When you've been injured or are ill, coping with your insurance company can be difficult. You aren't at your best and dealing with the legal complexities of disability or coverage law can be overwhelming, particularly if your insurer has denied your claim or is pressuring you to sign documents you don't really understand. In many cases, hiring an insurance attorney to represent you is the best way to make sure you won't be short-changed. Knowing what to look for in an attorney can be the first step toward your personal and financial recovery. Asking the following questions is a good place to start:
The attorney should have experience handling your type of claim. There are countless lawyers who have handled some sort of insurance claim, but not all of them will have worked on cases involving your specific issue, whether that is ERISA or private disability, automobile, or other insurance issues. The laws surrounding these issues are complex and constantly changing; you need to be represented by someone who is familiar with the most recent case law. Look for an attorney who has at least ten years of experience, focusing on your type of situation.
Ask him whether he has been published recently in legal journals or newsletters dealing with insurance issues. If so, you can assume he makes it a point to keep current with the statutes and case law so that he can better represent his clients. Being published multiple times in respected peer publications indicates that he is recognized as an expert on the issues.
If you are working with a large firm, you may be surprised to discover that you won't always be talking to the same lawyer. In fact, you could end up working with a team rather than one person. If you meet with an individual lawyer at your first consultation, be sure to ask him if he will be available to talk to you if you have questions later. Also ask if he will be your primary lawyer; it can be disconcerting to be shuffled from one person to another. Request a single point of contact who will be familiar with your case.
If you work with a sole practitioner, you'll eliminate the issue of who will be working with you. Many people prefer a lawyer who will work closely with them throughout the case so that they are always talking to the same person. If you choose this route, ask him if he will be available when you have questions and how easily it will be to reach him. For instance, if you email a question, will he respond within one or two days? An insurance attorney who is out of touch and difficult to reach will add unneeded stress to your relationship.
Some people are surprised by the suggestion that you should work with an insurance attorney who has successfully defended "the big boys" in lawsuits. In reality, the fact that he has represented both sides makes him uniquely qualified to successfully represent you and present your case. Because he has represented insurers before, he will be familiar with all of the legal arguments their lawyers may present, making it easier for him to anticipate their moves and giving him the opportunity to prepare your case in advance.
Any good attorney should be able to provide you with several references from recent cases he has handled. Be sure to ask him for the names and contact information for at least three recent clients. If he can't provide any, it may be that he hasn't impressed past clients.
A lawsuit is always stressful; finding the right insurance attorney can make the process a bit easier.
James T. Nyeste Attorney at Law CoverageLaw.com