Imagine you are seriously injured in a car accident. Or you suffer an injury while slipping and falling and an insurance adjuster is calling and asking to meet with you. Or your long term disability insurer has refused to approve your claim. You need legal assistance, but what if you don’t know any injury or LTD lawyers who practice in Ottawa? What is the best way to pick a good lawyer for your claim? In this article we’ll review some of the things you should consider when selecting a lawyer, and also how to go about finding a lawyer that meets the criteria you are looking for.
First, it is important to consider whether the lawyer has enough legal knowledge of personal injury law. Does he or she specialize in this area of law? How many years of experience does he or she have? Does he or she know how insurance companies operate? Has the lawyer ever been inside of a court room?
It is important to find a lawyer who limits his or her practice only to personal injury claims, or at the very least devotes at least 50% of his or her time to these sorts of claims. The laws surrounding injury and insurance law are complex and always changing. You want and need a lawyer who devotes all or most of his or her practice to understanding these laws and the techniques for maximizing your claim. If a lawyer dabbles in numerous areas of the law, it is not as likely they will be as well versed as they might otherwise need to be to maximize your claim.
In car accident claims for example, there are two different regimes: no-fault accident benefits and negligence claims. Your lawyer needs to understand the interconnections between the two regimes and how to maximize your benefits and damages through the use of both regimes. In recent years there have been many instances where even injury lawyers have failed to understand the interplay between the two systems and unfortunately have had their clients suffer losses and deductions to their damages at trial.
Not only do you need a lawyer who commits most or all of his or her practice to injury and insurance claims, but you should also consider the number of years of experience your lawyer has. All things being equal, a lawyer with 15 or 25 years of experience handling injury and insurance claims will have more knowledge and ability than a new lawyer. However, just because your lawyer is younger or less experienced does not mean he or she will not do an excellent job representing you. Junior lawyers at law firms are usually mentored by senior lawyers. So, as long as a less experienced lawyer works at a firm where he or she is mentored by a senior lawyer or even a team of lawyers, you will be in good hands.
Another type of experience to consider is if your lawyer has past experience working not only for plaintiffs (injured people), but also whether he or she has also worked for insurance companies. If your lawyer has previously represented insurers, then he or she will probably have additional insights into how insurance companies assess claims, how and when they like to settle and what sort of evidence is needed to increase their assessment of the case. You can usually find out a lawyer’s working history by a review of his or her online biography.
A final part of experience to consider is actual court room experience. While in reality, more than 95% of claims that are started result in settlement, there is always a chance that your claim may go to trial. Likewise, if one party in a court action is not proceeding reasonably and fairly, a court motion may be required to Order them to play fair. If a lawyer has no or very limited experience handling trials or motions, he or she may recommend that you settle your case for less than its fair value. You want and need a lawyer who will explain the pros and cons accepting any offer and is prepared to go all the way if your bottom line is not met.
Is the Lawyer Right for You?
Another important consideration is whether you are comfortable with your lawyer. A serious injury claim can take years to settle, so you will have to interact frequently with your lawyer. You will probably have to spend more than a few full days together with your lawyer, at Examinations for Discovery and Mediation, and weeks or even months with him or her, if the matter proceeds to trial. Is your lawyer someone you are comfortable spending time with? Is he or she someone you trust? Do you respect their opinion?
Also, is the lawyer someone you think can resolve your claim fairly? Do you think he or she is a pushover who will not adequately represent your best interests? Or, is your lawyer overly aggressive? Sometimes an overly aggressive and uncompromising strategy can unnecessarily lengthen the time it takes to get to settlement or trial and in many cases with worse results. You want the type of lawyer who will be able to reasonably persuade the opposing lawyer, the opposing insurance adjuster or even the jury, that your claim is worth as much as you say it is.
Another factor to consider is whether your lawyer is available to speak or meet with you. Are they even located in Ottawa or Eastern Ontario, or do they just advertise here? Over the last four to five years there has been a dramatic increase the amount of advertising done by personal injury lawyers in Ottawa. In many cases, these advertisements are from law firms in Toronto which don’t even have an office in Ottawa. Do you want a lawyer who is not available to meet with you to discuss your case or are you okay with meeting your lawyer for the first time at the trial or Mediation when he or she flies into town.
Where to Look?
There are several online directories which list lawyers under various areas of law, including personal injury. For example, the Law Society of Ontario has a lawyer referral program where people are connected with a lawyer for a free initial consultation. However, just because a lawyer can be found in an online directory, doesn’t mean that he or she is well suited for your case. In fact, the only requirement to be listed as a referral lawyer on the Ontario Law Society’s referral service website is that the lawyer is licensed to practice law in Ontario and has paid a fee of a few hundred dollars to be listed. The Law Society makes no representations whatsoever about the skills, ability or experience of the lawyers listed on this referral service.
What about advertisements? In Ottawa there are numerous billboards, bus ads and radio ads paid for by personal injury lawyers. Some of these lawyers may do an excellent job on your case and others may not. Many of them do not even have an office in Ottawa. All you know for sure is that they have paid money to place ads.
The best way you can choose a lawyer is by referral. Do you know someone who was already injured and was happy with their lawyer? Do you know a lawyer who practices in another area of law? Maybe this lawyer can help guide you to a lawyer with a good reputation.
But what if you don’t know anyone who has used a personal injury lawyer and you don’t know any lawyers to ask? Then you will have to do your homework. Do a search for lawyers online. Consider the criteria set out above, such as experience. Read the lawyers’ bios. Read the Google reviews for that lawyer. Are they positive or negative? If overwhelming positive, do some (or most) of the reviews look fake? Once you have narrowed your choice down, call the lawyer and speak with him or her, or arrange for a meeting. Does the lawyer strike you as someone who is smart and reasonable? Do you trust him or her?
Dealing with serious injuries or a long-term disability refusal is daunting enough on its own. You want to make sure you have the right lawyer in your corner. Hopefully, by considering some of the information above, you can make a better choice about who you will hire to represent you in your injury or insurance claim.
If you have had your claim for short or long term disability insurance refused or terminated, or you require assistance applying for these benefits, the best thing you can do is contact one of our experienced personal injury lawyers who can provide you with a free no obligation consultation: