What Makes A Good Personal Injury Lawyer?
Updated: May 22
There is no shortage of personal injury attorneys in Massachusetts – whether they are in Boston, the South Shore, North Shore, Central Massachusetts, or Western Massachusetts. How can you tell one from another? Here are some things to look for in an effective personal injury attorney:
1. Knowledge of the substantive law that governs your case. Personal injury cases can be very complex. There are numerous moving parts that personal injury attorneys must juggle as your case progresses and any personal injury attorney should be able to explain the law to you as certain issues arise, and also take actions on your behalf that are consistent with those explanations. For example, maybe you have an underlying workers’ compensation case as well as a separate personal injury case that are going on at the same time. Your lawyer should be familiar with not only personal injury law, but also the law of workers’ compensation under G.L. c. 152. There are various laws and regulations that are particular to claims against the government, car accidents, slip and fall accidents, trip and fall accidents, sexual assaults, boating accidents, etc. Your lawyer should be familiar with these laws and regulations and how they apply to each of those types of cases.
2. Willingness to work with defense counsel and insurance adjusters in a constructive way. Zealous advocacy for your position is essential in a personal injury attorney, but that should not mean that your lawyer cannot have constructive and civil conversations with opposing counsel or the insurance adjusters assigned to your case.
3. Engages in candid discussions with you about the strengths and weaknesses of your particular case. During the course of most cases, your lawyer will need to ask you difficult questions and have candid discussions with you about your case. Your lawyer should feel comfortable asking you about potentially problematic issues – this is especially true when preparing for a deposition or other proceeding where you will be under oath. All of your conversations with your lawyer are confidential. Both you and your attorney should use those confidential conversations to explore both the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
On the opposite side, here are some red flags to watch out for with personal injury attorneys:
1. Guarantees a particular result. No attorney can guarantee the result of a case. Indeed, the typical answer for just about any legal questions is “it depends.” Estimates on the value of a case will develop over the life of your case. No attorney can predict this at the beginning of your case. You should be skeptical of an attorney who promises you a certain monetary amount or result of your case.
2. Picks fights or is unreasonable with defense counsel or insurance adjusters. This is the opposite of what an effective lawyer does. Your lawyer’s job is to help try to solve a problem – in a personal injury case the problem is usually that someone else injured you and has not fairly compensated you for your injuries. As I mentioned above, zealous advocacy is important, but your lawyer must be able to work with the other side even in the most fiercely disputed cases. Being difficult for the sake of being difficult does not serve your interests.
3. Avoids litigation. This is an important one. Settlements can be a fair way to resolve a case, but insurance companies these days will rarely offer the top value of a case before a case is litigated. My experience is that insurance companies are getting very bold in outright denials of cases and making very low offers before cases are litigated. If your lawyer discourages litigation and pushes you to settle your case, you should make sure you are absolutely comfortable with the decision. To be fair, litigation is time-consuming and demanding, but the offers by insurers almost always increase after a case has gone through some amount of litigation. If you have lasting or permanent injuries, this is your one chance to redress those injuries. Make sure your lawyer will do the work and take the steps that are necessary to strive for the best result possible.
Recently, I have gotten some calls from injury victims who already have lawyers but were looking for a second opinion on their case. I am always happy to speak with you if you have questions about your case and would like a second opinion. I am not looking to poach you from your current lawyer and in fact I usually encourage people who call to stay with their current lawyer. So feel free to reach out! It’s your case and you are the one who is injured.