Before you talk to an insurance adjuster, sign a release, or give a recorded statement, you should definitely read this article.  But, be forewarned, reading this article may substantially increase the odds of you finding the right lawyer for your case or simply responding to every lawyer who uses actors in their television spots or plasters their faces on every highway billboard.

Things You Should Know When Looking For The Best Personal Injury Lawyer In Virginia:

1)         Not all lawyers have equal or comparable training.  While all lawyers graduated from law school (we hope), not all of them continue voluntary training throughout their careers.

2)         Not all lawyers go or are willing to go to trial.  Some lawyers who advertise for personal injury cases have never been to trial for an injury case.  Others might be part of a “settlement mill” that will hurriedly settle your case to turn a profit, but will fail to maximize the full settlement potential of the case.

3)         A lawyer who is good at handling DUI, criminal, or divorce cases, isn’t necessarily good at handling personal injury cases.  Today, the practice of law has become highly specialized and it is extremely time consuming to stay up-to-date on many distinct practice areas.  While there are many facets of personal injury law, such as vehicle accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, product liability, etc., those types of cases are very different from divorce cases, for example.

4)         The fact that a lawyer advertises for personal injury cases does not necessarily mean that he or she has any experiences with those types of cases. While the Virginia State Bar says we can’t say we’re the “best personal injury lawyers in Virginia,” there is no rule against a lawyer advertising for a type of case that he or she has absolutely no experience handling.

5)         Many internet lawyer “directories” are really just another form of advertising.  Usually, the only requirement to be in these directories is payment of a membership fee.

Recently, another lawyer contacted our office with a case that he wanted to “share” with our law firm.  We asked that the lawyer send us the documents he had gathered in his file on client.  As we reviewed the few documents that had been obtained, we discovered that the time limit for filing a lawsuit was going to expire in several days, there were few medical records in the file, there was little to no investigation of the accident scene, and the lawyer had never intended to file suit on the client’s behalf.  Instead, he had hoped he could make a quick settlement (the “settlement mill” type), so he waited to contact a lawyer who could handle filing suit and possibly a trial until the last possible minute.  This is a perfect example of a lawyer who shouldn’t be handling personal injury cases, even though he or she may advertise for them.  This is not the type of lawyer you want handling your injury case.

While we can’t change the fact that lawyers who are not experienced in personal injury cases will advertise for them, we can help you determine what questions to ask of a potential attorney and what so-called “qualifications” actually mean something in how a case turns out.

How to find the best personal injury lawyer for your case?  Some people put more time and effort into buying their shampoo than choosing their lawyer.  But, making sure you pick the best law firm to handle your case is very important.  To make sure you choose wisely, here are some steps to take:

Questions To Ask When Choosing A Lawyer

1)         Ask your friends and family if they have used a personal injury lawyer in the past.  If so, ask them if they would use him or her again.

2)         Check out the internet for lawyers who specialize in personal injury cases.  A lawyer who specializes is generally going to be a better option for you than a “jack of all trades.”  These types of law firms are basically telling you that they are basically “average at everything.”

3)         Narrow your choices to a couple of attorneys and ask them these questions:

a) How long have you been in practice?

b) Do you have actual experience handling personal injury (or your type) cases?

c) Can I read about your track record of successes in personal injury cases?

d) Have you published any books or guides for consumers?  (Check out our firm’s “Your Rights After a Serious Auto Accident” book here)

e) Are you board certified?*

f) Are you listed in SuperLawyers?**

g)  What is your Martindale-Hubbell rating?***

h) Do you spend at least 80% of your time representing individuals against insurance companies in injury, disability, and malpractice cases?

Independent Ratings Agencies

*  Board Certification

Did you know there is a national certification process for lawyers?  The National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) certifies lawyers in several specialties including civil litigation.  The NBTA is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) to certify lawyers in the areas of civil, criminal, and family law trial advocacy.  To be board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, lawyers must:

—          Be in good standing with their local bar

—          Concentrate on a specialty of trial advocacy

—          Submit a writing sample

—          Participate in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in the last 3 years

—          Provide references from three judges and three lawyers familiar with his or her court room abilities

—          Have been lead counsel in a substantial number of trials taken to verdict or judgment

—          Have been lead counsel in at least 40 contested matters involving the taking of evidence, such as hearings, motions or depositions

—          Pass a trial technique evidence and ethics essay exam that lasts six hours

See, NBTA.org

**  Martindale Hubbell’s “AV Preeminent Rating”

What does it mean when an attorney says they are “AV Preeminent” rated by Martindale-Hubbell?  Martindale-Hubbell is a company offering a directory and comprehensive guide to all lawyers.  In addition to its directory, Martindale-Hubbell also offers a ratings system for lawyers where no one can pay for a high rating.  Lawyers in Martindale-Hubbell are judged by their peers on legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment, experience, and the standard of ability in that lawyer’s specialty.  A lawyer who has an “AV Preeminent” rating has been judged by his or her peers to perform at the highest level of professional excellence.

***  Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers selects attorneys for inclusion in its directory through a rigorous, multiphase rating process.  Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research to rank the very best lawyers.  Each candidate is evaluated on indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement.  Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the findings of a lower ruling stating that Super Lawyers is a comprehensive, good faith, and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers that have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their fields.

A Final Word

One last important piece of advice. . . You should be careful of some of those 1-800-LAWYER type phone numbers.  In some instances, people who call those numbers are routed through a call center which randomly sends your call to the next attorney in line.  You may think you’re calling one lawyer when in fact you are routing to another.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, check out the credentials of the Ritchie Law Firm.  We have a proven track record of success and have been certified as well as highly ranked and rated by the above listed agencies.  Talk to us and ask us what we bring to your case that other lawyers do not.  There is absolutely no charge to talk to a lawyer.  If you decide you’d like our help, we don’t charge a fee unless we win your case.

Request our free book “Your Rights After a Serious Car Accident” below: