 2000s, he may no longer have the fire inside him to give you the edge you need. Worse yet, the attorney may be in the twilight of his career and winding down his practice. He may not be staying up to date on the most recent changes and developments in California law.
The legal field, more than most areas of business, is dynamic. The laws constantly change. It is important that you have an attorney who is cutting-edge. You should seek an attorney who is staying on top of developments in the legal arena. You should find an attorney who is knowledgeable about changes in technology. You should hire an attorney who is aware of the current trends in society and social media. This is especially important if your case will be tried to a jury. A personal injury attorney must be knowledgeable in all these areas to maximize your chance of prevailing at trial.
Contact A Skilled Monterey Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or a loved one was hurt or suffered an injustice due to the wrongdoing of another, contact the Piccuta law Group today. A reputable, experienced and proven trial lawyer is available now to discuss your personal injury or civil rights case.
About the author: The content on this page was written by California civil rights lawyer and Monterey personal injury attorney Charles “Tony” Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout California and Arizona. He is a winning trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is AV Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project, Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association and Scottsdale Bar Association, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The above is the opinion of the author. The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.