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When hiring a personal injury lawyer, you should consider their experience, reputation, and location.

Experience:  Lawyers work on business deals, transfer real estate, create wills, and argue in court.  Lawyers can handle a variety of legal issues, or be specialized, focusing on business disputes, family law, wills and estates, or representing injured people.  Choosing a lawyer with extensive experience in personal injury law is a critical consideration.

Reputation:  Experience goes hand in hand with reputation.  If you are speaking to a lawyer with experience representing injured people, and who also has a good reputation with representing injured people, you are on the right track to finding good legal counsel.  A positive reputation can include a track record of good results, good customer service, happy former clients, trial work, lack of professional discipline issues, and having the respect of the legal and medical communities.

Location:  Communication with and accessibility to your lawyer is critical to ensuring your rights are being  protected, that you fully understand the decisions you are making about your case, and that your lawyer knows you, knows what you are going through, and is putting forward the best case possible.  There are good, well-regarded, personal injury lawyers throughout all regions of Ontario.  Finding a local lawyer with the essential experience and reputation will help to facilitate communication and accessibility between you and your lawyer, and ultimately help your case.

How To Find Information About A Lawyer

You can find information on a lawyer’s experience, reputation, and location from multiple sources.

Talk to medical and rehabilitation professionals.  Talk to your doctor, talk to your physiotherapist, talk to your nurse, social worker, family doctor, or occupational therapist.  Treatment professionals may have patients who have gone through what you are going through, and may know which lawyers best helped their patients.

Call friends, family members, anyone who has had an injury and retained a lawyer. Talk to them about their experience, what they found their lawyer did well, what they found their lawyer could have done better, whether they were pleased with their representation and would recommend their lawyer to you.

Consult the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, whose purpose is to promote access to justice, preserve and improve the civil justice system, and advocate for the rights of those who have suffered injury.  Find out if the lawyer is a member of the Association.  Lawyers who are members of the Association are expected and voluntarily choose to practice within the OTLA Code, adhering, in addition to the standards set down by the Law Society, to core principles of integrity, the best interest of the client, mutual respect and civility, the highest standards of advocacy, access to justice, and mutual cooperation and respect.

Consult the Law Society of Upper Canada, the lawyer’s professional regulating body.  The Law Society outlines the regulations that lawyers are subject to, the protections that are afforded to the public, and allows you to review current disciplinary actions against lawyers, their practice restrictions, and their discipline history.

Once all the research is done and you have identified a number of potential lawyers, forming your own opinion about them may be the deciding factor in who you ultimately retain.  A face-to-face consultation will allow you to judge for yourself who you might work well with, who you can build a strong client-lawyer relationship with, and ultimately who might be best for your case.

Questions To Ask During Your Initial Consultation With Your Lawyer

The first meeting with your potential lawyer should be one in which you discuss your issue, discuss your legal options, and lawyer’s retainer agreement.

Questions you should ask at the initial consultation are ones which should demonstrate the potential lawyer’s knowledge about your situation and satisfy you that they have the experience and knowledge necessary to properly represent your rights.  Such questions could include:

  • What are my rights in this situation?
  • What is your view of the potential success of the case?
  • Is this a case worth pursuing and one in which it is worth hiring a lawyer?
  • What is your experience in dealing with these types of cases?
  • What would be the initial steps in the process?
  • How will we remain in contact, and if I need to contact you what will be the process?

It is also critical to review the retainer agreement under which the potential lawyer works and which will form the basis of your relationship.  Questions regarding the retainer agreement could include:

  •  How and when will I be charged?
  • Will there be any up-front fees?
  • Will I be charged anything, a fee or any money paid out or spent on the case, if my case is unsuccessful?
  • Will the other side pay part of my legal costs if my case is successful?
  • What will happen if our relationship breaks down and a change in lawyers needs to be made?

If your initial impression of the lawyer is a good one and trust is beginning to be established, book a second meeting with the lawyer and bring any further questions you might have that arose from the first meeting.  If you are comfortable that the lawyer has answered all your questions, and you understand the process, the potential risks, and the potential benefits, it may be time to sign the retainer agreement.

What To Consider When Thinking About Switching Lawyers

You have a right to change lawyers.  If you have concerns about your case such as concerns about what steps have been taken, what steps have not been taken, why certain decisions must be made, what the risks are, or if there is a lack of communication between you and your lawyer, then first you should attempt to address those concerns with your current lawyer before seeking to change lawyers.  If your concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction, or you receive no response, then it may be time for a second opinion.

Maintaining continuity of counsel on a case is an important consideration when switching lawyers, for both the client and for potential new lawyer.  If your case is just beginning, closer to the date of injury, it will be easier to locate new legal counsel as the new lawyer has the opportunity to build your case from the beginning.  If your case is several years’ old, or approaching trial, retaining a new lawyer is more difficult, as your case now needs to re-examined and potentially rebuilt in a short time frame.

Switching lawyers may also carry financial consequences.  Typically, to change lawyers, your new lawyer must pay your former lawyer for the work already done and the money paid out or spent on the case.  The money spent on the case may include such things as the cost of ordering medical records, the charge for obtaining the police file, or the fees associated with filing court documents.  The earlier you change lawyers, the lower the potential costs as your former lawyer has put in less work on your file.  The later in your case that you change lawyers, the greater the cost may be, as your former lawyer would have spent more time and more money on your matter.

In any situation, carefully choosing a good lawyer at the outset of your case could limit any future issues, limit the need to change lawyers in the future, and hopefully lead to a proper and efficient resolution of your case.

If you have further questions on finding a good personal lawyer, you can contact Maciek Piekosz for more assistance at maciek@siskinds.com or 519-660-7718.

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