The lawyer for a slip and fall claim, for example, might be different from a lawyer for a medical malpractice lawsuit
You probably put a lot of thought into choosing certain professionals who you expect to rely on for years to come. Some people develop long-term relationships with everyone from their physicians, to car mechanics, home improvement contractors, pharmacists, accountants, dog walkers, and anyone else who provides you a service that you use on a regular basis.
Often, your relationship with your personal injury lawyer becomes long-term, even if you’re only working on one case together. That’s because a personal injury lawsuit can be complicated, and the court system can take months or years to resolve a claim.
It’s important that the lawyer you choose is someone you’re comfortable having in your life for a while.
There are 2 important questions to ask when seeking a premises liability lawyer:
- What are the qualities you want in a lawyer?
- How do I search for the lawyer who’s best suited to my case?
What are premises liability claims?
A premises liability claim is for an injury caused because of conditions on a property. That includes any type of accident like a slip or trip and fall, dog bite, swimming pool injuries, elevator accidents, negligent security, fires, inadequate lighting, supermarket accidents, attractive nuisances, parking lot injuries, injuries from falling trees or branches, trampoline injuries, or any other injury from a foreseeable dangerous condition.
If you suffered an injury due to premises liability, it’s important you consult with a lawyer who specifically practices this type of law.
Types of injuries from a premises liability accident
The type of injury suffered depends on the type of accident, of course. While some premises liability accidents are minor — like twisted ankles or bruises that heal on their own with minimal treatment — there are also very serious injuries that could happen.
These injuries include:
The type of injury you suffer will affect the type of lawsuit you file (or whether you need to file a lawsuit at all). A unique aspect of premises liability law is that most claims are eligible for coverage under the property owner’s insurance, whether it’s homeowner’s insurance or business insurance.
But that adds another wrinkle:
You might not necessarily be filing a lawsuit where it’s you, the plaintiff, against another person, the defendant. You might be suing their insurance company. Insurance companies have deep pockets and huge legal teams whose sole function is to squash claims like yours. An insurer’s objective is to pay out the least amount possible for claims, settlements, and judgments.
That’s why you should have an experienced lawyer of your own in order to seek the costs associated with your injury.
What will my premises liability lawyer do for me?
Your lawyer is a trained negotiator.
Here’s a brief overview of your lawyer’s role:
- They should review the evidence you provide and the evidence obtained from the other parties through the discovery process. They might also involve investigators or accident reconstruction specialists to gather additional evidence, along with interviewing witnesses and other experts.
- Based on the evidence, they’ll plan a strategy to recover the greatest possible amount on your behalf. This might mean minimizing your role in the injury (depending on what fault system your state uses), demonstrating that you had no role in causing your own injury, or presenting other factors that will be important in the settlement process.
- They will assess exactly how much your demand should be. It can be difficult to estimate how much you should expect from a legal claim. If your injury is minor and has already completed treatment, you’d demand exactly the amount it cost: medical treatment (and associated expenses) and the amount of lost wages during your recovery.
If it’s a serious injury with ongoing treatment, lifelong disability, or continued time that you’re unable to resume work, you’ll need a larger amount to cover your finances. Your lawyer should work with financial experts, actuaries, doctors, and other professionals to make sure that the amount of the claim will be enough to cover your expenses.
Your lawyer should also assess whether you can add to your demand for pain and suffering, other emotional distress, or punitive damages. There are formulas and methods that are accepted by the courts for determining how much can be included for these non-economic damages.
- They will attempt to negotiate a settlement. Your lawyer should work diligently to reach a settlement before a case goes to trial. A trial is expensive, time-consuming, and unpredictable — you can’t know how a jury will react. For most lawyers, a successful case is one that settles to their client’s satisfaction without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.
- They should be willing to go to trial if it becomes necessary. If the parties really can’t agree on a settlement, there’s no choice but to proceed to trial. At that point, there might be more evidence obtained, a shift in strategy, or other legal wranglings in order to win the case.
How to find the right premises liability lawyer near you
1. Ask for a referral
A friend or family member is often your best source of reliable information. If you know someone who has previously hired a premises liability lawyer, ask if they were happy with the lawyer’s handling of their claim and if they’d be willing to share their lawyer’s contact information. Word-of-mouth, especially in a smaller city or community, can be the best way to find services.
