For most people, when they are involved in an incident where they were hurt through the negligence of someone else, it will be their first time hiring a lawyer. And when they don’t know a family member or friend who has gone through the process, they hire a lawyer quickly and without much thought. This can have devastating consequences from not getting the true value of your case all the way to outright losing the case when you should have won.
Let me first say that most attorneys that are my colleagues are amazing lawyers and do fantastic jobs for their clients. I am proud to associate with them. But like in every profession or situation, not everyone is up to the high standards that should be required.
So, if you have an active case, here are some red flags to look out for to ensure you do not have a bad lawyer.
1. You rarely ever speak to your lawyer. Anytime there is contact between you and the law firm you always are sent to a paralegal or secretary. Your calls are not returned in a reasonable time (remember we are very busy – so give lawyer some time to respond). And lastly, the law firm you hire should be contacting you periodically, not just waiting for you to contact them.
2. When you do speak to your lawyer you are not being heard. You are being spoken to not listened to. Great lawyers understand that YOU are the key to your case. Its what YOU are going through that makes your case unique. If the lawyer doesn’t listen to you then they are clearly not trying to develop your case fully to seek maximum value.
3. When you speak to someone from the firm they are telling you the wrong facts or issues about your case– it’s clear they don’t know the case. This is not to say that mistakes can happen, nobody is perfect. Occasionally the system is not updated on time or there is a miscommunication. BUT, when its clear that they actually do not know much about your case, then this is a major red flag.
4. They are pushing you to take a settlement very early on in the process. There are times when this might be the best option, like when your damages exceed the applicable insurance policy, but it is rare. Usually, top value is achieved after proving to the insurance carrier that your case has been thoroughly developed and it poses a substantial risk to them of having to pay out much more than they had hoped for, especially by being prepared to go to trial.
5. They miss filing deadlines and/or take way too long to file your lawsuit. Again, sometimes mistakes happen. But, if you find out that your case has been weakened because deadlines have been missed, or its been years and your lawsuit still isn’t filed, this is a sign of a lawyer that is reactive and not proactive.
6. They seem like they are just placating you and not telling you the truth. Listen sometimes the truth hurts. But the best path forward is by knowing the truth and developing a game plan forward. Great lawyers understand that that client’s lives are affected by their lawsuit and they need to know the truth to make important life decisions.
These are the 6 biggest issues I see. To avoid these issues, prior to hiring someone try to find a firm or attorney based on a great referral by someone you trust. At least read some online reviews (take them in context, because you never truly know who is writing them or what their motivation is) and do some research.
And if you have an attorney and you have some of these issues, you need to tell the head attorney at the firm about it in an honest respectful conversation. If the situation does not change, try to find a new attorney you can trust – its always YOUR CHOICE what attorney will represent you.