It is important to hire a reputable DWI accident attorney as soon as possible after the drunk driving accident while evidence can still be preserved: The vehicles themselves that could provide valuable evidence may quickly be destroyed if they are deemed a total loss; the police often videotape the drunk driver and often destroy the videotape after the case is resolved; eyewitnesses need to be located promptly while they can still be located – this is especially true if the potential lawsuit will involve a club or bar that over-served the drunk driver because eyewitness evidence about how intoxicated the drunk driver “appeared to be” is very important.
But this creates a problem. While it is important to hire a reputable DWI accident attorney as quickly as possible, how do you choose the right one? There are so many out there. Some attorneys have their names and faces plastered on billboards, while others don’t even advertise at all. Attorneys come in all shapes and sizes. They seem to be everywhere. When you’ve been injured in a drunk driving accident, choosing the right attorney can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions on things to look for and questions to ask of any personal injury lawyer you are considering retaining to represent you.
Find an Attorney You Can Trust
First and foremost – NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) hire a lawyer who contacts you first or has someone contact you on their behalf (such as a clinic or repair shop) unless you ask to be contacted by them. So after an accident if someone calls you or comes to your house without you first contacting them this is a big red flag that should tell you to “stay away!” Also, never hire an attorney who promises you money or anything of value to get your case or offers to pay you for referring them another case. All of the above conduct is UNETHICAL and ILLEGAL.
Check out the attorney’s reputation
Regardless of where you find your attorney, make sure they are a member in good standing of their state bar association. You can easily access this information on the state bar’s website. Here is the link for the State Bar of Texas.
Is the attorney Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law?
To become Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, an attorney must demonstrate substantial experience and involvement in that specialty area, the attorney has been evaluated by fellow lawyers and judges who have attested to their competence and ability, and the attorney must pass a rigorous and intensive examination. In addition, the attorney must attend continuing education seminars regularly to keep legal training up to date.
Only approximately 2% of Texas attorneys are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law. Lawyers certified in personal injury trial law are considered Specialists in the field of Personal Injury. Those attorneys not board certified cannot claim to be Specialists in the field.
Use Memberships and Rating Services to evaluate an attorney’s reputation
You should also use reputable memberships to legal organizations and rating guides to get an idea of the attorney’s standing in the legal community. These serve as an objective indicator of a lawyer’s skill and reputation. Some reliable organizations and rating services include:
College of the State Bar of Texas
The College of the State Bar of Texas is an honorary society of lawyers who are among the best trained attorneys in Texas. Members are qualified attorneys who are interested in both high ethical standards and improved training for all Texas attorneys. The College recognizes Texas lawyers who attend at least double the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) required by the State Bar of Texas.
Super Lawyers, a publication of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. No more than 5% of all attorneys in a given state are selected.
The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers
The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers is an invitation-only national organization composed of America’s Top Trial Lawyers. Membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who exemplify superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and profile as civil plaintiff or criminal defense trial lawyers.
Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
The Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.
Questions To Ask the Attorney
All of the following questions are reasonable, and should be answered to your satisfaction. If you don’t understand the attorney’s answer, ask for clarification. Remember, YOU are the client, and YOU will be paying the attorney’s fees out of any money you receive in the case. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers you receive, you have good reason to keep looking. Here are some questions you should ask:
Do you go to trial?
Insurance companies keep detailed records on which attorneys go to trial and which ones settle. Attorneys who are known for not going to trial almost always settle cases for less than they’re worth. Because they are known for settling, they have less leverage with insurance companies. On the other hand, attorneys known for taking claims to trial frequently get higher settlement offers. They pose a greater threat to the insurance company’s bottom line.
If you accept my case and can’t settle, will you take it to trial?
If an attorney decides not to accept your case, that’s fine. But if he accepts it, he has a responsibility to do everything possible to protect your interests. You have a right to know that the attorney will take your case to trial if the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement. It’s a bad sign if the attorney won’t give you a straight answer. Too many attorneys accept cases just to get them in the door. It happens every day in law firms all over the country. These attorneys have nothing to lose and everything to gain by accepting as many cases as possible.
How long do you expect my case to take?
Although an attorney can’t tell you the exact date your case will settle or go to trial, they should give you a general idea of how long it will take. If they have a fair amount of experience, they will know how long it took to resolve cases with similar fact patterns. Of course, there are no guarantees.
How much money should I expect to receive in my case?
This question is used to test the honesty of the attorney because early on it is IMPOSSIBLE to answer this question truthfully until all the facts of the case have been discovered. If from the start an attorney promises you a pile of money, run the other way! You want an attorney who you can trust to tell you the truth – not one who will tell you what you want to hear just to get you to sign up with them.