Birth injury and cerebral palsy clients come to us in various ways. Many are referrals from other attorneys, who know we are experts in the area, professional in our dealings, and have a track record of obtaining substantial settlements and verdicts. Others come to us directly after hearing or reading about our successes. Still others – and these are the ones that distress me – come to us after their first law firm sat on the case, sometimes for years, before dropping it as unwinnable or with no explanation.
As qualified personal injury attorneys, we get these cases frequently. We also win them frequently.
This leads me to offer step-by-step advice on how to choose a law firm if you suspect your child was injured by medical negligence.
1) Look for a law firm that regularly handles birth injury cases. Or ask a firm you trust to refer you to a law firm that specializes in birth injury cases. This is a legal specialty. Just as you want your surgeon to be the one who has done 10,000 of the procedures you need, not 10, you want your law firm to have handled hundreds if not thousands of birth injury cases before yours.
2) Look for a law firm with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals on staff. Birth injury cases such as cerebral palsy require both medical and legal knowledge. For example, the birth injury team at my firm includes an attorney who is also a board-certified obstetrician with 20 years’ experience.
3) Birth injury cases are bitterly fought by hospital and doctor insurance companies because of the large amounts of money involved in caring for a child for life. Therefore, a law firm must have the resources (financial strength) to keep experienced attorneys and staff working on the case often for years before getting paid for their time investment. Size of staff, years in business, and evidence of steady wins, including recently, are indications of the financial depth of a law firm.
4) Defense attorneys in these cases will offer settlements that sound big, but are in reality far below what it really takes to care for a child with serious disabilities. The law firm you want is the one that will empower you – by winning your trust and confidence – to say “no” to low-ball offers.
5) Don’t think you have to find a firm in a specific geographic location. Large law firms, such as JJS, have attorneys who are licensed to practice in many states, or who can be granted permission to represent you in your particular case in your state.
6) Check out attorney and law firm credentials. There are several websites and publications where attorneys rank other attorneys and firms (feel free to check out Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC):
Finally, the law firm you need will never ask you for money up front. Injury attorneys are paid a portion of the verdict or settlement if they win your case and will not rush you to sign an agreement before you are ready. After they are hired, the law firm will give you the name and phone number of someone you can ask questions of at any time, and will keep you regularly updated on the progress of your case.
A family with a birth-injured child shouldn’t have to deal with the frustration of a law firm that isn’t equipped to handle their case. A little homework, like the above, should decrease that likelihood.