Q How do I find the best wrongful death lawyer for my case?
NINE CRITICAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR A VIRGINIA WRONGFUL DEATH LAWYER
You don’t go to a dentist if your feet hurt.
You don’t go to a heart doctor for your broken arm.
And, you shouldn’t go to an estate planning lawyer if you need a wrongful death lawyer.
Here are the NINE crucial questions you must ask when you are looking for a lawyer to help you understand what you need to know if your loved one was wrongfully killed in Virginia.
1. How long have you been practicing law?
Although the number of years in practice is not always an indication of the skill of the lawyer, someone with 20+ years of experience would be part of the answer to the question. You would also want to know what the lawyer has been doing for those 20+ years. Has she been representing individuals whose family member was wrongfully killed in all kinds of incidents – vehicle accidents (including large interstate trucks), events in nursing homes, deaths from medical malpractice? Or has she just started practicing in those areas after doing real estate transactions?
2. Have you handled cases like mine?
There are no cases identical to yours, but you want to know if the lawyer has experience handling cases similar to yours. Every case has its own special facts and law and personality. Not every pedestrian-hit-by-a-vehicle case is the same. The law governing those cases may be the same, but the circumstances are never the same: There are different people, different day care centers, different playgrounds, different nursing homes, different highways, different lighting – you get the idea.
3. Will you actually handle my case?
Some lawyers have large support staff who do all the processing of the cases, with the lawyer only stepping in if the case is not settled. In other offices, the lawyer is actively involved all along the way, through trial. There are many details and many phases of a case to be “handled”. Some of the tasks will be assigned to experienced litigation paralegals and associate lawyers. Be sure you understand how cases are handled by the lawyer's firm and if the lawyer will actually be in court to try the case if it is not settled.
4. May I see a list of your past results?
No lawyer has won every single case she has tried, but it is important to see what past results the lawyer has obtained. You might want to be careful if she refuses to give you any results. While it is true that every case is different, a lawyer gains credibility with the courts, prior clients and other lawyers when there is a track record of having handled difficult cases successfully.
5. Do you have professional liability insurance?
You not only want to know if the lawyer has professional liability insurance, you also want to know if she has ever been turned down or dropped by an insurance carrier.
6. Have you ever been disciplined by the Virginia State Bar?
The Virginia State Bar regulates the practice of law in Virginia, so it is important to know if the lawyer has been disciplined by the Bar. The Bar is made up of lawyers who regulate lawyers, so you might also want to ask whether she has served on any committee of the Virginia State Bar that hears complaints against and sanctions lawyers.
7. At what lawyer rating sites are you listed?
These sites rate lawyers by their skills and reputations, not just who has paid to have their names listed:
AVVO - ratings by colleagues and former clients -- the higest rating is 10.0
Martindale-Hubbell -- oldest rating system by peers -- Preeminent AV is the highest rating
8. Are there other wrongful death lawyers who refer cases to you?
Lawyers want to refer clients to good lawyers who they know. Be careful if the lawyer cannot tell you what other lawyers refer cases to her. Lawyers who are involved in professional activities getto know other good lawyers all over the state and refer potential clients to those lawyers they know to be reliable.
9. Are there other wrongful death lawyers you would refer me to?
Not every lawyer is perfect for every client. We may not be perfect for you. You should ask if this lawyer will refer you to someone else. Be wary if the answer is “No, I’m the best lawyer for you.”
You are the only one who can make the decision about who is the best lawyer for you. Asking these questions, though, will go a long way to helping you find the one you want to work with.