Not unless you’re simply interested in nominal damages – something in the $3-5,000 range.
I generally pre-screen potential new clients on the telephone to decide if the case sounds like a case with which I want to be involved. If I’m interested in the case, I will ask the client to come in and meet with me, as well as another member of my team.
Sometimes I get a brief description of the case through voice mail. Either I will respond directly or ask on of the other lawyers in the office to do so. If a potential new client connects with me initially, I generally tell them that I’d like to get a brief description of the reason for the call – the what happened; who got hurt and how; what are the injuries and who are the potential opposing parties.
Such a conversation allows me to decide if we’d like to proceed and to make certain we don’t have any conflicts of interest because of the potential that we might have represented the opposing party in the past. Conflicts because of prior representation are a rare occurrence.
If the case is too small for us, or if the inquiry is too soon after a poor medical outcome in the case of an inquiry about a medical malpractice claim, I will usually spend some time on the telephone explaining some basic legal concepts that would apply to the potential claim; advising the caller of the applicable statute of limitations; and in a case that is too small for Casper & de Toledo, suggest that the caller either calls someone from a list of other local lawyers that I maintain or, if desired, attempt to handle the matter without a lawyer. However, I also explain that a lawyer will generally be capable of adding enough to the process to warrant involvement even in minor cases.
When Is It Acceptable to Handle a Personal Injury Case without an Attorney?
This would depend on the severity of the injury, because the more serious the injury, the greater the need for a lawyer. Generally speaking, if you’re looking for a few thousand dollars and a quicker resolution to the claim, you might be able to go it alone.
How Successful Is the Outcome When Someone Tries to Handle the Case without an Attorney?
My only gauge would be calls that I’ve taken over the years from people who want to get advice about an offer made to settle the claim of an unrepresented party. In the vast majority of those cases, the insurance company is trying to pull a “fast one.”
Could People Get a Better Outcome through a Specialized Personal Injury Attorney or a General Personal Injury Attorney?
After talking to defense lawyers and people who were formerly on the defense side, as well as people who are or were adjusters, it is clear that the insurance industry keeps a scouting report on lawyers and law firms. The scouting report includes the quality of the plaintiff’s lawyer, as well as the likelihood, or lack of likelihood, that if pushed, a case will get settled or is at risk for being tried to a jury.
As to the question about specialization or a generalist, what I can say is that under our ethics rules, only someone appropriately certified by an identified specialization organization can claim to specialize. And within the field of personal injury, the only certifying organization is the National Board of Trial Advocacy, through which the certification is as a Civil Trial Advocate. In Connecticut, there are only about 83 certified Civil Trial Advocates. I’m unsure how that divides between plaintiff and defense lawyers. In lower Fairfield County – that is below Fairfield and including Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport and Wilton – there are only four Board Certified Civil Trial Advocates, of which I am one.
Apart from the specialization label, it is fair to say that a review of the websites of the various law firms and an examination of the biographical information on various lawyers, will yield a vast amount of information. The information highway has provided tremendous advances in access to information compared to the “old days” of advertisements in the Yellow Pages and the use of tacky television ads by some. Now a consumer can read about a lawyer being considered for retention. There is information not only about education, but also experience, professional recognition and achievements, awards, publications of articles, lectures given to professional audiences locally and nationally, as well as client testimonials. A consumer may have some difficulty distinguishing some of the achievements but the “crème de la crème” (i.e. the most selective) would include: Best Lawyers in America™, Martindale-Hubbell™ (almost all lawyers have a rating of AV, BV & CV. The V means the lawyer is considered to be ethical; the A, B or C works just like school grades), American Board of Trial Advocates, National Board of Trial Advocacy, and the American College of Trial Lawyers. These organizations and recognitions are based on a number of factors, but weigh heavily upon ratings and recommendations from judges and other lawyers in the field. A less prestigious recognition is the “Super Lawyer” designation. There are a host of other recognitions that largely have arisen to permit lawyers to purchase credentials.
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