Every year Californians lose their homes and sometimes their lives to wildfires and every year thousands of lawsuits are being filed against companies that cause these fires. This article is focused on providing victims some thoughts on choosing the right lawyer to represent you.
Being in the legal industry for almost 20 years, I observed certain trends. And today I would like to share my observations with others, especially those of you affected by the fire, because I believe they will help people make informed choices.
Over the past few years, I have observed the following trends with these tragedies occur.
Trend #1. Be Cautious of Empty Promises
When the stakes are high, many attorneys will attempt to enter the field. Be cautious of attorneys who pay any type of incentive to sign with them. Incentive payments are disallowed, as well as payment to non-attorneys to steer clients to a particular firm.
I’ve learned that some “fire lawyers” offer cash to their prospect clients “to keep them going.” Or “donate” money to the victims with the expectation that people will be more likely to sign up with their firm.
Be cautious of attorneys who are providing any type of financial incentive to sign up with them immediately. Never feel pressured to sign on the dotted line. You must feel comfortable with your legal team and their strategy on how to handle your matter.
Trend #2. “Local” Does Not Necessarily Mean “Better”
I often speak with victims of wildfires who place a great emphasis on hiring a local attorney. Remember, local is not necessarily better. Fire cases have their own nuances that, in my opinion, require a certain amount of sophistication and experience to obtain the best results for the victims.
I strongly suggest you ask pointed questions to any attorney you are interviewing. Make sure you are comfortable with their level of experience in these types of matters. These cases are not simply about filling out insurance forms and negotiating with the defendant. Specific knowledge of the nuances in successfully bringing these cases is a must. That level of knowledge is only gained by prior experience.
Merely because an attorney is local to the area where the fire occurred does not necessarily mean they are informed and experienced in these types of matters. While it is important to have a strong relationship built with the legal team of your choosing and to have them available to you, the best representation may not be located down the street.
Trend #3. Does Your Legal Team Share the Same Goals?
Most important in selecting the right legal team is to ensure they share the same goals. It is imperative that you outline what goals you have in relation to your case. Are you looking to maximize your recovery? Do you want to have your case resolved as quickly as possible or are you prepared to take the case before a jury to send a message that a defendant should not put profits above people?
When selecting a legal team, make sure your goals are communicated and aligned with the litigation strategy of the firm you select. At the Swigart Law Group, we approach every matter as if we expect to take the case before a jury. We have found that preparing every case with an eye on trial maximizes the recovery for our clients. Make sure that any legal team you select is prepared to go the distance.
In conclusion, be cautious where you obtain your referrals to any attorney. Make sure you ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable with the legal team you choose to represent you. While the law firm may have many cases, you have one, and from your perspective, the most important one. Finally, make sure the legal team you select is prepared to go the distance and fight for your goals, not just a quick settlement.
Joshua B. Swigart