This question is often asked by people who have been injured and are considering a personal injury lawsuit. My name is Steve Raiser, and I am a NYC Personal Injury Attorney.
In brief, the answer is yes.
Hiring a lawyer (technically, “retaining” a lawyer) in the area where you live isn’t required by law. it is, however, a good idea because filing a personal injury lawsuit can occasionally demand that you and your lawyer be able to communicate directly, either in person or via telephone, to discuss different aspects of your case. These demands on your time will typically occur during your first meeting with your lawyer, when your lawyer prepares and files the lawsuit, and if you are ordered to appear for any depositions (interviews and questions that are requested by your lawyer or the defendant’s lawyer). If you retain a lawyer in the vicinity of where you live, you can save yourself from the inconvenience of traveling back and forth between your home and your lawyer’s office.
Another advantage of retaining a local lawyer is that, particularly in rural or less population-dense areas of the state, a local lawyer may already be familiar with some aspects of your case, particularly if your injury was mentioned in the local news media. If your injury as sustained in an auto accident or in an area that sees a number of visitors (shopping centers, state recreational areas, or tourist events), a local attorney will likely familiar with the physical geography of where your accident occurred such as highways, bridges, and construction areas.
Retaining a local lawyer can also be a “tactical” advantage in filing your lawsuit due to the rules that assign the venue, or location, of the court that will hear your case. This is particularly to your advantage if the defendant lives in an area distant to you.
Under the State of New York’s civil law, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed in the county where you or the potential defendant lives. By retaining a local personal injury lawyer you, as the plaintiff, will be able to demand that the defendant and the defendant’s lawyers “come to you” for matters such as depositions or during any settlement negotiations regarding your case. As is often said the case in sporting events, there is something to be said for the home field advantage!
One concern that must be addressed is related to how a personal injury lawsuit will be managed by your lawyer. This means questions such as “If I go to a law firm in a larger city, can I get better representation?” or “Will a large law firm give me a better deal, like those in the TV ads that promise ‘no fees or charges unless we win your case?”
As to the first question, many large law firms have offices across the state. A firm may have its main offices in, say, Albany but will also have an office in Buffalo and Saratoga Springs. So the location of an office isn’t really a factor to consider. The latter question is even easier to dismiss.
The “no fee unless we win” statement usually means that a lawyer will take a case, such as a personal injury lawsuit, on what is known as a “contingency” fee basis. In such an arrangement a lawyer will accept a percentage of your final settlement as payment in full for his or her services. The actual percentage a lawyer can take is limited by law and is based on a “sliding scale,” but is not greater than one-third (1/3) of the settlement. There are some restrictions to this limit, but these are complex and are best discussed with an attorney. Practically all personal injury lawyers will take a case on a contingency basis.
To summarize, although you are free to hire any attorney at any location you find acceptable, you will be better served by an attorney who is in your immediate area and for the various reasons discussed above.