Many attorneys claim that they are experienced in handling personal injury cases but you need to ask questions to make sure you hire an attorney experienced in handling personal injury cases and in trying those cases in court before a jury.
First, find out how long the attorney has been practicing law in Oregon by clicking this link: Oregon State Bar Member Search and entering the attorney’s name. The first two numbers of the attorney’s bar number is the year the lawyer began practicing law in Oregon. My bar number begins with 93 because I have been practicing law in Oregon since 1993.
Second, ask the attorney how many personal injury cases the attorney has tried in court before a jury all the way to verdict. Many attorneys have not tried many cases. I have tried many personal injury cases in court before a jury to verdict.
It is important that you hire an attorney who has tried many personal injury cases in court before a jury because insurance companies keep track of which attorneys settle and which attorneys take cases to court if the insurance company does not make a fair settlement offer. Insurance companies pay more to accident victims when they know the person's attorney will take their case to trial if the insurance company does not make a fair offer.
An experienced Oregon lawyer recently told me that, “People sued will pay more, and people suing, will accept less on the courthouse steps.” What he meant by that is many cases will settle the morning of the day of trial because the insurance company will pay more when they know that the injured party’s attorney will take the case to trial.
Third, ask the attorney whether he or she handles only personal injury cases or handles other types of cases as well. Many attorneys who handle personal injury cases also handle criminal cases and divorce cases. If the attorney handles different types of cases, ask the attorney what percentage of cases he handles or personal injury cases. I have handled mostly personal injury cases since 1993. I only handle personal injury cases now.
Fourth, find out if the attorney’s office is in Central Oregon or somewhere else. Many Portland attorneys have satellite offices in Bend but spend most of their time in Portland. I recommend hiring a lawyer whose office is close to you as they can provide better service at less cost to you and know more about the area and judges.
Gary R. Johnson is a Central Oregon personal injury attorney who has been practicing for 24 years.