How to Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer
Placing your injury case in the hands of an experienced attorney is always a wise idea if you’ve suffered a severe injury in an accident — whether or not your opponent is contentious right off the bat. For legal help, you shouldn’t just turn to anyone; look for someone with experience handling your type of case and who feels trustworthy to you.
You should hire a lawyer for your personal injury case to help you settle your insurance claim or prepare and take your case to litigation in civil court if needed. However, how do you find the right one to represent you and your family?
Most people never think about personal injury lawyers until they have suffered an injury. Accidents happen all the time, and most of them happen due to the negligence of others. In some cases, the injuries are severe, and the recovery takes a long time. Injuries may cause people to miss work or prevent them from working in the same field. You need to ensure you recover compensation for all your losses.
If you suffered an injury in an accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney rather than trying to resolve the matter on your own. Attorneys handling personal injury claims have experience negotiating fair settlements with insurance companies and at-fault parties. In addition, personal injury attorneys can use experts and evidence to estimate and prove the actual damages you suffered in terms of injuries, treatment, therapy, lost wages, quality of life, etc.
As a first-time client, you may wonder how to find a good personal injury attorney, how they will help you, and what to ask. Below are some tips for choosing an injury lawyer.
The Search for an Experienced Lawyer
Not every attorney has the knowledge and experience to handle a serious injury case. Some never handle a personal injury claim in their entire legal careers.
Your first step should be to find a lawyer with experience representing claimants (called plaintiffs) in personal injury cases. Despite their experience with injury matters, lawyers primarily representing insurance companies are not your best choice. You might not get a good settlement if you choose such a lawyer, as they may be too accustomed to taking the insurance company’s side.
You want an experienced plaintiff’s lawyer who has handled cases similar to yours.
Questions You Should Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer
You can ask a lawyer many questions during an initial consultation to determine if they are a good fit, how they can help, and how they work.
- How long have you been practicing?
- Do you have experience handling personal injury cases? What was the success rate?
- Can you tell me how many cases like mine you have handled (for example, burn injuries, motorcycle accidents, or car accident cases)?
- What other options do I have besides filing a lawsuit?
- What is your fee?
- What are the anticipated expenses I must pay?
- What is the value of my case, in your opinion?
- In the case of a trial, what resources do you bring in?
- Can you tell me how long it will take to resolve my claim?
- If I am in an accident, when do I have the right to file a claim under the law?
- Is this case going to be handled by you or by another lawyer?
If you meet with a lawyer, these questions can give you a better idea of what to expect from them.
Why a Lawyer Might Not Take Your Case
Consulting a lawyer is one thing, but finding the right one is another. The lawyer must also want to take your case. A lawyer can reject you for several reasons.
Personal injury lawyers usually charge a contingency fee. The lawyer’s fee depends on the amount of compensation you receive. Most lawyers won’t take on your case if they believe they cannot obtain significant compensation for you, as their fee might be minimal or non-existent. Due to the high overhead costs of running a law office, taking on cases they expect to be unsuccessful is uneconomical and helps you know whether you have a valid claim.
An attorney might decline to take your case even if your injuries are serious if your chances of winning compensation are low. Several factors might have contributed to the accident, including the difficulty of proving another’s fault or little or no insurance coverage of the responsible party.
Last but not least, a lawyer might not want to take your perfectly good case for the same reason you might not want to hire one – your personalities may clash.
Friends & Acquaintances
See if any of your friends or coworkers have hired an injury lawyer. You should place that lawyer on your list of candidates if they say good things about their experience.
However, don’t rely solely on someone else’s recommendation when choosing a lawyer.
Lawyers’ styles and personalities will appeal to different people. An attorney can also devote more or less energy or interest to a new case at any time. You should not hire a lawyer until you have met with them, discussed your case, and decided you are comfortable working with them.
There may be a lawyer you already know, either personally or because they have represented you in the past. It may seem obvious to hire the same lawyer you already know to handle your personal injury claim.
