I have been asked this question in one form or another over the years and thought I would share the following thoughts on how to hire a great lawyer for your trucking case:
- The lawyer should not ask you for money, and should appear to be well to do. Trucking cases are expensive, an accident reconstructionist can easily run up $15,000 in charges reconstructing a collision. The case may also require an expert on trucking company practices, an economist, a vocational expert, etc… The doctors who are involved in the case must be paid for their time to explain the injuries to a jury. Then there are the focus groups , these can run up to $20,000. In short a lawyer can spend $100,000 in getting a case into court. Can the lawyer you hire afford to do that? You may never know how the lawyer is doing but, if your lawyer is in a dump, that should give you a clue.
- Are they a member of one or more lawyer’s groups that deal with truck, bus, and commercial vehicle accidents? Generally this means the lawyer should be a member of his state trial lawyers association, the national trial lawyers association (called the American Association for Justice [AAJ] www.justice.org (and they should also be a member of the AAJ Interstate Trucking Litigation Group)),and finally they should be a member of the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America www.aitlamerica.com . Then there are other groups that, while not specifically related to trucking, indicate a special level of competence of a lawyer in representing the injured. These groups include, amongst others, the Belli Society and The Academy of Trial Advocacy. Both groups are invitation only with a strict membership criteria.
- Anyone you entrust your or your families case to should have the experience of handling, and recovering, at least one, and preferably several million dollar cases.
- You should chose someone who has lectured other lawyers in the area of trucking litigation, and preferably more than once. Only the best lawyers can stand before fellow lawyers, who do the same thing they do, and teach them something new about how to handle a trucking case. Any lawyer might be given one chance to speak at a seminar, but since the presentations are graded by the audience, only the best of the best get invited back to teach their fellow lawyers a second time. If the audience of lawyers feels the seminar is not worthwhile the speaker won’t be invited back a second time.
- The lawyer should be able to immediately hire the best experts and get them involved in your case. Frequently I am retained on cases by other lawyers who failed to to get experts involved early in the case. This can result in evidence being lost and a host of other problems. Knowing the best experts in a field of study, and when to get them involved in a case, is critical in the succesful representation and conclusion of a commercial trucking case.
- CHECK OUT THE LAWYER’S WEB SITE – The web site will tell you what type of cases the lawyer’s firm handles. Do they have an extensive trucking site or is it more focused on car wrecks or general personal injury matters? Does the lawyer have a blog, and if so in what area of the law? Do they list papers written by the lawyers, and if so what are the topics?
My firm fits the above qualifications (I am an officer of the AAJ Interstate Trucking Litigation Group, on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, etc…) and most of the other good trucking lawyers I know have accomplished the above… at a minimum. There are a few lawyers in every state that meet the above qualifications and it is to these lawyers that you should entrust your case. If you don’t know who they are, give me a call toll free at 866-580-4878 and I will be happy to discuss your case and pass on a name or three for you.