I’m often asked by clients about other legal issues that come up in their life, ones I do not and could not handle well for them. People do not realize that the best lawyers, in my opinion, for any complex issue are the ones that specialize in a limited number of types of case.
For example, I’m a personal injury attorney. But I limit my practice to specific category–medical negligence–and within that, focus on nursing home negligence and failure to diagnose stroke cases. Could I handle a dog bite case? Sure. But my clients are glad I don’t.
So what do I do when a client needs a lawyer to handle something I don’t? I help them find the right lawyer for their case. And it isn’t always obvious how to do that if you’re not a lawyer.
Here are my 5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Stroke Lawyer. Have questions? Leave them in the comments below–we read and respond to them!
1. Start with Who You Know
If you have a trusted lawyer in your life, one of the best ways to find a great lawyer is to ask another one. Make it clear exactly what you’re looking for: a top medical malpractice lawyer who only does medical malpractice cases in your state.
Be sure to ask them for 2-3 suggestions.
You can also check your state’s plaintiff lawyer association–for example, in Ohio that’s the Ohio Association for Justice–and the national one–the American Association for Justice. This gets you a list of lawyers who only handle plaintiff’s personal injury.
Of course, that’s not enough. But if a lawyer is committed to representing medical negligence victims, they should be willing to join and support organizations like these.
Also, ask friends, even doctors you trust. The best lawyers earn trust and respect in the community.
2. Verify they ONLY do These Types of Cases
One you have a list of possible names, your work has just begun. Now it is time to check and verify.
Check the lawyer’s website bio to learn what they do. Do they do “general litigation”? “Personal Injury”? Or have a list of case types a mile long? Pass. I just do not think a lawyer can know enough about the medicine involved in a medical malpractice case involving stroke while handling slip-and-falls and everything else that comes through the door.
And do you think they’ll have time to learn, with all those cases?
You can also check sites like www.avvo.com and see what the lawyers say they do there. (It will also check if they have discipline issues–a big red flag.)
3. Check the Success–Trial Lawyers or Settlement Mills?
There is only one way to grow expertise in pursuing medical negligence cases, and a reputation in the legal community that gets respect from hospitals, defense lawyers, and insurance companies: try cases to verdict.
Guess what many lawyers seem afraid to do? Try cases to verdict.
So whether it is through their website, Googling them, or asking them outright, find out whether they have tried a case like this to verdict. Have they cross examined emergency room doctors? Defense experts?
The worst place to be is with a lawyer whose “specialty” is settling cases for whatever the insurance company will give them, after doing the least amount of work. Guess what? Those settlement-mill lawyers will do a great job “selling” you, because that’s what they do. So make them show you the goods.
4. Ask them for Recommendations . . . For Other Lawyers
When you interview the lawyers–and remember, you’re interviewing them–ask them for the names of three other lawyers in the community who are experienced and capable with medical malpractice cases and trials.
Why? Because either they will or they won’t, and either way you’ve learned something important.
Lawyers desperate to take any case are not the lawyers I’d want handling a medical negligence case. They’re also the lawyers who won’t be willing to recommend other lawyers, because they’re too desperate for your case. (They already smell an easy settlement.)
If they give you the names, you know they’re confident, not desperate. You also need have more names, either to interview now or if and when that lawyer does not take the case.
5. Ask About Trial
In general, I think there are two broad types of personal injury lawyers: those that want to go to trial, and all the rest.
When you ask a lawyer about trial, you’ll have a good idea which camp they’re in.
Lawyers who are afraid of or avoid trial will explain how cases do not go to trial, statistically, almost ever. They’ll explain how that’s not something you’ll ever have to worry about. And if you go with them, they’re right: they’ll convince you your case is worth whatever an insurance company will offer.
Lawyers who love trial will explain how they’ll spend the time getting to know you, your family, the case, and work with you to ensure you’re comfortable and confident at every phase of the case–including trial.
Why does this matter?
Here’s how I explain it to my clients. We can’t force a defendant hospital or doctor to offer money, change their policies, recognize the dangerous conditions they created, or remedy the harm that resulted. All we can do–our only real power–is to force them to trial, to be judged by the jury we summon. That’s it.
All the other side can do is offer money, policy changes, and the rest, in the hopes of not having to be judged at trial.
Do you think a lawyer afraid of trial is going to be able to use that power wisely? Or be able to get you the best result, whether before or at trial? Of course not. (While we’re talking about it, most lawyers don’t even realize that they can help obtain anything other than money,or maybe they don’t care, since that doesn’t help them get paid.)
6. A Bonus Step: the other questions…
There are of course plenty of other questions to iron out. But if you get through the five steps above, the rest are details that usually work themselves out. Here are some things to make sure they explain clearly:
- What is their contingency fee percentage?
- How much would they expect the case to cost if it went to trial?
- Are you personally responsible for any fee or expense out of your pocket? (The only right answer here is “no”.)
- Who will be on the case? Who will be doing most of the work?
- How long will this take?
- How will they keep you informed?
Before I wrap up, let me take my own advice. While the lawyer I’d recommend for an Ohio stroke lawsuit is my partner, Michael Hill, if for whatever reason you want to look further, I can recommend: John Lancione, Pete Weinberger, and Brian Eisen as quality Ohio medical malpractice lawyers.
Any questions? Leave a comment below.