How to Find the Right Lawyer

If you are injured in a transport accident having the right lawyer to represent you is very important.
Your choice of lawyer may turn out to be the most important decision that you make.

Knowledge

The TAC scheme has been operating for over 30 years during which time the Transport Accident Act 1986 has been amended by the Victorian Parliament on numerous occasions. Furthermore, a large number of important legal cases have been determined by the Courts in Victoria that impact upon the way compensation is paid. The TAC scheme is quite complex. To get the best result, you need a lawyer who fully understands the intricacies of the TAC compensation scheme.

A good start is to look for a lawyer who is accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria as a Specialist in Personal Injury Law.

Accredited Specialists in Personal Injury Law have a minimum of five years experience. Specialists have undergone a rigorous examination process to be accredited.
However, not all Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialists are experts in TAC claims. Many Accredited Specialists in Personal In jury Law practice in the areas of WorkCover, Medical Negligence and Public Liability Law. You should look for a lawyer who specialises in TAC law.

Experience

Whilst five years minimum experience is required in order for a lawyer to be an Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist, the more experience the lawyer has, the better it is for you.
It is obvious that if a specialist lawyer practices exclusively in the field of transport accident law, that lawyer will have more experience and greater knowledge than an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law who practices more broadly.
Further, even within the very specialised field of transport accident law, there are lawyers who have developed particular expertise in relation to handling different injury profiles. Every case is different. In particular, there are some types of claims that require considerable experience, such as claims involving those with catastrophic injuries. These are people who have suffered spinal cord injuries rendering them paraplegic and quadriplegic. If you have a severe spinal cord injury and are looking for a lawyer, you should ask any prospective lawyer how many accident victims with that condition they have acted for in the past. The same applies to accident victims with serious acquired brain injuries.

Similarly, overseas tourists who are injured in transport accidents also have a number of special requirements that set them apart from other transport accident victims. A Specialist TAC Lawyer with extensive experience acting for overseas claimants can generally achieve faster and better outcomes than lawyers with less experience.

Who is Going to Act for You?

Large Personal Injury Law firms are usually led by a small number of Accredited Specialists under whom a team of less well qualified and less experienced lawyers work. Your initial contact with such a law firm usually involves you seeing one of the senior lawyers. However, it is not unusual for your file to then be taken over by a junior lawyer or even a law clerk. You need to ask yourself the question – “Would I have chosen this law firm if I had known that my claim was going to be handled by a junior lawyer who is not an accredited specialist, or even a law clerk?”

Reputation

It is hard for members of the public to determine the reputation of a particular law firm. The fact that a law firm advertises their services in the media does not mean that that law firm has a good reputation. The fact that a law firm is a big firm also doesn’t mean that the firm has a good reputation. Looking at law firm websites can give you some insight into the reputation of the firm.

This is especially so if the firm’s website contains a “testimonials” link. However, not all testimonials published on websites are necessarily genuine. Check to see whether the original testimonials are available to be viewed or whether you can contact any of the former clients to get a first hand account of their experience with the firm.

Levels of Service

One of the most common complaints that we hear from clients who transfer their files to us from other law firms is that the lawyer was unapproachable. Your claim is extremely important to you. Your lawyer should appreciate that. If you are unable to contact your lawyer then that can create a major problem.

Find out whether the lawyer will give you their mobile telephone number to contact. If not, then you need to consider whether that lawyer is going to be available to you or whether you are going to be mainly dealing with someone other than that particular lawyer at the law firm.

Larger law firms tend to take on as much work as they can, regardless of whether a commercially viable outcome for the client will necessarily be achieved. This is done to keep the junior lawyers and law clerks busy. Consequently, the lawyers at these firms usually carry massive case loads that make it just about impossible to provide any true level of personal service. If you are happy to accept a lower level of service then one of those law firms is for you.

At Burt & Davies we maintain file numbers at a level that enables the partners, Peter and Clara, to provide every client with a high level of quality personal service.

Obtaining a Timely Outcome

It stands to reason that the more files an individual lawyer has to deal with, the longer it is going to take for people to obtain their compensation. Furthermore, the quality of the work must invariably suffer when there is less time available to the lawyer to devote to any one particular file.
The TAC maintains statistics concerning the performance of all law firms dealing with it. It makes those statistics available to law firms upon request.

The TAC’s own statistics show that Burt & Davies is the most efficient law firm in Victoria in the handling of common law claims. We obtain positive outcomes for our clients faster than any other law firm in Victoria.

Furthermore, we also obtain the best results for our clients.

Legal Costs

Most law firms that undertake TAC work do so on a conditional fee basis. Conditional fee arrangements are governed by the provisions of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria)

Your lawyer should be transparent about the legal fees that you will incur. It is extremely important that you understand what the fees will be and the circumstances in which you will have to pay fees.

Lawyers with extensive experience can usually develop a feel for what the fees are likely to be at the time of the first interview. Lawyers who quote a broad range of the fees that you might be required to pay may well not have the requisite experience to make a more accurate assessment. This should be a matter of concern to you.

It is possible for you to negotiate your fees. It is possible to negotiate a lump sum fee payable for a successful outcome, however, the law prohibits fee arrangements where the fees are determined as a percentage of the damages recovered. Your lawyer should be comfortable in advising you about legal fees.

Relationship

Even if you find a lawyer who fits this bill, you still need to feel comfortable with that person. The relationship between lawyer and client is a very important one. If you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer, then the relationship just won’t work properly. It could well lead to the development of feelings of mistrust. If this occurs, then the relationship so important to the outcome of your claim, becomes precarious.

Different people have different expectations. Personality sometimes plays a part in this.

Things to Watch Out For

Be careful of a lawyer who quotes unrealistically high settlement figures to you at the outset. This is often done to encourage you to choose that particular lawyer. Every case is different and until a lot of work has been done a lawyer is in no position to quote large settlement numbers unless your injuries are catastrophic.
Be careful if the lawyer you talk to can’t provide you with straight answers to simple questions such as:

  • How long have you been doing this type of work?
  • How many cases involving my type of injury have you dealt with in the past?
  • How long do you think it will take for the matter to be resolved?
  • What do you think it will cost me if I have a successful outcome?
  • If I retain you to act, how will I be able to contact you?
  • Will anyone else be working on my file, other than you?
  • If someone else is going to work on my file, who will that person be?
  • If someone else is going to work on my file, will that person have the same knowledge and experience that you have?
  • Will all of the legal work on my file be handled by an Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist?

It is important that the relationship you have with your lawyer is workable and one that makes you feel comfortable about what is going on. Communication is the key. Accessibility is vital.

At Burt & Davies we provide all of our clients with our mobile telephone numbers which are on 24 hours a day. This doesn’t mean that we want phone calls in the middle of the night, however, we recognise how important it is for clients to be able to have direct access to us during a process that, for most people, can be stressful.