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How do I pick a personal injury attorney?

You’re in your car and no fault of your own, you’re in an accident.  Your car is damaged. You don’t feel exactly right. Maybe the airbag has gone off and you’re disoriented.  It’s a nightmare scenario people find themselves in every day. The fear of medical bills, getting your car fixed and what this is all going to cost runs through your mind.  You have seen many billboards, heard radio advertisements, television commercials, etc. from lawyers all proclaiming to have experience and willing to help. How do you know how which one to choose?

As a board certified civil trial lawyer, the Florida Bar allows me to designate myself as an “expert” or a “specialist.”  Why is that significant? Less than 5% of personal injury lawyers are board certified. In order to achieve board certification, you must have practiced a certain amount of time, tried a certain number of cases and pass a written examination.   There is no requirement from the bar regarding the number of cases you try to call yourself a “trial lawyer.” A “trial lawyer” may not have tried a case at all. Some lawyers use trials that they may have been tried by another member of their firm or maybe they had limited responsibility and still advertise they have “won” a trial or achieved a “verdict” in order to bolster their credibility.  Trying cases competently takes a lot of experience and legal expertise. Further, not all lawyers try cases and that is an important issue to discuss with your prospective attorney.

Similarly, lawyers advertise themselves as specializing in certain areas such as “motorcycle accidents” or “trucking accidents.”  The bar does not regulate such a distinction. In other words, a lawyer may have never tried or handled such an accident and still designate themselves misleading consumers to believe they have experience with these types of cases.  At Graves Thomas, we have successfully litigated motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, premises liability accidents, automobile accidents, negligent security cases, injuries to children, brain injuries, spinal injuries and other complicated legal matters.  In handling these types of cases, experience matters and we are more than happy to show our prospective clients that we have experience in all these types of cases, including trials.

Taking a case into litigation is quite costly for a law firm. There are associated costs in filing the lawsuit, conducting discovery, depositions and experts, if needed. It is important to understand what the firm’s resources are in taking a case to trial.  At Graves Thomas, we have small firm customer service but big firm resources. Simply put, there is not a case too big for us to handle. The insurance companies cannot outspend us. We have the resources necessary to win your case and get you the money you deserve.

Oftentimes, I see lawyers that have designations or accolades from various organizations.  Many of the organizations will designate you in some way as a “top lawyer” or something similar without having any background.  I am constantly bombarded with emails asking me to pay a fee for some crafty or catchy designation. They are meaningless but are used by some lawyers to make it appear that they have achieved something that they actually have not. Oftentimes, these organizations will so designate a lawyer for the payment of a fee.  Traditionally, lawyers have used Martindale as a reliable source. Martindale judges lawyers by asking their peers and Judges they practice before how they rate the lawyer. I have achieved Martindale’s highest rating of “AV” and have so held it for over 15 years. I display these plaques proudly in my office knowing that my peers and the Judges I practice before respect my legal expertise.

In today’s digital advertising, lawyers advertise from distant areas and appear as though they may be located in your town.  Ask them where there primary office is located. Many lawyers advertise multiple offices, but no one is there to meet you or tend to your individual needs. Further, it is difficult to aggressively litigate your case when your attorney is not local.  An attorney having local ties has a distinct advantage in familiarity with the Judge and the Judge’s procedures. Also, juries are sometimes suspicious of “out of town” lawyers.

Finally, ask your lawyer who will be handling your case.  Will the firm be referring your case to another firm? What is the experience of the lawyer actually handling my case? These questions are important because aggressive and competent representation is necessary for an optimal result. Insurance companies know who is experienced and who is not.  They know who tries cases and who does not. The lack of experience may detrimentally affect your settlement. Also, cases should be moved through the system as quickly as possible and not left to sit around. Aggressive representation includes providing a timely demand and litigating the case if necessary.  At Graves Thomas, our reputation is well known. We work hard for our clients and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the best result possible for our clients.

A guiding principle at our firm is that we treat our clients like family.  No matter how big or small your case may be, we will treat you just like we would our own sister, brother, Mom or Dad.
If you want aggressive experienced representation in your injury case, give us a call.

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