The Complete Guide to Choosing a Houston Wrongful Death Attorney
Preventable deaths are an epidemic. In 2020, more than 200,000 people died from avoidable injuries, and many people died due to someone else’s carelessness or recklessness.
If your loved one dies a wrongful death, you may feel despondent. But you can have justice. The key is you hire a Houston wrongful death attorney.
Yet you shouldn’t hire the first lawyer you see online. You should spend a long time researching and looking at your options before deciding.
What should you do before you start speaking to attorneys? What should talking to your attorney be like? How can you assess a lawyer’s competence?
Answer these questions, and you can make an informed choice for your wrongful death case. Here is your comprehensive guide.
Gather Evidence for a Wrongful Death Case
A wrongful death attorney will only take your case if they think you have a good chance of winning. This means you should spend some time gathering evidence before going to a lawyer.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Texas is two years, starting when your loved one dies. Take your time, especially if you are grieving.
When you’re ready to gather evidence, you should start with any medical paperwork related to the case. A doctor’s description of your loved one’s injuries, symptoms, and treatments are essential. If your loved one had an autopsy or a toxicology test, you could get copies of the report.
You should also keep anything related to the expenses of medical treatments. Bills for prescriptions and hospital fees can help determine how much money you want to claim damages. You can also claim money if you need medical or psychiatric care due to your loved one’s death.
Get copies of any surveillance tapes, 911 calls, or eyewitness testimonies. If you don’t want to talk to eyewitnesses directly, you can get their contact information and hire a lawyer to interview them.
Take a brief look at Texas’s wrongful death laws. You may not understand everything, but try to get a general sense of what you need to do to win your case.
Research Your Options for Attorneys
You may have several options for wrongful death attorneys in your area. You can talk to each attorney, but this can take a long time. Narrow your choices down by looking at a few factors.
Focus on wrongful death attorneys, not personal injury attorneys. While there is overlap between the two, a wrongful death lawyer will have more expertise in the laws directly related to your loved one’s death.
Try to find an attorney with experience in your loved one’s type of death. You should find a car accident attorney if your loved one died in a car accident.
Your attorney should be within driving distance of your home. You should be able to meet them at their office, in your home, and at a public location like a restaurant.
Visit the websites of a few lawyers. The best lawyers will offer free consultations and have contact information that is easy to find. Some lawyers have headers or footers with their phone numbers, and others have separate contact pages.
Many lawyers have blogs where they describe concepts related to wrongful death cases. Skim through a few wrongful death blog posts and take notes on what you learn from them. A good lawyer will write intelligently about key issues.
You can hire a lawyer with a solo practice, or you can go to a law firm with several different lawyers. It is generally a good idea to go to a law office, as you can hire a team of lawyers to investigate and build your case.
Start Reading Online Reviews
Many lawyers have reviews and testimonials on their websites. You can look at these reviews, but you should remember that lawyers will only list their positive reviews.
Once you’ve read these reviews, you should go to a third-party website and read others. Yelp, Avvo, and Lawyers.com are free services you can use to read thousands of reviews.
Many websites feature star ratings, with the average of all ratings listed at the top of the page. You should find a lawyer with an average of three or more stars. But remember that the standard can be skewed, so you shouldn’t look at only the rating.
You should scroll down the page and read several different reviews. Look at the reviews labeled as being the most helpful and read the ones with comments attached to them. Take notes on the strengths and weaknesses of the lawyers and what cases they have taken on.
The lawyer you hire should have strong reviews. Clients should say that they are knowledgeable, compassionate, and able to explain complex concepts to inexperienced people. It is okay if the lawyer is not perfect, but you should not hire a lawyer that other customers see as rude or unintelligent.
Some review websites allow lawyers to comment on negative feedback. It is okay if the lawyer disagrees with someone’s assessment of their work. But if the lawyer or law firm seems hostile and overly defensive, you should reconsider hiring them.
Try to develop a shortlist of attorneys. This gives you options for attorneys and lets you compare them together.
Consult With Your Attorneys
Once you have your shortlist, you can contact law firms. You can get them however you like, though a phone call lets you make a more personal connection.
Schedule a time for you to come in and meet with an attorney face to face. If you are considering a law firm with several attorneys, ask for a specific lawyer by name.
Bring your evidence with you. If you have a lot of papers, you can digitize them and send them to your lawyer in an email. But keep the originals, as they can establish the authenticity of your documents.
You should also prepare a list of questions for the attorney. Ask them to name a similar case as yours and how they dealt with it. If you’re confused about any wrongful death laws, you should ask them to explain the laws to you, which will help you understand their knowledge.
Hand over your evidence and ask your attorney to assess the case for you. They should ask you questions and start reading through your documents. They or a staffer should take notes on what you say and what they read about.
Along the way, you should ask your questions. Take notes on how your attorney speaks to you and what they say.
An attorney may conclude that you do not have a strong case. It is okay if they tell you this. You can find another lawyer who will take your case, or you can try to get compensation from an insurer.
Talk to References
Do not sign up with an attorney at the end of your consultation. At the end of your meeting, ask your attorney for references on their work. If they are unwilling to give you references, you should not hire them.
Then call the references on the phone. Keep in mind that some people may not want to talk to you. Keep trying until someone is willing to speak with you.
Have a casual conversation with their reference on their experience with the lawyer. Talk to them about your observations and ask the reference if they feel those observations are accurate. You should ask the person if the lawyer stayed in touch with them during and after the case.
Some lawyers give references for other lawyers they have worked with. Feel free to talk with these attorneys and ask them questions about your attorney’s work ethic and courtroom skills.
Check Their Bar Association Standing
Your final step is to check your attorney’s bar association standing. Whoever you hire should be a state and local bar association member.
You should not hire a lawyer who the bar association has reprimanded. Even if the reprimand occurred years ago, your lawyer might treat you disrespectfully.
See if your attorney has won any awards or holds any leadership positions. This suggests a track record of success and respect amongst local lawyers. You can also see if your attorney has published any books or is a member of any civic organizations, suggesting your lawyer has integrity.
Hire a Houston Wrongful Death Attorney
A Houston wrongful death attorney should have a few qualities. They should be able to handle the information you give them with tact. According to the reviews you read online, they should have a track record of success and good people skills.
Your lawyer should have a long list of references from satisfied clients and coworkers. The bar association should vouch for them, and they should be an active member of their community.