Nevertheless, the lawyer may be inexperienced in representing plaintiffs. Ask the lawyer for a referral to someone who might be a good fit, either at that lawyer’s office or elsewhere. Attorneys commonly refer cases to one another, and most lawyers have someone in their network who manages personal injury cases for plaintiffs. You should not simply accept another lawyer’s referral as gospel, as you might with referrals from friends or coworkers. Still, do your research into the lawyer who gets your referral.
You can build a list of potential attorneys using online resources that offer free legal information and attorney directories. The internet is a valuable resource when searching for an injury attorney, as you can find client reviews and ratings.
How to Choose the Right Lawyer
When discussing your claim with a lawyer, meeting with them in person is best. You should bring copies of all documents related to your claim, including your police report, medical bills, loss of income information, and correspondence with the insurance company.
An initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is usually free of charge. Ask a few basic questions in your first interview with the lawyer.
Get to know the lawyer’s experience and background. Even though it isn’t as important as experience in the real world, you should ask where the lawyer went to school.
You might also want to ask:
- What is the lawyer’s experience?
- How many of the lawyer’s cases involve personal injury?
- Is the lawyer more likely to represent plaintiffs (claimants) or defendants (businesses, insurance companies)?
- What experience does the lawyer have with the insurance company or adjuster involved in your case?
How Will You Handle My Case
It is common for lawyers to work together on cases in almost every law practice. Less experienced attorneys and paralegals often handle routine tasks. As a result, you can get your work done faster. You don’t need the more expensive senior lawyer to handle routine paperwork, but you should have the ability to contact them if necessary.
How Big or Small Is the Firm?
A law firm’s size has little bearing on how well it handles your case.
Many people believe that a large law firm will intimidate an insurance company into giving them a better settlement, but that’s not necessarily the case. At a big firm, a small personal injury case can easily get lost in the shuffle. It is also common for large law firms to spend money on expenses that may eat up much of your compensation freely.
Insurers know that large law firms may not devote as much time and attention to a typical personal injury case as smaller firms. The insurance adjuster may, therefore, offer a lower settlement to a busy lawyer in the hope that they push the client to accept it. Small law firms tend to offer more personal attention, and many of the best personal injury lawyers work in firms with just a few attorneys.
You don’t always want less experienced lawyers or staff to handle your case. If you are interviewing a lawyer for the first time, find out which lawyer will be primarily responsible for your case and which lawyer you will be dealing with directly.
You should also meet and discuss your case with the other lawyers involved if more than one lawyer works on it. It will help if you also inquire about which specific aspects of the case will be handled personally by the primary lawyer and which will be handled by a paralegal.
When choosing a lawyer, you must consider how well you and the lawyer communicate. Is the lawyer listening to you? Does the lawyer follow your wishes regarding how to approach the case? Can the lawyer explain things clearly? How comfortable are you with the lawyer keeping you informed and listening to your input before making important decisions?
How much you can help a lawyer depends on their willingness to listen and ability to understand you. Likewise, a lawyer’s willingness and ability to explain what is going on in your case will influence your decision-making. Having a good relationship with each other may make the process less stressful.
What Is Your Goal?
When you discuss the facts of your case with the attorney, they may estimate how much your case is worth and how challenging it may be to get the insurance company to pay out. At this point, you should discuss with your lawyer the different ways they might handle your case.
Among them are:
- The settlement amount should be within a certain range with as few costs and hassles as possible.
- In addition to what the insurance company has already offered you, you should seek compensation for the remaining losses as soon as possible.
- Make sure you obtain as much as possible, no matter how long it takes.
A lawyer may suggest a certain approach to a case when you first hire them, but that does not restrict you to that approach. You can always ask your lawyer to change tactics as the case progresses. If you are tired of the whole process, you might want the lawyer to wrap things up as quickly as possible. You may not receive enough compensation if the legal process consumes too much of your potential compensation.
As the case progresses, however, you and your lawyer may feel that the odds of obtaining a higher settlement have improved, so you may want to have fight on for more compensation.
No matter what your situation might be following an injury, always contact a lawyer to find out more about personal injury cases. More importantly — choose the right lawyer for you and your case.