Whether it’s a motor accident injury, work injury or other injury compensation claim choosing the right lawyer is an important part of the process, writes TGB's Barney Gask.
Whether it’s a motor accident injury, work injury or other injury compensation claim choosing the best personal injury lawyer for you is an important part of the process, writes TGB’s Barney Gask.
Not everyone has a friend or family member who is a lawyer, in particular one who has expertise with injury claims. For those injured in car accidents, at work or in other circumstances that may give rise to a public liability claim, the need will arise at some stage to obtain legal advice. So how do you work out who the best lawyer is for you? Here are some useful tips when selecting a personal injury lawyer:
1. Make enquiries with friends, work colleagues or family
Whilst you may not know of a lawyer who can help you, someone close to you is bound to. It’s likely that someone you know will have had experience with a personal injury lawyer or will know someone who has. The chances of you having a good experience with a lawyer will be greater if they have been referred by someone you trust and whose opinion you value.
2. Check the lawyer’s reputation
Does the personal injury lawyer have a good reputation? If you know someone who has had contact with the lawyer or law firm previously, ask them. Try and find out what you can about the law firm broadly and assess whether the firm has longevity in the personal injury field and see if you can gain an understanding of their culture.
The majority of law firms these days have a website. Once you have been referred to or selected a lawyer check their firm’s website and read about their background, experience, the people who work with them, any articles they may have published and news stories where they may have offered expert comment. In most cases you will get a feel for the lawyer from their profile. Read their testimonials if they have any.
3. Make sure they have experience in personal injury work
The law has become far more specialised in recent years. Gone are the days where lawyers give advice in multiple areas of law. The current South Australian Government has recently proposed changes to the legislation that applies to car accident injury claims. It is proposed that the changes will apply to accidents that occur after 1 July 2013. Significant changes were introduced to the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act in 2008 and currently the legislation is under further review. In claims for injury arising from car accidents and other negligence claims there are time limits that apply and strict penalties can result if they are not complied with. The same applies to decisions of WorkCover or employers if they are to be disputed.
Given the changing legislation and the complexities that apply to injury claims generally it is important that a lawyer with experience in these areas be consulted. An experienced personal injury lawyer will keep abreast of changes in the law and decisions that emerge from the Courts and the Workers Compensation Tribunal. Appropriate medical evidence and financial documentation needs to be gathered during the course of the claim and needs to be relied on at the time of settlement or at Trial.
Tactics can play a big part in the management of the claim. Having a lawyer who is familiar with the way the relevant insurers or claims managers operate can be invaluable when it comes to achieving a satisfactory settlement. Using a search engine such as Google should identify whether the lawyer you have been referred to has expertise in personal injury claims.
4. Take advantage of any “first interview free” offer
Most firms that have experience in personal injury claims will offer a first interview free. This will give you a good opportunity to meet the lawyer and to obtain information about your claim without the pressure of having to engage the lawyer’s services. It can be an invaluable opportunity for you to obtain information about your potential entitlements and what can be expected in the future. It is also an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the lawyer and to ensure that you feel comfortable with them. Prepare for the interview by writing down any questions or concerns you may have.
An obvious concern for the majority of those consulting lawyers is the cost. Ask your lawyer how legal costs are charged and when you are required to pay them. With all personal injury claims the lawyer is required to give you information about the method of charging and an estimate of the legal costs that you would be required to pay. With claims for injuries arising from car accidents some lawyers will defer payment of the legal costs until the conclusion of the claim and the insurer in most cases will contribute to them. This does not apply to claims from work injuries where legal costs are the responsibility of the injured person, although agreement can be reached to defer payment in the event that lump sum compensation is likely.
It might be that the timing of the interview is such that legal representation is not needed or unnecessary, but at least you have had the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the lawyer such that the engagement of the lawyer when needed will be an easy process.
TGB is South Australia’s largest injury law firm and has new offices in Perth, Western Australia, and Darwin, Northern Territory. For a free initial interview about your injury compensation matter, contact your nearest TGB office or register online.