Once you have decided that you need a lawyer to help handle your personal injury case, often because you have suffered significant injuries due to the negligence of another party and know that you deserve considerable compensation, you have to move to the next step: choosing a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim.
Choosing the right lawyer can prove critical to your ability to get the compensation you deserve. You may also find yourself working with that lawyer for quite some time as you manage your claim, so you need an attorney who makes you feel comfortable, confident, and supported.
How do you know that you have hired a good personal injury attorney?
Where to Find a Personal Injury Attorney
First, you need to find a personal injury attorney. To find an attorney who can practice in your jurisdiction, start by looking for attorneys near you. You can try several tactics.
1. Ask for a recommendation.
Do you have friends or family members who may have dealt with personal injury claims in the past? If so, they may recommend the attorney they worked with, or give you a better idea of what it might look like to work with a specific attorney and what you should expect when you contact that law office.
If you have a current attorney who handles other issues for you the family lawyer who helped handle your divorce, for example, or perhaps a business attorney that you consult with about your work you may ask your attorney to recommend a personal injury lawyer to handle your claim. In general, you do not want to have an attorney who does not specialize in personal injury law handle your claim, since you want a lawyer who understands the law as it applies to your specific situation.
2. Do a basic Google search.
Make sure you search for lawyers near you. Use Google to check out reviews and get more information about what it is like to work with a specific attorney, including what results that attorney has obtained for other clients. Carefully look over reviews to get a better feel for how others felt about working with the attorney.
3. Use a legal search website.
Legal search websites like Avvo, LegalMatch, and LegalZoom can help connect you with lawyers who practice in specific geographic areas and who have skills in specific areas of the law. A legal search website can also allow you to sort according to reviews or check out what others who use the site have had to say about a specific lawyer in the past.
How to Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer
When choosing a personal injury attorney, you need to consider several critical factors. First, connect with an attorney who specializes in personal injury law and who can practice in your geographic area. Next, make sure you consider your needs as you work with an attorney. You may want to ask these questions as you decide what lawyer you want to work with.
1. How much experience does the lawyer have with the type of claim you need to file?
Personal injury claims can look very different depending on how your injuries occurred and what insurance company you need to deal with. For example, if you suffer injuries in a trucking accident, you may find that working with a lawyer who specializes in this particular type of claim will be a better fit as opposed to a personal injury attorney that primarily handles dog bites or premises liability cases.
On the other hand, if you suffered injuries in a construction accident, you may want to look for an attorney who has dealt with construction accident victims in your geographic area in the past: one who understands OSHA regulations and how they may apply to your claim.
Take a look at the results listed on the lawyer’s website, if possible. Often, those results will provide you with greater insight into the types of cases the attorney takes most often. You can also talk to the attorney about the types of claims he/she takes most often and what area of personal injury law he/she usually focuses on.
2. How big of a law firm do you want to work with?
Often, people who need personal injury lawyers will fall into one of two camps when they choose an attorney. Some want to work with a big law firm with many resources that smaller firms do not have. Conversely, others may prefer to work with a smaller firm that can provide you with a more personal touch.
Regardless of which type of law firm you want to work with, ask yourself what size firm you prefer and why. Sometimes, you can get that small-firm touch from a much larger firm, or the resources and commitment of a larger firm even when you work with a smaller firm.
Regardless of what size firm you prefer, you may want to ask several key questions of the firm before you select an attorney to handle your claim.
Who will work on your claim?
Often, accident victims who want to work with a big firm will choose one because of the big-name attorneys represented on the letterhead. The experience of those attorneys may make the client feel much more confident. However, in some firms, someone other than the big-name attorneys will handle the majority of the clients.
You may also want to know whether the law firm has a team of legal assistants working behind the scenes, and how they may help gather information, review your claim, and even represent you to the insurance company.
Does the firm have the bandwidth to handle your claim?
Ask about the firm’s current caseload and whether they have the resources to commit to your claim before you hire a law firm. You want a lawyer who will dedicate the time and energy needed to increase your odds of a positive resolution, including maximizing the compensation you may recover for your injuries. Learning early on whether the firm has the bandwidth to handle your claim can also help you decide on the right lawyer for your needs more easily.
