Category: Understanding Personal Injury

New York, NY

Finding a Good Personal Injury Lawyer in NYC – A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’ve been injured in an accident in New York City, going to court can feel like a tremendous burden has been dropped into your lap. There is paperwork to file, strict rules to follow, and a great deal of uncertainty about whether or not you will be fully compensated.

For that reason, it’s important to have a qualified attorney on your side that will work hard to get you the money you deserve. But, as you may have noticed, there are thousands of law firms and personal injury lawyers to choose from in New York City. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help the process seem less overwhelming.


Do an Online Search

Perhaps the easiest place to start looking for an attorney is by doing an online search. Now, this can turn up hundreds of results. However, you can begin to narrow your research by selecting only a few relevant law firms or solo attorneys that have personal injury law listed as one of their specialties.

Spending some time on a lawyer’s website can give you an indication as to whether or not you might be a good match for each other. Firms often have blogs you can read and testimonials from clients that may be helpful. If you find an attorney that you like, write down his or her contact information and compile a list of those that you wish to follow up with. 

Ask for Referrals

When it comes to finding quality professional services, word of mouth is an extremely useful method. According to Michele Mirman, a personal injury lawyer in New York City, “If you have friends, family, or a colleague that has hired a personal injury attorney in the past, they might be able to recommend someone.” Additionally, they may be able to alert you about a potential issue they had with a particular attorney in the past.  

However, keep in mind that not all attorneys have experience in personal injury law. This means that if a referral is based on prior dealings with an attorney in another practice area, the advice might not be helpful. An example would be if your friend recommended the lawyer that helped him close on the purchase of a house. 

That said, attorneys often have strong professional networks and can connect you with a lawyer that would be qualified to handle your case. For that reason, it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Conduct a Background Check

Now, attorneys often get a bad rap in the media. While much of this may be undeserved, it is always a good idea to do some sort of background check to make sure that the person you may be working with is honest and trustworthy.

In fact, the New York State Unified Court System makes this process easy through its website. You can use the search function to see whether an attorney is licensed in New York and whether he or she has a disciplinary record. When looking at this information, pay particularly close attention to any ethical violations against clients.   

Create a List of Questions

Before reaching out to a potential attorney, it can be helpful to prepare a list of questions to ask. The goal in your initial meeting is to ascertain whether the attorney is qualified to handle your case and determine whether you will work well together.

Questions you might consider asking the attorney include:

  • What experience do you have in personal injury? 
  • Do you have a track record of success? 
  • What is your current caseload like? 
  • Do you have support staff or paralegals? 
  • How do you prefer to communicate – email, phone, etc.? 
  • How will you get paid, and what expenses are the client responsible for? 

The answers to these questions – and any others that you might have – can be really helpful in guiding your decision.

Schedule Meetings with Attorneys

Note that many attorneys offer a free initial meeting, often referred to as a consultation. However, this is not always the case, so you should consider asking before scheduling the meeting.

In most cases, meetings may be done over the phone or at the attorney’s office. Be prepared to explain your case and to ask any questions you have. 

Contact a Legal Referral Service

If you are unsuccessful in finding a lawyer through recommendations or your own research, you might consider using the Bar Association’s attorney referral program. The service is free and the staff will help connect you with a qualified attorney.

Note that consultations with the lawyer may be up to 30 minutes, and the attorney is allowed to charge you a maximum of $35. 

Make Your Decision

Now, after conducting your research and meeting with one or more attorneys, the final step would be to decide whether or not you would like to work with any of them. This process can take time and, unfortunately, it’s not always possible to know which lawyer would produce the best outcome for your case. 

At the end of the day, this is your decision and the lawyer you hire should be someone that you feel comfortable with and is courteous to you. 

When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you suffered an accident or injury, you are probably wondering if you should hire a personal injury lawyer. Personal injury lawyers deal with a variety of different practice areas including car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and slip and falls. They know the laws and can accurately represent you to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. It can be difficult to know when in the process you need to hire an attorney.

Here are some tips to make sure you get the representation you need; at the time you need it.

Do You Have a Case?

This is the most important step in making a claim, but it is often the most overlooked. Before you can even file a personal injury claim, you must be able to show that there was an actual injury that was caused by someone else. You must also be able to prove that because of the injury you are entitled to some sort of compensation.

There must also be a way to get compensation. For example, if the person who caused the injury is uninsured, it may be difficult to obtain any sort of monetary payment from them. A personal injury lawyer is trained to look at a set of facts and make sure all of these elements are met. They can also consult with you and determine what type of case you should file and when you should file it.

What Are the Time Limits?

There is a statute of limitations for many injuries in California. This is a time limit that dictates how long you have to file certain personal injury claims. For example, in California, most bodily harm injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years after the injury. This means that you have two years to file a personal injury claim from the date of your injury. You will not be able to file a claim after two years.

Medical malpractice personal injury claims must be filed within three years of the injury. However, you may not discover your injury until years after you had surgery. If this is the case, you are allowed to file a claim up to one year after you discover your injury. Meaning, even if you discover your injury several years after the statute of limitations has passed, you still have one year to make a claim.

Consulting a lawyer to find out what the statute of limitations is for your case is an important step. If you wait too long, you may be barred from any recovery. Lawyers also know of ways to possibly extend the time frame. For example, California allows for tolling. This is a delay or pause of the clock that is running on your time limit. Tolling may be an option if there are circumstances out of your control that make it impossible for you to file your claim before your time runs out.

Do You Have to Deal With Insurance Companies?

If you were injured, you more than likely have to deal with an insurance company. The company will request all records that are related to the accident or injury. This can be a drawn-out process.