2. Cast a wider net (use online resources)
If asking around isn’t yielding the results you want (or even if it is, but you want additional information), there are a variety of online resources available where you can look for referrals and reviews.
Here are just a few:
Below is a search for “Alaska law firms”. As you can see, you’ll get a list of law firms with stars. You can click on a firm’s stars to read its Google reviews.
You can also search for a specific law firm on Google to see a list of reviews:
Here are some additional resources for finding a top-rated attorney online:
- The Enjuris law firm directory contains listings for lawyers by state. You can click on a law firm to go straight to a contact page to get in touch for a consultation.
- Your state or local bar association. Most bar associations have lists of area lawyers and can advise you on selecting someone in the correct specialty.
- Facebook search. In the Facebook search field, you can enter “Lawyers in [your city]” to see a list of lawyers with Facebook pages in your area and reviews or posts on their pages.
- Yelp, Angie’s List, Nextdoor, or LinkedIn. Each of these sites is designed to connect consumers with available professionals.
3. Shortlist your faves
Kidding. Sort of...
After you’ve compiled a list of local attorneys from referrals and all of the online resources available to you, it’s time to start the more difficult task of narrowing it down to 3-5 that you want to interview.
Here’s how to start:
Look at each lawyer’s website. Fortunately, in today’s world, just about every lawyer and law firm has a website that includes their biography, education and degrees, bar admissions, areas of practice, board affiliations, examples of cases won, client testimonials and outside activities.
When you have those 3-5 “finalists,” drill down deeper into their reviews. Look at both positive and negatives reviews. Sometimes, there’s a client they just can’t please. Every lawyer is bound to have a few negatives. But you want to see what the negatives are saying. Is it that they were unresponsive to phone calls? Did they bungle a case? Were they nasty or did they treat clients poorly? If multiple clients have the same negative experiences, that might be a red flag of what the lawyer is like to work with.
You can also check their status with the bar association to make sure they’re in good standing.
4. Conduct interviews
Your meeting with a prospective lawyer goes 2 ways—you’re trying to see if they’re a good fit for you, and they’re trying to see if they think they can win your case. Here are some tips when meeting with an attorney candidate:
- Ask if the lawyer will handle your case personally. If it’s a small law firm, this is more likely. If it’s a larger firm, there’s more work that gets assigned to junior attorneys, associates, or paralegals. If this is important to you, you want to ask who you’ll be working with most of the time and meet with them too.
- Get a feel for the office. You’ll get an impression based on how you’re greeted by the receptionist. Pay attention to whether the office is neat and clean, whether the lawyer is on time for your appointment, and whether they seem to give you ample time or if they appear rushed or distracted.
- Get an idea of how the lawyer would approach your case. If it’s their first time hearing your story and seeing the evidence, it might take some time for them to digest it all — be patient. But an experienced lawyer can probably give you a gut reaction about how they would handle your claim. Make sure they’re on the same page as you are so that you can manage your expectations.
- Discuss payment. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. That means they don’t get paid until you do. In other words, they’ll earn a percentage of the settlement or award you receive. Talk with your lawyer about what that is, whether there are any upfront fees, and how much the percentage increases if you have to go to trial. Be sure to read any retainer agreement or contract carefully before you sign, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
- Ask about their expertise with cases similar to yours. You’re not putting them on the spot — you’re making them accountable for their capability to handle your premises liability claim. A lawyer should be able to tell you if they’ve handled similar cases and been successful. They might not be able to share details, of course, but they should have some experience dealing with a case with similar facts and injuries to yours.
- Finally, go with your gut. This could be a life-changing decision for you if there’s a lot of money at stake. The decision might not be an easy one. Ultimately, you want to choose a lawyer based on whether the person listens to you, asks important questions, and whom you trust.
Here are some more resources for choosing a premises liability lawyer:
- Choosing a personal injury attorney – questions to ask
- What should I look for in an attorney?
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- How to talk to a lawyer
- Negotiating lawyers' fees
- When do you NOT need an attorney after an accident?