It often takes more resources than just an available attorney to handle a serious personal injury claim. If your claim involves an in-depth investigation, for example, the firm may need more resources at its disposal to ensure that you get the support you need.
3. How much compensation does the lawyer think you could obtain for your injuries?
A law firm cannot offer guarantees regarding the compensation you will recover as part of a personal injury claim. However, you want to work with a lawyer who believes that you can recover considerable compensation for the injuries you sustained in your accident.
A lawyer should work with you to break down the losses you have faced as a direct result of the accident and put together an estimate of the compensation you deserve based on those losses. In many cases, you may want to talk to multiple lawyers to determine which one you may want to hire to represent you.
You do not necessarily need to go with the lawyer who feels he can obtain the most compensation for your injuries, especially if that attorney offers a significantly different amount than others you may have consulted. However, you may want to work with an attorney who offers a fair estimate of the compensation you can recover based on your losses.
4. How does the lawyer’s office handle billing?
Before you select an attorney to handle a personal injury claim, make sure you have a solid understanding of what legal representation will cost. You do not only want an initial estimate of what your lawyer will cost, but also a breakdown of any additional costs you may face as you handle your claim.
Most personal injury lawyers understand that you may have financial struggles related to your injuries. Not only that, many people do not have the funds to hire a lawyer upfront. Instead, most personal injury lawyers accept clients on a contingency fee basis. When you hire a lawyer on a contingent fee basis, you will pay the lawyer based on an agreed-upon percentage of the compensation you receive for your injuries. This agreed-upon percentage must be included in the contingency fee retainer agreement.
Before you hire a lawyer, ask several questions about how the office handles billing.
You may want to ask:
- Is anything not included in that fee? Are there court fees, filing fees, or other fees that you may have to pay upfront, instead of waiting until you have received compensation through your claim?
- What will happen if the lawyer does not win your case? If you do not receive compensation for your injuries, will you still owe the lawyer payment?
- What percentage of your settlement or court award will the lawyer receive? Does the number change if you have to go to court or face a long battle for compensation?
You need a solid understanding of what it will cost to work with a specific personal injury lawyer before selecting the one you want to represent you as you manage your claim.
5. How does the lawyer’s office usually communicate?
As you deal with your personal injury claim, you may spend a lot of time communicating with the lawyer’s office. You may need to get in touch regularly to share information, get updates, or decide on your next steps. The lawyer’s communication style can prove very important, particularly if you need to spend considerable time getting in touch with the lawyer. Ask about the lawyer’s communication style before selecting the attorney you want to handle your claim.
How does the lawyer prefer to communicate?
Think about your preferred communication style before determining whether a lawyer will fit your needs. Do you prefer to talk on the phone, or do you like getting emails or text messages? If you have a brain injury or must take medications that interfere with your ability to retain information, do you need a written copy of any communication given to you? Make sure the lawyer’s communication style fits with your needs and preferences so that you do not end up regularly complaining about it or dreading another communication from your lawyer.
How often does the lawyer communicate with you?
Some lawyers will get in touch with you regularly even if your case has not progressed. Others may prefer to connect with you only when they have something to tell. If you like to receive regular updates just to make sure you stay on top of your claim, you may want to work with a lawyer who will contact you frequently.
On the other hand, if you do not want regular updates and prefer to hear from your lawyer only when necessary, choose a lawyer who will only contact you with questions or changes in your claim.
How can you get in touch with the attorney if you have questions? How responsive is the attorney?
You may need to connect with your attorney if you find new information about your claim or your medical status changes. In many cases, getting in touch with a lawyer can prove more complicated than anticipated. Talk to the attorney about how they handle communications from clients, including how you should get in touch and how long it should take them to respond.
Contact a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
If you suffered injuries in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, ultimately, you need to select a lawyer to represent and advise you regarding your claim. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to receive more insight and support about your claim.