You suffered a terrible accident. You have been in the hospital for weeks now. Your family is angry that you are now physically disabled. You wonder when, if ever, you'll be able to return to work. Physical therapy is not helping much. Your treating doctors are not that encouraging. You fall into a state of despair.
You know you want to sue the driver of the car that hit you and caused all these ailments, but you do not know a New York accident attorney. Nor do you have any friends who know a good attorney they could recommend. When you return home you start searching for a lawyer in the yellow pages. Finding useless ads that simply scream at you, you go online to start looking for a personal injury lawyer in Manhattan with lots of experience handling car accidents. Why New York City? You feel that a Manhattan lawyer is better able to handle your case, even though you live in Queens and your accident happened on Long Island.
Each website you visit tells you how great their lawyers are. Those websites tell you that they have achieved great results in the past for their injured clients. Yet these same lawyer websites are not giving you information you need to know about your case.
On most of the websites, you see pictures of New York City with tall buildings and fancy libraries, but none of those lawyers are giving you information about how a car accident lawsuit works. You have the perception that a large law firm is the right one for you, but choosing the right one seems very difficult. There are so many to choose from. How do you know whether one large law firm is better than another large law firm?
Each website you visit has beautiful pictures of New York. Some have pictures of scary looking lawyers standing in front of a bookcase. Some websites have "class pictures" showing everyone in their entire firm. There are so many people in the picture, you cannot tell one person apart from another. "OK," you think, "But how do I tell one large Manhattan law firm apart from the other?"
The reality is that you probably cannot. One law firm boasts having more staff; another claims to have more attorneys; another claims to get better results; another says they have casual Fridays. One law firm says you get to deal directly with a junior associate on a daily basis. Yet...you want to know how negligence lawsuits work in the State of New York.
You need to know what will be expected of you as you go through the litigation process. Will you have to show up for a question and answer session known as a deposition? Will you have to be examined by a doctor for the insurance company representing the driver who caused your accident? Importantly, you want to know who will be working on your case.
You ask yourself "Why are there no educational lawyer videos explaining how the legal process works? I know these lawyers cannot give out legal advice online, but I'm starving for information. I want to know more than what each of these lawyers are giving me on their website."
You are seduced with the perception that only a large Manhattan law firm can handle your car accident case. You think that only a firm with nice wood paneling and French furniture in the waiting room will do. Fancy furnishings aside, you do not have any information about what a small law firm can do for you or even what a solo practitioner could do for you that a large law firm could not do. Yet the more you search online, you realize that the small firms appear to be able to provide a more personal and attentive touch than many of the large firms.
You decide to call one large prominent trial law firm in New York City. The receptionist asks what your call is about and you are promptly transferred over to a paralegal to answer your questions. After a polite two minute discussion about the types of law they practice you ask to speak to an attorney. A young woman answers the phone and you ask who handles your case on a day to day basis. "I do," comes the reply. "And you have how much experience?" you inquire. She proudly tells you that she's been in practice for three years now.
"When do I meet the senior partner, you know, the senior trial attorney who will try my case?" you ask.
"Oh, only if and when your case goes to trial. Otherwise the Junior partner will answer your questions if I can't."
"How often do you update me?" you ask.
"Only when there's been a new development in your case. If nothing is going on, and we're waiting for a deposition date, or we are waiting for trial, there's nothing to tell you."
"Do I have to call for an update, or do you automatically send me a letter?"
"Uh, you might want to call us to find out what's going on. We have a lot of cases and it is hard to call everybody with updates," she replies.
Before deciding what type of law firm you think you need to handle your car accident case, make sure to ask these questions:
1. Who will handle my case on a daily basis?
2. Will the attorney I meet with on the first visit be the same lawyer who appears at my deposition? (In many large law firms it will not be the same lawyer.)
3. Which attorney will be going into Court to handle conferences on my case? (Again, in a large law firm it is usually a different attorney than the one you initially met).
4. How do you update me? By mail, email, phone, or do I have to come into the office for an update?
5. Do I have to call you to see what's going on with my case?
6. Will the attorney who is at my deposition be the one to handle my trial? (Most large law firms have junior associates or junior partners handle your deposition. The more senior trial lawyers usually will handle your trial).
7. Can the senior trial lawyer handle my case from start to finish?
8. Can I speak to the senior trial attorney if I have questions?
9. Am I imposing on the senior trial attorney with my questions even though he doesn't know anything about my case until we go to trial?
Then ask yourself if you would feel more comfortable with a more personalized approach to having a lawyer represent you. Now keep in mind that there are some large law firms that have dedicated trial lawyers and dedicated lawyers on their 'team' to assist you. However, there are many people who feel that they want a senior trial lawyer to handle their case from start to finish.
There are many people who do not care that their lawyer's office is not in Manhattan. They do not care that there are no fancy furnishings and fancy paintings in the waiting room. They are more interested in what the attorney can do for them and the results they have achieved for their injured clients. They like the small law firm that has a personal touch where only one attorney handles your case from the moment you call the office, to when you walk into his door, to when you have any question, at any time, to when you go for your deposition, to when you go to trial.
When you use a solo practitioner, the attorney does not need to ask three other lawyers what happened last on your case when they went into Court. Why? Because the only attorney who works on your case is the same lawyer you are dealing with day to day.
You also love the fact that the solo practitioner has tons of educational videos on his website that explain how lawsuits work. In his videos he takes you step-by-step through the litigation process. Watching the videos, you get to know how this solo attorney looks; how he sounds; what he knows, and how he presents himself. You notice he does not spend time talking about himself. Instead, he spends the time explaining how he can help you. You realize after watching his informative videos and reading his educational website that this solo attorney is the right one for you. The problem was that for a long time you fell into the large law firm trap. Hopefully, after doing your research, you will have enough information to choose the right lawyer for you.
Gerry Oginski is an experienced medical malpractice and personal injury trial attorney practicing law in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New York, Staten Island, Nassau & Suffolk. He has tirelessly represented injured victims in all types of medical malpractice, wrongful death and injury cases since 1988. As a solo practitioner he is able to devote 100% of his time to each individual client. A client is never a file number in his office.
Gerry has created, produced and uploaded over 120 educational videos to help viewers understand how lawsuits in New York work. For more information watch the videos here on Gerry's website, or take a look at Gerry's free instructional videos on New York Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death & Accident law, on his video blog at http://medicalmalpracticetutorial.blogspot.com.