Jeff Nieuwenburg of Murphy Battista LLP’s Vancouver office provides an overview of what you need to know when hiring a lawyer.
If you are looking for a lawyer to represent you after a car accident or other injury there are a few important things to keep in mind.
The Law Society of British Columbia has a Lawyer Directory that shows if a lawyer is a practicing member, how long they have been in practice, and if there have been any disciplinary measures taken against them.
Even though lawyers are not allowed to call themselves “specialists,” the reality is that personal injury is a specialized field of law. Therefore, it is wise to make sure you hire someone who knows this specific area of law, has done personal injury claims, and has gone, and is prepared to go, to trial. If you want to research a lawyer’s track record in court on a particular type of case, you can read their past judgments through CANLii.
Most lawyers will do a free consultation over the phone or in person. There is no obligation to hire them at that point. The majority of personal injury lawyers do not charge hourly, rather they bill a percentage of the damages that you recover called a contingency fee. There is a cap of 33% of the claim for motor vehicle accidents and 40% for non-motor vehicle accidents in the contingency fee. Frequently, lawyers will set their contingency fees at a lower precentage and that amount will be set out in a contingency fee agreement that you will be asked to sign.
Bring all the paperwork related to the accident that you can. For example, the police report, doctors notes, photos from the scene of the accident, your ICBC case number, all notices or mail you have received from ICBC, witness information etc. For a comprehensive list click here and scroll down to the “Meeting Checklist.” If you don’t have some of these documents, don’t worry, your lawyer you hire will help you collect it.
Make sure you clarify how long have they been working as a personal injury lawyer, not just how long they have been practising. What sort of benefits are you entitled to through ICBC, and who is going to be handling your claim all the way through? Just because you met with a specific lawyer, does not mean you are obliged to hire them. Ask yourself whether you are comfortable with them. Did they take the time to answer your questions in a way that is clear to you? It’s important that they take the time to explain the process to you in a way that you can make informed decisions about your own case. It is always a good idea to get a second opinion. You are able to change lawyers at any time.