Personal Injury

Should I Get a Second Opinion About My Personal Injury Case?

By David Berg, Attorney
The first lawyer you talked with said your personal injury claim doesn't really have a chance. Another lawyer might see things a little differently. Here's what to consider.

You've had your free consultation with a personal injury lawyer, you've discussed the basics of your accident and your resulting injuries, and the lawyer has told you that your case isn't worth pursuing. Should you sit down with another lawyer and see if he or she believes in your case? The short answer is, “It depends.”

A Matter of Trust?

With a personal injury claim, just like any type of legal case, the lawyer client relationship is all about trust. You need to be able to trust your lawyer completely. After all, you’ve hired him/her to handle all aspects of your case, to make sure you get the best result, and you've likely shared some personal information in the process.

So, one school of thought is that if you trust your lawyer, you should also trust whatever he/she decides in terms of the merits of your case, and not get a second opinion. But trust is only one component of the attorney client relationship. Just as important is the lawyer’s ability.

A Little Ability Goes a Long Way

Your lawyer has to be competent, and, the bigger your case, the better the lawyer has to be. It’s doesn’t help you much to have a lawyer you trust completely if he or she isn’t any good.

Why do we say, the bigger your case, the better the lawyer has to be? Because in a small case, a bad lawyer can’t hurt you too much, whereas, in a big case, a bad lawyer can cost you millions. If, for example, a bad lawyer only gets you $7,500 in a case that should have been worth $10,000, you’ll hardly notice the difference. But, if a lawyer only gets you $500,000 on a $2,000,000 case, that’s a gigantic difference.

So, whether you should get a second opinion depends on the value of the case and on your perceptions of your lawyer’s abilities. Even in a big case, if you are completely confident in your lawyer’s competence, then probably nothing will be gained by getting a second opinion. If, for example, your lawyer is known throughout your state for having gotten numerous million dollar verdicts and settlements, then there is probably no reason to get a second opinion because you’re already working with the best. But if you are very seriously injured, and it seems that your lawyer has never handled a big case before, you might want to try to get a second opinion.

How Do You Get a Second Opinion?

So, you've decided that you do want a second opinion. Basically, you have to do the same kind of search that led to your first lawyer. Learn more about Selecting a Good Personal Injury Lawyer.

But there are a number of problems with getting second opinions. First, if you feel that you need a second opinion from another lawyer because you either can’t trust your lawyer or you think that he/she may not be good enough, what basis do you have for valuing the opinion of this second lawyer?

Second, the value of personal injury cases is based on their facts. You can’t always expect another personal injury lawyer to give you an accurate opinion as to what you should do with your case after just a one-hour meeting. The second lawyer would probably say that he/she can’t really tell you what to do with your case unless he/she took over the case and spent some time poring over your file. A good lawyer doesn't want to be in the business of giving advice to someone who isn't their client.

This brings us to the third problem with getting second opinions: the lawyer probably doesn’t want to just give you a second opinion if your case is any good. He or she will want to take over the case and represent you.

So, ultimately, you may find it challenging to get a trustworthy second opinion on the viability or strength of your personal injury case. You can always choose to fire your lawyer and hand your case off to another lawyer. Or it may make sense to try to air out any concerns or differences of opinion you have with your current lawyer, and see if the relationship is salvageable. Get more tips on Working With Your Personal Injury Lawyer.

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