How to Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer
The way most people hire a personal injury lawyer began to change in 1977 because the United States Supreme court decided a case called Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 97 S.Ct. 2691, 53 L.Ed.2d 810 (1977).
Bates v. State Bar of Arizona
In the Bates case, the Court concluded that banning lawyers from advertising is a violation of the lawyers First Amendment right to free speech. Although lawyers were suddenly allowed to advertise, things did not change overnight. Most lawyers looked down on advertising. Furthermore, most people were not familiar with the concept of hiring a lawyer based on an ad. The result was that very few lawyers advertised and most people still obtained a personal injury lawyer through a recommendation.
The change occurred so slowly that it was barely noticed. One day people woke up to the fact they were simply inundated with personal injury advertisements. The change occurred because of two very powerful trends. The first trend involves an advertising concept called conditioning. It means that when something occurs over and over again, people get used to it. Then over time it becomes accepted. That is basically what has happened with personal injury attorney advertising.
The Rise of Advertisements
The conditioning has occurred both with lawyers and the general public. Throughout the 1980s most lawyers still looked at lawyer advertising as unethical and the general public looked at it as somewhat unusual. As more and more of the pre advertising lawyers retired, a new breed of personal injury lawyer developed. From the time they were old enough to remember, they were exposed to lawyer advertising. By the time they graduated law school, the concept of lawyer advertising being unethical no longer existed. These lawyers began to think of lawyer advertising as no different than any other business advertising. With the stigma and inhibitions within the legal profession disappearing, more and more personal injury attorney advertising began appearing. By the late 1990’s it became a reluctantly accepted business practice. Because more lawyers were advertising, the general public became so exposed to it they began to accept it. The process of conditioning was complete.
However, lawyer advertising probably would not have proliferated the way it has if it were not for the second very powerful trend. Without it, the advertising would simply not have been so successful. The trend involves the transient nature of today’s society. There are people that continue to live in the same community all their lives. However, they are becoming a smaller and smaller segment of society. People move for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s to move to college, for a promotion within the company they are working for, a new job all together, or just a change of scenery. The result is the same. Many people simply do not stay in the same community for long enough to know a good personal injury attorney or know someone that does. Without a recommendation, the only way most people today become aware of a personal injury lawyer is through advertising.
If you need a personal injury lawyer, it’s ok to start with advertisements. You might also begin with recommendations from friends, family or other lawyers. However, before making your final selection there are several factors that you should consider.
Extensive Knowledge of Personal Injury Law
The personal injury laws of every state are different. In fact, the law in one state can often be exactly the opposite of the law in another state. For this reason, it is very important to select a lawyer that is licensed to practice law in Florida. This ensures the lawyer has an understanding of Florida law. It is equally important to select a lawyer that has a detailed knowledge of Tampa personal injury law.
Having spent his whole career practicing in Florida, Scott Distasio is experienced and knowledgeable in the complexities of the Florida legal system. As a longtime Tampa resident of Tampa, he is embedded and connected to the local community.
Experience in Handling Personal Injury Cases
It is not enough to be trained and licensed in Personal Injury Law. Knowing the law and actually practicing law are two different things. Experience is a key factor in the success of a client’s case. This experience should cover all aspects of handling a Florida personal injury case including investigation, negotiation, filing suit, engaging in discovery, taking depositions, attending mediation, settlement, and trial.
Scott has over 27 years’ experience practicing law. His legal career began in 1990 at a leading Tampa defense firm as an associate, where he represented all types of individuals and corporations accused of causing personal injuries, including doctors, jail medical providers, hospitals, and nursing homes. In 1998, he became a shareholder of the firm, and remained there until 2000, when he decided to help injured people. From January of 2000 until February of 2006, Scott helped start a distinguished plaintiff’s personal injury law firm in Tampa, where he practiced before starting Distasio Law Firm.
Independent Verification of the Lawyer’s Capability and Success
Many lawyers claim they are experts in Personal Injury Law. However, the only way to really know if the lawyer has the ability to do the job is to find out if they have been independently rated by a non-biased rating organization.
In Florida, an important accreditation is being certified by the Florida Bar as a Civil Trial Lawyer. A Florida Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer has to have practiced for more than 5 years, has to have participated in a minimum number of trials, and has to pass a competency exam. Less than 1% of all Florida Lawyers are board certified Civil Trial Lawyers. Another important rating service is Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. You should make sure the lawyer you hire is “AV” rated. It is the highest rating an attorney can receive. It is based both on ethics and ability. The ranking is based on evaluations written by judges and lawyers that have personal knowledge of the ability of the lawyer they are ranking.
Scott is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and has tried cases of all kinds in both state and federal courts. He is rated “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. Additionally, he is a member of “The Million Dollar Advocates Forum.” This is a group of trial lawyers who have won settlements and verdicts of a million dollars or more, and less than 1% of all lawyers are members.
The Client’s Needs are the Lawyer’s Priority
A lawyer’s job is to put the client’s interest first. Each client is dealing with exceptional situation and every case is unique. It is important that the law firm provide personalized service to each client in order to get the best outcome possible for them. Questions you should ask about the firm you are dealing with include:
- Are you interacting with the attorney? Many firms only have you work with case managers, assistants or paralegals. A client may never see or hear from the lawyer responsible for their case.
- Are you getting a fair and unbiased assessment of your case? Unfortunately, some lawyers will tell a potential client what they want to hear before the client has hired them.
- Are you being keep up to date with the progress of your case? Many clients feel that they never know what the status of their case is. The staff should be giving you regular updates and you should always feel you know what going on.
- Does the attorney take cases to trial regularly? Many attorneys are known as settlement lawyers. Their goal is to settle your case as fast as possible. It does not matter to them if they do not get the best recovery possible, as long as they settle your case quickly they can make up the difference on the next case.
Distasio Law Firm will always put your interests first. You will always be able to speak with a lawyer about your case. We will be your advisor, and your advocate. You are our top priority.
Receiving High Quality Legal Services
Out of all the characteristics you should look for in a Tampa personal injury attorney, this one is the hardest for a client to evaluate. It’s always a good idea to get input from friends, family, and or former clients are who are pleased with the attorney’s services, it may be an indication the lawyer does a good job. It is also a good idea to look for ratings and reviews through legal associations and social media outlets.
At Distasio Law Firm, we pride ourselves in the commitment and personal service being provided to each of our clients and their families. This compassionate focus, coupled with our aggressive representation, is the reason for our remarkable client success rate in personal injury cases. See just a few reviews and testimonials from our satisfied clients.
Not every case should go to trial. The truth is that most cases settle. This can occur for many reasons. Sometimes the chance of winning at trial is so small that it makes sense to take an offer that is substantially lower than what a jury would do if you win. Sometimes the other side offers the amount a jury would most likely award if you went to trial. On the other hand, some cases simply need to be tried. By choosing the right personal injury lawyer, you will get advise on the best option for your case. And when it makes sense to try your personal injury case, your lawyer should be willing to do so.