What Should A Client Expect From A Lawyer Who Handles Their Personal Injury Case?
The Attorney-Client Relationship
I believe that the most important relationship between two people who are not married is the doctor-patient relationship. The manner in which that relationship is handled can be a matter of life or death. The second most important relationship is between an attorney and his or her client. I can only talk about the client-lawyer relationship involved in personal injury law. Let me explain why it’s important, and how both sides should handle it.
The attorney-client relationship must be based on trust. A lawyer has to trust the client to be honest in all details of the accident as well as her medical condition. The lawyer has to be up front and honest with the client in all phases of the litigation from the initial meeting, preparation of the personal injury case, settlement negotiations and trial. I implore each and every client to tell me the absolute truth and leave out no unsavory detail. What invariably happens is that the defense attorney finds out before I do and my client’s chances for success are decreased substantially.
A personal injury lawyer has to give the client information regarding the likely success and worth of their personal injury case. The worst thing a lawyer can do is to tell the client at the initial meeting that they have a great case, worth a lot of money, and then have to explain why the settlement offer is so low.
Staying In Touch
A major part of the attorney-client relationship is common courtesy. The biggest problem attorneys have is not returning telephone calls. There is no reason not to return a call promptly. Even if I have no new information to give the client, I will still call them right back and explain what’s going on. By the same token, a client must keep a lawyer informed of what’s happening in their lives. In order for me to represent a client in a personal injury case, I need to know if they’ve switched doctors, returned to work, had a relapse, etc. I usually call all my clients each month to see how they’re doing. I am sometime surprised to learn that there is a new development in their medical condition which they didn’t tell me.
Confidentiality is paramount in every relationship between a lawyer and his client. Of course, the confidentiality only adheres to the lawyer’s end. The client is free to tell anyone about their case and what their lawyer has said. They shouldn’t, but they can.
I believe that the relationship between the client and the lawyer must be cordial but not too friendly. I don’t think it’s good lawyering for an attorney to be a great pal to the client. There are many times when I have to act in a stern manner to a client, especially in preparing them for a deposition or a jury trial. I have had clients cry in my office, telling me that I have been rude to them in pointing out their inconsistencies. All of those clients have thanked me after testifying, telling me how I thoroughly prepared them and that my questions were a lot harder than the ones asked by the attorney for the insurance company.
The most important thing I can do for my client is to get them the greatest amount of money, either by settlement or trial, for their injuries. In that way, I can help to alleviate their financial burdens in dealing with their injuries and life changing situation.