For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you may be seriously hurt and in a lot of pain. While you want to recover, the insurance company wants to quickly close your claim. If you miss one document or don’t fill something out completely, your claim may be denied or may take longer than usual. This can be detrimental if you are depending on insurance money to pay medical or car repair bills.

It is important to remember that insurance companies are not lawyers working on your behalf. Their bottom line is to save the company money and to provide you with as little compensation as possible. They may raise your rates even though you are not to blame for the accident. This is where a personal injury lawyer can help you. They can act as your advocate with the company and make sure you are heard and that you get maximum compensation.  

What Other Factors are There to Consider?

In California, legally any person can file a personal injury claim without a lawyer. This may be a good option if the injury is minor or insurance is not involved. Be warned though, there will still be a lot of documentation needed and you will still need to provide evidence. If you choose to go this route, a judge will not give you sympathy because you are not an attorney. They will expect you to be as prepared as if you had representation.  

 It is important to meet with an attorney early in your claim. Usually, a personal injury lawyer will provide a low cost or free consult to hear all of the facts of the case and decide if they can help you. If they take your case, they can help you figure out what type of claim to bring and what the time limits are. They can also help you deal with insurance companies and get the compensation you need to recover. 

What Should I Wear to Court?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, the truth is that first impressions matter and can give the wrong impression if care isn’t taken. There are places that simply require a higher level of care regarding how you present yourself. One of those places is a court of law. 

Established as a core value of the foundation of our country, our freedoms, and our democracy, the courtrooms in America deserve respect. Dressing appropriately sends the message that you take the matter seriously and that you have respect for the courtroom, the judge, and the legal system. 

Learning how to dress for court can make a substantial difference in your first impression and how you’re perceived by everyone in the courtroom.

What Not to Wear

Many people have similar questions. Can you wear jeans to court? Can you wear tennis shoes to court? Do you have to wear a three-piece suit to court? First, you need to know what not to wear to court.

Clothing

  • Sleeveless shirts, muscle shirts, sundresses, strapless dresses, crop tops, tops with spaghetti straps, tight tops, anything you would wear out to a club, revealing clothing, shorts.
  • Exercise outfits, yoga pants, t-shirts, yard work or painting clothes, athletic clothes.
  • Clothing that is too tight or too large.
  • Bare legs or bare shoulders.
  • Hats.

Shoes and Accessories

  • Flip flops, athletic shoes, open-toed shoes, beach shoes.
  • Lots of jewelry that makes noise or is flashy.
  • Sunglasses.

 Hair and Hygiene

  •  Hair: Dirty, wet, messy, hairnet, curlers, strange colors.
  • Hygiene: Smelling like you have not bathed, smelling like cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, too much cologne or perfume, a dirty appearance, unshaven, extremely long nails, dirty nails.
  • Hide tattoos if possible.

What To Wear to a Courtroom

Now that you know what not to wear to a courtroom, you should familiarize yourself with how to dress for court appropriately. First, all clothing and appearance should be conservative and modest. Stereotypical church clothes are always an excellent choice: modest, clean, and proper. 

Anything you may wear to a nice, formal social luncheon or dinner would likely be appropriate. All clothing should fit properly and be tidy and neat. Your appearance absolutely does matter, whether you think it should or not. Some options for your courtroom appearance could include the following suggestions.

 Men

  • Suit with a tie.
  • Long-sleeve button-down collared shirt with nice dress or khaki pants.
  • Sports coat.
  • Belt (or suspenders) to keep pants on correctly.
  • Dress shoes.

 Women

  • Women’s business suit.
  • Nice, modest, appropriate dress.
  • Conservative, modest, neutral-colored pant suit.
  • Conservative blouse or top with long dress pants.
  • Conservative jewelry. Remove any piercings.
  • Conservative, closed-toe shoes.

 Hair and Hygiene

  • Men: Shave or trim your facial hair, brush your teeth, deodorant, cover tattoos.
  • Women: Wash hair, hair pulled back, or put up appropriately neat and clean nails, and only neutral nail polish, deodorant, conservative makeup if any, cover tattoos.

Additional Appearance Suggestions

While the above suggestions are important, there are some additional considerations to think about as you prepare for your courtroom appearance.

  • In some areas of the country, certain brands are associated with gangs and gang activity. If you are aware of these brands, avoid wearing them in the courtroom to prevent any appearance of association with illegal gang activity.
  • Although you should dress conservatively and appropriately, you should also dress comfortably. If you wear too constrictive or uncomfortable clothing, you may fidget and sweat more, which could potentially cause the jury or judge to wonder if you are lying or uncomfortable with your testimony.
  • Remove any clothing or other items (such as buttons or keychains) that could indicate any kind of political affiliation. People have strong opinions about politics, and you do not want someone to make judgments against you based on your political beliefs.
  • Leave cell phones in the car or turn them off completely. While a cell phone is not technically “attire” per se, these devices seem inherently part of most people’s lives. Resist the temptation by not bringing a cell phone even into the courtroom.

Choose Your Courtroom Attire Carefully

We have all heard the saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Whether you are in court for personal injury, financial suit, criminal charges, or any other matter, how you appear in court will determine your first impression. 

The people who will be deciding your case, and perhaps your fate, will be judging you on your appearance as well. They have limited information regarding you and your case. As a result, they’ll likely make snap judgments about you based on your appearance. 

Make sure you present yourself in a conservative, appropriate, and clean manner. Always be polite, courteous, and observe all the rules established in proper courtroom decorum. 

By dressing appropriately, and acting responsibly, you have another way to illustrate to the judge and jury that you take your case, the courtroom, and the justice process seriously.